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The crop was ripening

“There are almost no eyewitness accounts of public interactions between German and local city dwellers who were not girlfriends of the Germans. A glimpse comes from Jacob Gerstenfeld-Maltiel, a man who escaped from the Lviv ghetto and reached Dnipropetrovsk early in 1943. Despite his experiences as a Jew in the General Government, the way the Germans behaved toward the Slavs of the Reichskommissariat Ukraine (all of whom he misidentifies as Russians) shocked him. It was for him ‘so abysmal that we, who came from the West, simply could not adjust to it. Here the Germans could really feel like the Herrenvolk. The Russians were put on the same level as cattle. It was inconceivable that a German would walk shoulder to shoulder with a Russian. If it happened that a German was obliged to walk with a Russian, he always strode a few paces behind him or in front. Germans sitting down with the locals in a café or a restaurant? The very idea was ridiculous! A German did not stand in line, whatever his rank was. He would commandeer the barber’s chair even if ten people were waiting for a haircut. He had a free ride in the trams and always had the right to a seat. The examples could be multiplied a hundred-fold, and though these were minor irritations, they humiliated the Russian population painfully and unceasingly.’ ” – Karel C. Berkhoff,  in Harvest of Despair

Published inThe Second World War

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