Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 November 2019
Martin Dean's book is about local police participation in the murder of the Jews in certain regions of Belarus and Ukraine which were part of Russia until 1918, then part of Poland or the Soviet Union until 1939, and then part of the Soviet Union until 1941.
The book does not cite a single source, not even an article, in any Slavonic language. The author claims at one point to have ‘used extensively’ the archival collections in Moscow, Minsk, Brest, and Zhytomyr (p. xi), but one wonders how he could have oriented himself among the many documents that would have been written in the local languages. At another point he scales down his claim: he ‘examined only a tiny sample’ of the ‘vast’ archival collections (p. 204 n. 97). The footnotes show relatively little use of the former Soviet archives. Certainly they are not exploited to the extent that they were in Dieter Pohl's study of the Holocaust in nearby eastern Galicia, Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941–1944 (Munich, 1997), a work that is cited several times in the book under review.
It is difficult to pronounce definitively on Martin Dean's use of archival sources, because he never gives a clear account of what he used, as most academic historians would. We never learn, for example, what kind of records he had from the police themselves. For Galicia such records are very well preserved, but it is not at all clear from Dean's text what exists for the parts of Belarus and Ukraine he is interested in, and whether he used what exists. His archival references are generally devoid of any date or description of content (for example, WCU D9317), and favoured sources seem to be memoirs and relatively recent court cases. In other words, he does not follow the basic methods of academic historians, and this makes his book difficult to assess.
Dean was formerly a policeman in Scotland Yard's War Crimes Unit. He describes his methodology as ‘forensic history’. Its key feature, he says, is the comparison of conflicting accounts, ‘testing each against the totality of evidence available’ (p. xi). Judging by its application in this book, forensic history is less insistent upon criticism and differentiation of sources than is academic history.
To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.