The Intimate Horrors of the Holocaust, Caught on Camera

Feb. 17 2021

In The Ravine, the historian Wendy Lower documents the results of her search for the details behind a single photograph, showing the murder—by German soldiers and their local helpers—of a Jewish woman and her two children in the Ukrainian town of Miropol in 1941. Susie Linfield writes in her review:

The scene was not unusual; neither was the photograph. During the war, German soldiers took troves of photographs—perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions—some of which memorialized, indeed celebrated, their cruelties, tortures, and crimes. Nazi authorities forbade these unofficial images, but to little avail; they circulated widely to friends and families back home. These celebrations of sadism—which shake our ideas about an innate human capacity for either shame or guilt—are sometimes referred to as “trophy photos,” though I think “atrocity selfies” is a better term.

Lower shows that it takes a lot of people to kill a lot of people. There are the Ukrainian teenage girls forced to dig the mass graves; the Nazi customs guards (including volunteers) and Ukrainian policemen who rounded up the Jews and forced them to the death site; the Ukrainian neighbors who plundered their homes and “assaulted them—throwing stones and bottles.” Then there are the Ukrainian militia who, “armed with clubs, tools, and Russian rifles, chased Jews, bludgeoning some to death. . . . They chased young Jewish women, ripped off their clothes, and raped them.”

The town rang out—who could miss this?—with gunshots, “yelling, screaming, and howling.” This was not the bureaucratic killing many associate with the Holocaust. This was mass murder at its most intimate: the Ukrainians “taunted the victims by name. . . . The victims were known to them from the dentist’s office, the cobbler’s shop, the soda fountain, and the collective farm. They grabbed small children and babies by the legs and smashed their heads against the trees.”

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Holocaust, Photography, Ukrainian Jews

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy