cover image The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed

The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed

Wendy Lower. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28 (272p) ISBN 978-0-544-82869-8

Historian Lower (Hitler’s Furies) delivers a disturbing and meticulously researched account of the genocide of Ukrainian Jews during WWII. Between July and October 1941, Lower notes, more than 50,000 men, women, and children were murdered in mass shootings in Ukraine and Belarus. She focuses her study on a rare photograph depicting the moment Nazi and Ukrainian officers shot a young boy and his mother at the edge of a ravine near Miropol, Ukraine. In her quest to identify the victims and perpetrators, Lower presents recent research on the scale of collaboration between local officials and Nazi forces, and concludes police officers and town constables in small villages throughout Eastern Europe “committed murder against their neighbors.” She initially assumed the photographer was a collaborator, but later discovered he had been denounced by Nazi authorities and might have taken the photo as an act of passive resistance. Despite traveling to Miropol and interviewing elderly residents, Lower is unable to identify the mother and child in the picture. Still, her search uncovers a wealth of information related to WWII in Ukraine and makes a persuasive case for how historical scholarship can “help turn the wheels of justice.” This harrowing chronicle casts the Holocaust in a stark new light. (Feb.)