Smolensk Under the Nazis: Everyday Life in Occupied Russia (University of Rochester Press) by Laurie R. Cohen breaks new ground for World War II junkies and people interested in the Nazi occupation of Russia and how the Communists dealt with collaborators.
Cohen, adjunct professor at the Universities of Innsbruck and Klagenfurt, examines life during the 26 month Nazi occupation of Smolensk, a provincial capital, 220 miles west-southwest of Moscow. In 1939 it had 157,000 residents.
The is written in academic style, more like a sociological rather than an historical study. It borrows heavily on interviews with five survivors of the occupation, plus official Nazi and Soviet reports and newspapers.
Most interesting is Cohen’s description of the Russian language newspaper published during the occupation by turncoat Russian journalists. The book discusses the Katyn Forest massacre of Polish officers and the controversy whether the killers were German or Soviet, the post-war reaction of Russian civilians to the liquidation of Smolensk’s small Jewish ghetto, Soviet post-war minimization of the Jewish nature of the Holocaust, and the Soviet discrimination against small-scale collaborators, Russians forced laborers (Ostarbeiter) sent to Germany, and persons who failed to flee the Nazis.
Smolensk Under the Nazis puts a human persona to standard history. Highly recommended.