The Ravine by Wendy Lower

Matt McKeon

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Lower is a scholar of the Holocaust, and in 2009 she viewed a photograph of a group of German officers and Ukranian militia men shooting a woman and her children at the edge of a ravine in Miropol, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, recently conquered by the Nazis.

For nearly ten years Lower scoured archives, interviewed witnesses, poured over maps, joined archaeological/forensic expeditions to try to put a name to the woman and her two young children, as well as the uniformed men murdering them.
 

Matt McKeon

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Lower is a scholar of the Holocaust, and in 2009 she viewed a photograph of a group of German officers and Ukranian militia men shooting a woman and her children at the edge of a ravine in Miropol, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, recently conquered by the Nazis.

For nearly ten years Lower scoured archives, interviewed witnesses, poured over maps, joined archaeological/forensic expeditions to try to put a name to the woman and her two young children, as well as the uniformed men murdering them.
In the digital age, Lower has access(and the skills) to correlate sources of information to discover a stunning amount of facts: the names of the shooters, the photographer, their motivations and actions, the events of the terrible day. Its a detective story in a sense, providing the context for a shocking image.
 

Matt McKeon

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Two immediate takeaways(I finished the book about an hour ago)

a. the digital sources are general guides, allowing Lower to identify matches and areas of interest. Then she has to go to the relevant archives or sites to fully glean the full facts.

b. the way we understand the Holocaust, the massive scale of the numbers, the piles of shoes and corpses is the viewpoint of the German perpetrators, unconcerned not with individuals, but totals. Instead Lower argues, think of the Holocaust as killing ten people: a family shot to death. Repeated a hundred thousand times.

c. The "Holocaust by bullet" was anything but an orderly affair, instead it was a chaotic scene of screaming, fleeing, fighting, more akin to the horrific school shootings we have experienced recently, then the tropes of "industrialized" mass murder we associate with the Holocaust.
 
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