Smolensk under the Nazis

Smolensk under the Nazis

Everyday Life in Occupied Russia

Laurie R. Cohen


University of Rochester Press



Drawing on oral-history interviews and other sources, this work provides fascinating accounts of how Soviets, Jews, and Roma fared in the Russian city of Smolensk under the 26-month Nazi occupation.
The 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union ("Operation Barbarossa") significantly altered the lives of the civilians in occupied Russian territories, yet these individuals' stories are overlooked by most scholarly treatments of the attack and its aftermath. This study, drawing on oral-history interviews and a broad range of archival sources, provides a fascinating and detailed account of the everyday life of Soviets, Jews, Roma, and Germans in the city of Smolensk during its twenty-six months under Nazi rule.
Smolensk under the Nazis records the profound and painful effects of the invasion and occupation on the 30,000 civilian residents (out of a prewar population of roughly 155,000) who remained in this border town. It also compares Nazi and Stalinist local propaganda efforts, as well as examining the stance of Russian civilians, thereby investigating what it meant to support -- or hinder -- the new Nazi-German and collaborating Russian authorities. By underlining the human dimensions of the war and its often neglected long-term effects, Laurie Cohen promotes a more complex understanding of life under occupation. Smolensk under the Nazis thus complements recent works on everyday life in occupied Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic States as well as on the siege of Leningrad.

Laurie R. Cohen is Adjunct Professor at the Universities of Innsbruck and Klagenfurt.


December 2013
378 pages
9x6 in
Rochester Studies in East and Central Europe
ISBN: 9781580464697
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
University of Rochester Press
BISAC HIS032000, HIS027100, HIS054000
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Table of Contents

Oral, Gender, and Everyday Life Histories in a German-Soviet-War Context
Between Invasion and Liberation: Everyday Life and Loyalties Prior to the German-Soviet War
Defense and Surrender of Smolensk
Occupation Atrocities and War Crimes
Between Stalinists and Nazis: The Long-Term Aims and Long-Lasting Effects of Occupation
Propaganda and Persuasion
Group Perceptions, Oral Narratives
Sex/Gender Relations and Youth Experiences
Liberation and Revival
Interrogations, War Crimes Trials, and the Making of War History


A fascinating account of everyday Soviet life under German rule in Russia which adds substantially to our knowledge of the period. It deserves to be read by scholars and others interested in the Great Patriotic War in general and everyday life under occupation in particular. SLAVONIC AND EAST EUROPEAN REVIEW

Smolensk under the Nazis makes an important and vital contribution to our understanding of the material realities and social meanings of daily life in the occupied territories. JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY

A serious study of a very serious topic.. Anyone with a deeper interest in the impact of warfare and in particular of the German occupation of large parts of the Soviet Union will find it utterly invaluable. HISTORYORWAR.ORG

Knitting together many fields of study, and giving a detailed account of the occupation of Smolensk that shows connections between the past and the present, Cohen adds an important text to the study of World War II and the Soviet Union. H-NET

A pioneering work that portrays the daily life of "ordinary" people in the context of extraordinary conditions under German rule between July 1941 and September 1943. RUSSIAN REVIEW

A valuable contribution to the growing scholarly literature concerning German occupation policies in Eastern Europe during WW II. Highly recommended. CHOICE

In Smolensk under the Nazis, Laurie Cohen offers an engaging and integrated view of just what it meant for a Soviet city to be under Nazi occupation. A significant contribution to the history of the Soviet Union during World War II. --Catherine Epstein, Amherst College

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