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Study Questions on Gabriel Temkin, My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II (Novato, CA: Presidio, 1998).
We are going to discuss this book rather informally. Unless it is clear that someone is not doing the reading, I will not call on you to answer questions individually. Instead, I'd like us to have a conversation about what you find in and what you think about Temkin's memoir.
This book is divided into four sections, each of which deals with a different time period. "Leaving Home" (chapters 1-3) covers 1939 to June 1941. "Hitler Invades the Soviet Union" (chs. 4-11) covers June 1941 to May 1943. "With the 'Tsarina of the Fields' (chs. 12-17) covers May 1943-Feb. 1944. "Crossing Frontiers with the Red Army" (chs. 18-26) covers Feb. 1944-May 1945.
As you read this book, think about the major issues regarding the war discussed by Suny. How do Temkin's experiences relate to the historical arguments and descriptions in Suny's textbook?
Also, consider these issues--these are the matters that I would like you to discuss in class:
What the early chapters show us about living standards, work, and repression in the USSR in 1939-1941.
What the book shows us about Soviet readiness for the war and the impact of the June 1941 invasion.
What it shows us about internal conditions in the USSR during the war (away from the fronts).
What it shows us about Germany's aims in the war, German behavior towards war prisoners and civilians, and conditions in German-occupied territories.
What it shows us about discipline in the Red Army, conditions for soldiers, the role of political commissars and the NKVD, and the ways in which soldiers "received" and responded to Soviet war-time propaganda.
What it shows us about conditions in combat on the "Eastern Front," and what it shows us about the evolution of Soviet military leadership and tactics.
What it shows us about the behavior of Red Army soldiers once they had advanced beyond the borders of the USSR.
What it shows us about the morale and the aspirations of Red Army soldiers at the end of the war.