[Heavy Sands (also translated as Heavy Sand)] is not impressive from a literary point of view. Characters are either heroes or villains, there are no shadings, everything is either black or white. Heavy Sands, however, will not be read for its literary accomplishments but rather for the detailed description it offers—the first published in the Soviet Union since 1948—of the last days of many Russian Jews. The topic has been taboo for many reasons. It was not to be mentioned that Jews were singled out for extermination by the Nazis, or that the Nazis had much local help in the process. On the other hand, word of mouth had it that the Jews were killed because they were too cowardly to offer resistance. Rybakov takes issue with those who believe this…. He points out that most of those in the ghettos were either elderly people or very young or ill, since all men of military age were serving in the army. And he also notes the fact that hundreds of thousands of young and strong Soviet prisoners of war were also killed in the camps and did not resist—for what could they have done? But this is only part of Rybakov's answer, for more Jews could have been saved if there had been help from the local populace. Of the "good neighbors," Rybakov says, not a few betrayed the Jews, either because they coveted their houses and property or because they were simply scoundrels. The local police were equal in sadism to the SS.
And what about the partisans?… True, in 1942 the partisans were still on the run, and their main task was to attack the Germans, not to help the persecuted civilian population. But some Jews did make their way into...
(The entire section is 686 words.)