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The Lviv pogroms were two massacres of Jews living in and near in the city of Lwów, the occupied Republic of Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine), that took place from 30 June to 2 July and 25–29 July 1941 during World War II. According to Yad Vashem six thousand Jews were killed by Einsatzgruppen, some Ukrainian nationalists and Ukrainian militia. During the interbellum, Lviv had the third-largest Jewish population in Poland, which swelled further to over 200,000 Jews as refugees fled from the Nazis.

First pogrom

Immediately after the Germans entered the city, Einsatzgruppen with the participation of Ukrainian nationalists organized a pogrom in retaliation for the retreating NKVD's mass-murder of approximately 2,000–10,000[1] prisoners (including Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish intellectuals and political activists) at Lviv's three prisons (Brygidki, Łąckiego Street, and Zamarstynowska Street prisons).[2] According to victim lists, a large number of the victims were Ukrainian. Although a significant number of Jews had also been among the victims of the NKVD massacre, Jews were collectively accused by the German authorities of having been active perpetrators of that massacre. German propagandists went to work spreading rumors and showing distorted films that purported to implicate the Jews in the killing of the Ukrainian prisoners. These instigations inflamed the local Ukrainians, who then took vigilante action against the Jewish population of the city.

Once German forces entered and occupied Lviv after the Soviets' hasty retreat, an ad hoc Ukrainian militia—which would later be reorganized as the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police—was created to spearhead the first pogrom.[3] Jakob Weiss in his Lemberg Mosaic claims that initially the Ukrainian militia acted independently—with the blessings of the Nazis—but later was limited to joint operations (Aktions) with German military units or otherwise functioned directly under Nazi command. The Ukrainian militia also received assistance from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (at least one member of the OUN(B), one Ivan Kovalyshyn, has been identified by John Paul Himka from several photograph of the pogrom), unorganized civilian Ukrainian nationalists, as well as from ordinary citizens—many of whom were youths. Holocaust scholar and survivor from Lwow, Filip Friedman, researched this event and uncovered an official Report of the Reich Security Main Office (dated July 16, 1941) which documents the massacre as follows: "During the first hours after the departure of the Bolsheviks [i.e. the Soviet Army], the Ukrainian population took praisworthy action against the Jews... About 7,000 Jews were seized and shot by the [Ukrainian] police in retribution for inhuman acts of cruelty [at Brygidki and the other prisons]..."[4] However, according to Vitaly Nachmanovich that number is inflated, and about 700 Jews were murdered during this pogrom initially, with 3,500 more shot by the Einsatzgruppe.[5]

Petlura days

A second pogrom took place in the last days of July 1941 and was labeled "Petlura Days" after the assassinated Ukrainian leader Symon Petlura.[6] This pogrom was allegedly organized by Ukrainian nationalist circles with German encouragement. On 25 July, Ukrainian militants from outside the city, joined the Ukrainian militia (which later became the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police) and participated in acts of violence against Jews. This group assaulted Jews according to prepared lists of individuals seen as collaborators with the Soviets. Jews were taken to the Jewish cemetery and murdered brutally. Ukrainian police circulated in groups of five and consulted prepared lists. Some 2,000 people were murdered in approximately three days.


According to Richard Breitman 5,000 Jews died as a result of these pogroms. In addition, some 3,000 persons, mostly Jews, were executed in the municipal stadium by the German military.[7] According to the historian and chairman of the civic committee "Babi Yar" Vitali Nachmanovich the actual number of victims of these riots was smaller, estimated at 700, and the further 2,500 killings are attributable to the Einsatzgruppe.[8]

The Lviv ghetto was established in November 1941, holding some 120,000 Jews, most of whom were deported to the Belzec extermination camp or killed locally during the following two years. Following the pogroms, Einsatzgruppen killings, harsh conditions in the ghetto, and deportation to the Nazi concentration camps, including the Janowska concentration camp located on the outskirts of the city, resulted in the almost complete annihilation of the Jewish population. When the Soviet forces reached Lviv in 1944 driving out the Nazi occupation, only 200-300 Jews remained.


The nature of the Lviv pogroms and their identifiable perpetrators remain controversial.

Documents released in 2008 by the Ukrainian Security Services indicate that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) may have been involved to a lesser degree than originally thought.[9] This collection of documents titled "For the Beginning: Book of Facts" (Do pochatku knyha faktiv) has been recognized by historians (John-Paul Himka, Per Anders Rudling, Marco Carynnyk, and Franziska Bruder) as a post-war mystification.[10][11][12][13]


  1. Євген Наконечний «Шоа у Львові». Lviv, 2006 ISBN 966-02-3363-9; p. 99 (Evgen Nakonechniy Shoa u Lvovi)
  2. Jakob Weiss, The Lemberg Mosaic (New York: Alderbrook Press, 2011) pp. 165-174 (Prison Massacre), 206-210 ("Petlura Days" or Aktion Petlura).
  3. Himka, John-Paul (2011). "The Lviv Pogrom of 1941: The Germans, Ukrainian Nationalists, and the Carnival Crowd". pp. 209–243. ISSN 0008-5006. 
  4. Jakob Weiss, Lemberg Mosaic, p. 173
  5. Vitaly Nachmanovich (historian, chairman of the civic committee "Babi Yar"), interviewed in "Xадашот" (Kiev Vaad), August 2011
  6. "Lwów". Holocaust Encyclopedia. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Retrieved 2006. 
  7. Richard Breitman. "Himmler and the 'Terrible Secret' among the Executioners". Journal of Contemporary History; Vol. 26, No. 3/4: The Impact of Western Nationalisms; essays dedicated to Walter Z. Laqueur on the occasion of his 70th birthday (Sep. 1991), pp. 431-451
  8. Vitaly Nachmanovich (historian, chairman of the civic committee "Babi Yar"), interviewed in "Xадашот" (Kiev Vaad), August 2011
  9. "SBU declassifies documents proving OUN-UPA not connected with anti-Jewish actions". 06.02.2008. Retrieved 2 September 2011. 
  10. "Falsifying World War II history in Ukraine". Kyiv Post. 2011-05-08. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  11. Per A. Rudling, The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths, The Carl Beck Papers in Russian & East European Studies, No. 2107, November 2011, ISSN 0889-275X, p. 29
  12. "Історична напівправда гірша за одверту брехню". 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 
  13. "Strasti za Banderoju (‘Bandera Passion’)". 2011-11-20. Retrieved 2011-12-28. 

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