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Distrikts Galizien Spring 1943. Celebrations dedicated to the creation of the SS-Freiwilligen-Schützen-Division «Galizien».

During the military occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany, a number of Ukrainians initially chose to cooperate with the Nazis. Their reasons included the hopes of independence from the Soviet Union and past maltreatment by Soviet authorities. However, the absence of Ukrainian autonomy under the Nazis, mistreatment by the occupiers, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians as slave laborers, soon led to a rapid change in the attitude among the collaborators. By the time the Red Army returned to Ukraine, a significant number of the population welcomed the soldiers as liberators.[1] At the same time, more than 4.5 million Ukrainians had joined the Red Army to fight Germany and more than 250,000 served as Soviet partisan paramilitary units.[2]

Initial attitudes towards German invasion

The German invasion of the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa began on June 22, 1941, and by September the occupied territory was divided between two German administrative units the General Government and the Reichskommissariat Ukraine.

Ukrainians greeting arriving Germans in Western Ukraine in the summer of 1941.

Many Ukrainians chose to resist and fight German occupation forces by joining the Red Army or the Soviet Partisans. However, particularly in the Western Ukraine assigned to General Government, loyalty to the Soviet State was low due to the fact that it had been under Soviet control for a brief period of 2 years after the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland under the Hitler-Stalin-agreement following September 17, 1939. Although the Ukrainian SSR did give the population the national and cultural autonomy that neither the Second Polish Republic nor the interwar Romania did, it came at a price. In 1933 millions of Ukrainians starved to death in the infamous famine, the Holodomor [3] and in 1937 several thousand intelligentsia were exiled, sentenced to Gulag labor camps or executed. The negative impact of Soviet policies helped garner support for the German cause, and in some regions, parts of the nationalist minority initially viewed the Germans as allies in the struggle to free Ukraine from Stalinist oppression and achieve independence.

Under occupation

Some Ukrainians cooperated with the German occupiers, participating in the local administration, in German-supervised auxiliary police, Schutzmannschaft, in the German military, and serving as concentration camp guards. Nationalists in the west of Ukraine were among the most enthusiastic early on, hoping that their efforts would enable them to establish independent state later on. For example, on the eve of Barbarossa as many as four thousand Ukrainians, operating under Wehrmacht orders, sought to cause disruption behind Soviet lines. After the capture of Lviv, in important Ukrainian city, OUN leaders proclaimed a new Ukrainian State on June 30, 1941 and were simultaneously encouraging loyalty to the new regime, in hope that they would be supported by the Germans. Already in 1939, during the German-Polish war, the OUN had been “a faithful German auxiliary”, according to[4]

Professor Ivan Katchanovski of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Harvard University writes that during the war the leadership of OUN B and UPA was heavily engaged in Nazi collaboration - at least 23% of its leaders in Ukraine were in the auxiliary police, Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201 as well as other police formations, 18% took part in training in Nazi Germany's military and intelligence schools in Germany and Nazi-occupied Poland, 11% served the Nachtigall and Roland Battalions, 8% in local administration during the Nazi occupation, and 1% in the SS Galicia Division;according to Katchanovski the percentage of Nazi collaborators among the OUN-B and UPA leadership is likely higher than those numbers, as much data from early occupation is missing[5]

However, despite initially acting warmly to the idea of an independent Ukraine, the Nazi administration had other ideas, in particular the Lebensraum programme and the total 'Aryanisation' of the population. They preferred to play Slavic nations out one against the other. OUN initially carried out attacks on Polish villages, trying to destroy or expel Polish enclaves from what the OUN fighters perceived as Ukrainian territory.[6] When OUN help was no longer needed, its leaders were imprisoned, and many member were summariry executed, with over 600 shot in the Babi Yar massacres[citation needed].The arrests were only temporary however according to professor Katchanovski;while 27% of the leadership of OUN B and UPA were arrested at one time, they were released relatively soon or allowed to escape[7]


Holocaust in Ukraine: the map

The atrocities against the Jewish population during the Holocaust started within a few days of the beginning of German occupation. There are indications that the Ukrainian auxiliary police was used in the round-up of Jews for the Babi Yar massacre[8][9] and in other Ukrainian cities and towns, such as Lviv,[10][11] Lutsk,[12] and Zhytomyr.[13] On September 1, 1941, Nazi-controlled Ukrainian newspaper Volhyn wrote "The element that settled our cities (Jews)... must disappear completely from our cities. The Jewish problem is already in the process of being solved."[14]

In May 2006, a Ukrainian newspaper Ukraine Christian News commented: "Carrying out the massacre was the Einsatzgruppe C, supported by members of a Waffen-SS battalion and units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln. The participation of Ukrainian collaborators in these events, now documented and proven, is a matter of painful public debate in Ukraine.".[15]

While some proportion of collaborators were volunteers, others were given little choice. Ukrainian and some other nationalities caught fighting for the Red Army were sometimes given the option between dying of starvation and exposure in the ill-equipped POW camps reserved for the Red Army[16] or working for the Germans as a hiwi including duty in the concentration camps and ghettos primarily as guards. The men selected for such duty were trained in the Trawniki concentration camp and were used for that part of the Final Solution known as Operation Reinhard. However they were never fully trusted, and with good reason as some would escape their enforced duty, sometimes along with the prisoners they were meant to be guarding and occasionally killing their SS commanders in the process.[17][18]

Righteous Among the Nations in Ukraine

According to Yad Vashem, 2185 righteous Ukrainians had been identified by the year 2007.[19] These are the people who risked their lives to save the Jews.[20] Until the dissolution of the Soviet Union, little information was known of these acts due to Soviet censorship of this topic.

During his visit to Ukraine, Pope John Paul II beatified one of the righteous - Father Omelyan Kovch who sacrificed his life while saving several hundred of Jews. In 1942, father Kovch issued Jews large numbers of baptism certificates in attempt to save their lives. In doing so, he broke the Nazi prohibitions and so he was arrested in December 1942 and deported to the Majdanek concentration camp where he was gassed and burned on March 26, 1943.[21]

The most famous instances of the saving of hundreds of Jews during World War II features the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Andrey Sheptytsky. He harbored hundreds of Jews in his residence and in Greek Catholic monasteries. He also issued two pastoral letters, "Thou Shalt Not Kill" and "On Misericordia" that instructed the Greek-Catholic believers not to participate Nazi atrocities and aid those persecuted. Despite this, however, Sheptytsky remains unrecognized for his acts by Yad Vashem[citation needed]

Collaborationist organizations, political movements, individuals, and military volunteers

Auxiliary police

German officers visiting the Schutzmannschaftant unit in Zarig, near Kiev.

109, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 201-st Ukrainian Schutzmannschaftant-battalions participated in anti-partisan operations in Ukraine and Belarus. In February — March 1943 50-th Ukrainian Schutzmannschaftant-battalion participated in the large anti-guerrilla action «Winterzauber» (Winter magic) in Belarus, cooperating with several Latvian and 2nd Lithuanian battalion. Schuma-battalions burned down villages suspected in supporting Soviet partisans.[22] All the inhabitants of the village Chatyń in Belarus were burnt alive by the Nazis with participation of the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion on 22 March 1943 [23][24]

Ukrainian volunteers in the German armed forces

SS Division "Galizien"

File:SS Galicia Lviv University.jpg

The volunteers of the SS-Freiwilligen-Schützen-Division «Galizien» marching in front of the Lviv University (1943).

On 28 April 1943 the German Governor of District Galicia, Dr. Otto von Wächter, and the local Ukrainian administration officially declared the creation of the SS-Freiwilligen-Schützen-Division Galizien. Volunteers signed for service as of 3 June 1943 numbered 80 thousand.[25] On 27 July 1944 the Galizien division was formed into the Waffen SS as 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (gal. Nr. 1).[26]

One theory is that these men volunteered eagerly for war against the Soviets, rather than being an example of evidence for active support of Nazi Germany.[27] A counter theory is that at least some of them were victims of compulsory conscription as Germany suffered defeats and lost manpower on the eastern front.[28] Sol Litman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center claims that there are many proven and documented incidents of atrocities and massacres committed by the Waffen-SS Galizien against minorities, particularly Jews during the course of World War II,[29] however other authors, such as Michael Melnyk,[30] and Michael O. Logusz,[31] maintain that members of the division fought almost entirely at the front against the Soviet Red Army. They also defend the unit against the accusations made by Litman and others since the war. German official records noted that the 4,5,6 and 7 SS-Freiwilligen regiments were under Ordnungspolizei command at the time of the accusations.[32][33] Neither the division nor any of its members were ever charged with any war crime (see 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Ukrainian)#Accusations of war atrocities).

Ukraine propaganda news

  • Ukrainskyi Dobrovoletz (Der ukrainische Kämpfer) - Ukrainische Freiwilligenverbände

Ukrainian units in the German work organization

  • Organization Todt OT-Einsatzgruppe Ost (Kiev)

Ukrainian collaborators (heads of local administration and public figures)

  • Oleksander Ohloblyn (Kiev mayor, 1941)
  • Volodymyr Bahaziy (Kiev mayor, 1941–1942, executed by Germans in 1942)
  • Leontii Forostivsky (Kiev mayor, 1942–1943)
  • Mykola Velychkivsky (head of the Ukrainian National Committee in Kiev, dismissed in 1942, later emigrated)
  • Fedir Bohatyrchuk (head of the Ukrainian Red Cross, 1941–1942)
  • Ivan Rohach (journalist, public figure, executed in 1942)
  • Oleksii Kramarenko (Kharkiv mayor, 1941–1942, executed by Germans in 1943)
  • Oleksander Semenenko (Kharkiv mayor, 1942–1943)
  • Paul Kozakevich (Kharkiv mayor, 1943)
  • Aleksandr Sevastianov (Vinnytsia mayor, 1941 – ?)

See also


  1. Bauer, Yehuda: "The Holocaust in its European Context" pg. 13-14. Accessed December 24, 2006.
  2. Potichnyj, Peter J.: "Ukrainians in World War II Military Formations: An Overview". Accessed December 24, 2006.
  3. [1] although many scholars view it as induced or exacerbated by the Soviet government much debate still surround the issue which also is controversial in latter-day Ukraine
  4. Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, by John A. Armstrong in The Journal of Modern History Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), p. 409
  5. Terrorists or National Heroes? Politics of the OUN and the UPA in Ukraine Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D.[2]
  6. Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, by John A. Armstrong in The Journal of Modern History Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), p. 409
  7. Katchanovski page 9
  8. "The implementation of the decision to kill all the Jews of Kiev was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a. This unit consisted of SD (Sicherheitsdienst; Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; Sipo) men; the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion; and a platoon of the No. 9 police battalion. The unit was reinforced by police battalions Nos. 45 and 305 and by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police." (Extracts from the Article by Shmuel Spector, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman, editor in Chief, Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, MacMillan Publishing Company,1990)
  9. despite the fact that the auxiliary Ukrainian police units were only established in November of that year. "The Ukrainians led them past a number of different places where one after the other they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes and overgarments and also underwear. They also had to leave their valuables in a designated place. There was a special pile for each article of clothing. It all happened very quickly and anyone who hesitated was kicked or pushed by the Ukrainians to keep them moving." (Statement of Truck-Driver Hofer Describing the Murder of Jews at Babi Yar)
  10. July 25: Pogrom in Lvov
  11. June 30: Germany occupies Lvov; 4,000 Jews killed by July 3
  12. June 30: Einsatzkommando 4a and local Ukrainians kill 300 Jews in Lutsk
  13. September 19: Zhitomir Ghetto liquidated; 10,000 killed
  14. NAAF Holocaust Timeline Project 1941
  15. Holocaust Victims Honored in Babi Yar (Ukraine Christian News, May 3, 2006) Accessed January 14, 2006
  16. 3.5m (57%) WWII Red Army POWs died in captivity
  17. Examination of Ukrainian Collaboration in WWII
  18. Ukrainian and Jewish collaboration at Belzec
  19. Righteous Among the Nations Statistics
  20. Ukrainian Righteous among the nations. Myron B. Kuropas. Ukrainian weekly.
  21. Pope to glorify Ukrainian Priest who saved Jews during the Holocaust. Dr. Alexander Roman. Ukrainian Orthodoxy
  22. Gerlach, C. «Kalkulierte Morde» Hamburger Edition, Hamburg, 1999
  23. State Memorial Complex "Khatyn" official web-page - The destruction of the village of Khatyn is a tragic and vivid example. The village was annihilated by the thugs from the 118th police battalion which was stationed in a small town of Pleschinitsy and the thugs from the SS battalion "Dirlewanger" which was stationed in Logoisk.
  24. В.И. Адамушко "Хатынь. Трагедия и память НАРБ 2009 ISBN 978-985-6372-62-2
  25. K.G. Klietmann Die Waffen SS; eine Dokumentation Osnabruck Der Freiwillige, 1965 p.194
  26. GEORG TESSIN Verbande und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945 DRITTER BAND: Die Landstreitkrafte 6—14 VERLAG E. S. MITTLER & SOHN GMBH. • FRANKFURT/MAIN ISBN 3-7648-0942-6 page 313
  27. Williamson, G: The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror
  28. Melnyk, Michael. To Battle: The Formation and History of the 14. Gallician SS Volunteer Division. Helion and Company Ltd. 
  29. Litman, Sol (2003). Pure Soldiers or Bloodthirsty Murderers?: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia Division (Hardcover ed.). Black Rose Books. ISBN 1-55164-219-0. 
  30. Melnyk, Michael. To Battle: The Formation and History of the 14. Gallician SS Volunteer Division. Helion and Company Ltd. 
  31. Logusz, Michael. Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th grenadier Division 1943-1945. Schiffer Publishing. 
  32. GEORG TESSIN Verbande und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945 DRITTER BAND: Die Landstreitkrafte 6—14 VERLAG E. S. MITTLER & SOHN GMBH. • FRANKFURT/MAIN ISBN 3-7648-0942-6 page 313
  33. Tessin, Georg / Kannapin, Norbert. Waffen-SS und Ordnungspolizei im Kriegseinsatz 1939-1945.ISBN 3-7648-2471-9 p.52.

Further reading

  • Andrew Gregorovich (1995). The Ukrainian Experience in World War II With a Brief Survey of Ukraine's Population Loss of 10 Million (Electronic Reprint Edition ed.). Forum.  here
  • Gilbert Martin (1987). The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (Reprint Edition ed.). Owl Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-0348-2. 
  • Gilbert Martin (1986). The Holocaust: The Jewish tragedy (Unknown Binding ed.). Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-216305-7. 
  • Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, by John A. Armstrong in The Journal of Modern History > Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), pp. 396–410
  • Mordecai Paldiel (1993). The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. KTAV Publishing House in association with the ADL. ISBN 0-88125-376-6.  [3]
  • Mordecai Paldiel and Elie Wiesel (2007). The Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-115112-2.  [4]

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