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Robert Kwant

Hist.142 3/11/98

Term Paper

Collaboration and Murder: Ukrainian Participation in the Holocaust

The history of Ukrainian collaboration in the Holocaust is a logical progression that starts with native anti-Semitism and ends with Ukrainian participation in the murder of thousands of Jews. The Ukrainian population harbored its own unique type of anti-Semitism rooted in historic opposition to Polish nobility and Soviet rule before the out break of World War Two. For the Germans, this native Ukrainian anti-Semitism, mixed with a hatred of the Soviet Regime, served as a mechanism to encourage pogroms against the Jews within the Ukrainian population and to recruit Ukrainian Nationalists into the German system of Jewish extermination. This Ukrainian participation was crucial to the Nazi goal of solving the “Jewish question” in the Ukraine. The cooperation of Ukrainian collaborators allowed the Nazis to effectively murder large numbers of Jews in a wide area with limited resources. Thus, native Ukrainian anti-Semitism enabled the Germans to utilize Ukrainian collaborators as an essential implement in the Holocaust of the Jews.

Political and social anti-Semitism was present in the Ukraine before the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich. Jews in the Ukraine have historically been associated the political forces that directly oppose Ukrainian nationalism and oppress the Ukrainian people. For centuries the Jews served as economic middlemen between Ukrainian peasants and the Polish nobility. Naturally, natural economic exploitation of Ukrainians by Poles led to hostile attitudes towards Jews. The growing oppression in the 1930’s of a Ukrainian minority by the Poles stimulated Ukrainian Nationalism that incorporated anti-Semitic views. Groups such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists began to merge the racist theories of Nazism with their own traditional anti-simetism. Later, Stalinist policies in the Ukraine worsened the already rampant anti-Semitism in the region. The Ukrainians perceived the Jews as collaborators with the Soviet Communists. (In fact there is some basis to this Ukrainian perception, five of the twenty-one full members of the communist central committee were Jews, including Trotsky and Sverdlov.) The Soviets took over the Ukraine and initiated the collectivization of agriculture that led to mass famine in the early 1930’s. “The Stalinist terror and above all the horrors of collectivization became linked in the Ukrainian mind with the image of Judeo-Bolshevism.” Judaism was associated with the Soviet regime; hence, the Jews were deemed enemies of the Ukraine people and the Ukrainian nation. Thus, before the start of World War Two the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists issued the statement, “the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) fights the Jews regarding them as supporters of the Moscow-Bolshevik regime”. On an ideological level this “othering” of the Jews as an entity that was harmful to the Ukrainian Nation and people was established before the Nazi conquest of Russia. This ideological “othering” of the Jews as a harmful group was necessary for the participation of the Ukrainian population in the Holocaust of the Russian Jews.

There was a history of political collaboration between Ukrainian Nationalist Organizations and the Nazis before the invasion of the Soviet Union. Before “Operation Barbarossa” (the code name for the German invasion of the Soviet Union) extreme Ukrainian Nationalist Organizations had collaborated with the Nazis. In the 1930’s members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists had connections with the Nazi intelligence service. Many of its members even served as Nazi agents, “involved in subversion, espionage, sabotage, terrorism, and murder”. The Germans used espionage information collected by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists during the invasion of Russia. In 1939, an estimated 25,000 Ukrainian nationalists escaped from the Ukraine, under Soviet rule, to the Nazi occupied region of Poland. From these Ukrainians, “the Nazis trained and formed the two notorious death battalions-”Nachtigal” and “Roland”". These two death battalions committed some of the worst atrocities in cooperation with the Nazis in the Ukraine. Thus, ideological anti-Semitism and political collaboration between the Nazi’s and Ukrainians before World War II created the necessary connections for the partnership between the Nazi’s and the Ukrainians in the mass murder of the Jews.

On July 2, 1941 the German army entered the Ukraine. The Ukrainian population as a whole reacted with mixed feeling concerning the German occupation. However, there was a considerable minority of Ukrainians that welcomed the German army as liberators from the Bolshevik regime. There was also hope among Ukrainian nationalists that the Nazis would grant the Ukraine statehood. On July 4, 1941 the head of the Nationalist Government of the Ukraine, Yaroslav Stetsko wrote to Hitler: “It is with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and admiration for your heroic army -that we are hereby sending Your Excellence, our heartfelt wishes for complete victory.” In addition to inspiring Ukrainian Nationalist hopes, the Germans granted concessions to the Ukrainian population including the reopening of churches. Thus, naturally, the Ukrainian clergy viewed the German occupation as favorable. In fact, the Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church of the Ukraine sent a letter to Hitler that stated “As Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, I send your Excellency my warmest congratulations as regards to the occupation of the capital of the Ukraine”. These two written examples were created before it was common knowledge that the Germans were systematically murdering thousand of Jews in the Ukraine; however, they were responsible, in part, for instilling considerable sympathy for the German occupation within Ukrainian Nationalist Organizations and on the part of the church. These two institutions, in turn, can be said to have influenced that Ukrainian population as a whole to respect Nazi rule and abide by German policies and programs including the persecution and extermination of the Jews.

The Nazi occupation of the Ukraine and planned extermination of the Jews served as a catalyst to the already native Ukrainian anti-Semitism and produced Ukrainian Nationals who were willing and eager to participate in the murder of Jews. The high level of sympathy for the Germans from leaders of the Ukrainian Nationalist Organization and the church worsened this phenomenon. However, it must also be said that the Germans used various political strategies and propaganda extensively to encourage support and participation from the Ukrainian population in their anti-Jewish activities. The Germans had an official policy of favoring the Ukrainian population at the expense of the Jews and the Russians. An instruction issued by the Chief of Staff of the Rear Areas of the Army Group “South” on August 16, 1941 stated that, “It is necessary that our actions always appear to be correct?All subversive activity should be blamed not on the Ukrainians, but on the Jews and the Russians”. Also the Germans made effective use of propaganda that aimed to create hysteria around the idea of “Judoe-Bolshivism”. Almost instantly after the German occupation, “190 newspapers, sixteen radio stations, the movie industry, exhibitions of various kinds, and mobile propaganda centers” propagated the notion of the Judeo-Bolshevik connection. Thus, the Germans had a considerable influence in transforming Ukrainian anti-Semitism into anti-Jewish pogroms.

The result of this combination of phenomena was between 1941 and 1944 Ukrainians helped the Nazis kill thousands of Jews. Immediately after the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainians spontaneously initiated numerous pogroms against their Jewish neighbors in which thousands of Jews were murdered and their property stolen. In fact, Ukrainian nationalists came out of hiding before the German Army entered the Ukraine and shot retreating Soviet solders and Jews. The Germans welcomed and encouraged these anti-Jewish activities as, “laudable activities against the Jews, that the Ukrainian population undertook within the first hours of the Bolshevik retreat”. Most of these initial pogroms were in retaliation to atrocities perpetrated by the Soviets against the Ukrainian population.

Jews were accused of involvement with the Soviets in the murder of Ukrainians. For example in Krements, Ukraine, between 100-150 Ukrainians had been killed by the Soviets before their retreat. After the Soviet Army withdrew, the Ukrainian population retaliated by beating 130 Jews to death with clubs and sticks on July 20, 1941. In some instances, the leaders of the Ukrainian community either started or joined anti-Jewish actions. For instance, in Kosiv, “the Ukrainian municipality mobilized the Ukrainian youth to dig large mass graves for the Jews before their execution” Naturally, German Einsatzgruppen viewed the spontaneous anti-Jewish activities by Ukrainians as exemplary. They ordered that “no obstacles are to be put before the self-cleaning of communist circles and Jews. On the contrary, they are to be supported without hesitation”. In effect, the Einsatzgruppen did not object to the Ukrainian population doing some of the dirty work of killing Jews for them. Spontaneous anti-Jewish programs undertaken by the Ukrainian population directly aided the Germans extermination of the Jews.

However, all of the anti-Jewish actions in the German occupied Ukraine were not instigated solely on Ukrainian initiative. The Germans also organized anti-Jewish activities and then persuaded Ukrainians to commit most of the atrocities. In the city of Lvov the Germans organized a pogrom in which Ukrainian mobs killed hundreds of Jews. In Lvov, “the Ukrainians, in house-to-house hunts for Jews, shot them randomly on the spot”. (The atrocities against the Jews in Lvov during this progrom were reportedly in retaliation for the killing a Ukrainian Nationalist hero, Semyon Petlura, by a Jew in 1926. ) The Germans used many methods, such as retaliation for the murder of a Ukrainian Nationalist by a Jew, to inspire the Ukrainian population to initiate anti-Jewish pogroms. The Germans did this in order to distribute some of the blame for the murder of Jews. They sought to create the appearance that the initiative for anti-Jewish activities originated from the Ukrainian population not the Germans.

During and after the initial ant-Jewish pogroms by the Ukrainian population in the summer of 1941, the Germans effectively incorporated existing Ukrainian police forces into the system of the destruction of the Jews. These police were made up mostly of Ukrainian nationalists, usually from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, and played various roles in the German mechanism of destruction. In fact, without the close collaboration of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists the Germans could not have effectively eliminated so many Jewish victims. The, “Ukrainian Nationalists were established in cities, towns, and villages in the Ukraine from before of the Nazi occupation”. The Germans also recruited from the Ukrainian population and formed additional police forces. The assistance of these Ukrainian police forces was crucial for the final solution of the “Jewish Question” in the Ukraine. In many cases, the Ukrainian police directly aided the Einsatzgruppen in the elimination of the Jews. In various towns and cities across the Ukraine the Ukrainian police participated in the collection of Jews during Einsatzgruppen actions, the transporting of Jews to town squares and execution areas, and in the shooting of those who tried to escape. For example, On August 13, 1941 in the city of Lviv the Ukrainian police collected 1600 Jews in the center of the city and then delivered them for execution to the Germans. During this action The Ukrainians killed eight Jews and wounded four. There is some evidence that Ukrainian police participated in the infamous Babyn Iar massacre in the Ukrainian City of Kiev. On September 29 and 30, 1941, Ukrainian Police dressed in “black uniforms with gray cuffs” ordered Jews to undress before their execution and then covered the dead Jews with dirt after they had been shot by the Germans. Thus, the Ukrainian police served as an integral part of the killing process. Einsatzgruppen C and D, the two battalions that operated in the Ukraine, only numbered about 1,400 men. The Germans depended on the Ukrainian collaborators to help them operate in a vast territory in which the Jews greatly outnumbered their Nazi murderers.

In addition to aiding the Germans in the collection and guarding of Jews that were to be executed, the Ukrainian police actually helped massacre large numbers of Jews. The two previously mentioned death battalions of “Roland” and “Nachtigal” cooperated in various massacres along with the Einsatzgruppen in Lvov, Tarnopol, and other cities in the Western Ukraine. Their official task was to participated with the Wiermarch in “purging” the occupied areas of undesirable elements. (These undesirable elements consisted of Communists and Jews.) Ukrainian police also served as replacement shooters for Einsatzgruppen members. In the village of Radomyshl, after Germans from Einsatzkommando 4a had tired of killing Jewish adults, Ukrainian police, commonly know as “Hiwi’s”, finished the job by killing all the Jewish children. The Germans sought to use the Hiwi’s as shooters for the mass executions of Jews particularly because of the intense psychological trauma caused by directly participating in the murder of hundreds of people. In many cases, unit commanders of the Einsatzgruppen sought to use Hiwi’s as shooters to spare their own troops from the most horrible duties of massacring thousands of Jews.

After the first pass of the German Einsatzgruppen, aided by Ukrainian police units, which lasted from June 1941 to December 1941 and resulted in the systematic murder of about 500,00 Jews throughout western Russia, large scale massacres decreased. From the winter of 1941 to the end of 1943 the Nazis fully initiated the system of mechanized murder that was necessary for the Final Solution. Spontaneous and unorganized anti-Jewish pogroms drastically decreased and more orderly methods were used to exterminate Jews. Ghettos and forced labor camps were created and thousands of Jews were shipped to the death factory of Belzec. Again, Ukrainian collaborators played an essential role in this process. In fact, during the spring of 1942 when the systematic murder of the Jews reached its highest and greatest efficiency (deportations to Belzec began) the number of Ukrainian collaborators was also at it’s highest. In the winter of 1941, the Ianivska street labor camp was created in Lvov in which over 200,000 Jew were eventually worked to death. Here almost all the guards were Ukrainian. The murder battalions of “Roland” and “Nachtigal” were disbanded in 1942 and merged into the volunteer SS-102 Punitive Battalion. This was undoubtedly done to adapt to the changing methods of the Final Solution. Ukrainian police continued to round up Jews as they had done for the Einsatzgruppen massacres, however, after the spring of 1942 these actions almost always took place in Ghettos and facilitated the deportations of the Jews by cattle car to Belzec. Ukrainians assisted in deportations from Ukrainian ghettos until Belzec shut down in 1943. Ukrainian nationals directly assisted the Germans by searching for Jews that had escaped execution by fleeing into the forests. It appears the primary motive for these searches was the possibility of robbing unarmed Jews. Once Jews were apprehended and probably robbed in the forests by Ukrainians they were either immediately killed or turned over to German authorities. Therefore, Ukrainian collaborators rendered a valuable service to the Germans as the mechanism of the Final Solution began to operate at its greatest efficiency.

Between the years 1941 to 1944 the dark cloud of Nazi occupation descended over the Ukraine and rained death on its Jewish inhabitants. Before the German occupation the Jewish population numbered about 870,000. After the German retreat in 1943 and1944 only 17,000 Jews remained. This is only about two percent of the Jewish population before the war. Needless to say, the Germans were very effective in eliminating the Jews of the Ukraine. Ironically, a very small percentage of the Ukrainian population directly participated in the extermination of the Jews. It is estimated that only three Ukrainians out of every 10,000 served as willing accomplices to murder. This fact simultaneously alludes to the innocence of most of the Ukrainian population and suggests that the Ukrainians that did serve as partners in genocide were violently effective, especially when taking into account the relatively small size of the Einsatzgruppen battalions and the German forces in the Ukraine. Thus, this small group of Ukrainian collaborators played a crucial and necessary part in this almost total elimination of the Jews in the Ukraine. The Germans deserve full blame for the murder of thousands of Jews. The Nazi’s initiated the process of the Final Solution, but exploited native Ukrainian anti-Semitism to bloody the hands of many Ukrainian collaborators in the process. Thousands of Jews perished because of Nazi atrocities in the Ukraine but many more could have survived without Ukrainian collaboration and their partnership in murder.

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