The following article was originally published in The Fate of the European Jews, 1939-1945:  Continuity or Contingency, ed. Jonathan Frankel (New York, Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1997), Studies in Contemporary Jewry 13 (1997):  170-89.  An authorized, abridged Ukrainian translation also appeared in Krytyka (Kyiv) in 1998.  Additionally, the article appeared online in Zwoje, Volume 16, Number 3:  Maj-Czerwiec (May-June) 1999. However, that publication is no longer online.


Sorting out the Long-Term and Conjunctural Factors

Copyright ©John-Paul Himka 1997

Reprinted with permission of the author.

The subject of Ukrainian collaboration in the Nazi-directed genocide of the European Jews is a minefield. (1)   Over the past decade it has several times erupted into public controversy (notably over the Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada, the trial of John Demjanjuk in Israel and the television broadcast "The Ugly Face of Freedom" ["60 Minutes"] in the United States). (2)  The rhetoric on both the Ukrainian and Jewish sides of these controversies can reach an uncomfortably high pitch.  Even the scholarly literature on the subject is sharply polarized. (3)  The issue is not only sensitive, but devilishly complex.  Moreover, it is an issue with insufficient monographic research behind it; it is only apprehendable from the sources, which are multilingual, widely scattered and frustratingly contradictory.

Given the context in which it is written, this article is necessarily exploratory and its conclusions tentative.  It is offered, within these limitations, as a case study of the problem of continuity versus contingency in the perpetration of the genocide against the Jews, that is, as an attempt to sort out the long-term from the short-term factors inducing Ukrainians to collaborate in the extermination of the Jewish population, to examine the time frame in which the circumstances and attitudes facilitating collaboration were formed.

Readers should take note of two important distortions that are inevitable given the specific focus of this investigation.

First, because the investigation requires a focus on participation in genocide, it may give the impression that such participation was more widespread in the Ukrainian population than it in fact was.  It is therefore necessary to state explicitly and formally that it is not the purpose of this article to attempt to delineate the extent of Ukrainian collaboration. Rabbi David Kahane in his memoirs recounts that many Jews from Lviv were able to jump off the train that was taking them to Belzec.  "Some peasants took pity on the jumpers, fed them, and showed them the way back to the city.  Other peasants turned them over to the Ukrainian police or the Gestapo." (4)  For the purposes of this article, only the motivations of the latter peasants are important, while those of the former are irrelevant; but because the peasants who fed and helped the jumpers do not figure in this specialized investigation does not mean that they did not historically exist. (5)

Secondly, since the article deals with factors which might explain collaboration in mass murder, it risks giving the impression of an exculpation, in conformity with the widely held principle that to understand is to forgive.  It is, though, an underlying assumption of this article that understanding is important enough in its own right (and particularly with regard to so traumatic a historical event as the Holocaust) to be worth taking risks for.  It should also be noted in this connection that the main aim of the article is not to elaborate upon explanatory factors, but to place these factors within a timeframe in order to contribute to the discussion about how deeply rooted historically were the conditions and preconditions of the annihilation of the Jews of Europe.

The main body of the article is divided into four parts.  The first part registers factors that seem to have little connection to any particular period of history, that seem to be universal or timeless or part of "human nature."  The rest of the article treats of the historical genesis of the factors.  For convenience of exposition, I have divided the genesis into three large periods, but more complex divisions could certainly be made.  The three periods are: the period of the war and the preceding two decades (the 1920s, 30s and 40s), the period of the national movement (the nineteenth and early twentieth century) and the period of what might be called primary cultural accumulation (the medieval and early modern eras).  The conclusions will offer a summary balance of the contribution of the different periods to the formation of attitudes and conditions conducive to collaboration in the Nazi persecution and destruction of the Jews.

"Timeless" Factors

Whether any human trait is truly "timeless" is open to question, but the intention here is to point to some factors motivating collaboration that are not easy for historians to analyze with their customary tools, that seem to stand apart from the process of history and yet influence it.  Two such factors stand out with reference to collaboration in the Holocaust:  greed and sadism.  For the purposes of this article they are defined respectively as a desire for material gain that transcends established norms for keeping this desire in check and as a psychological disposition that derives pleasure from inflicting pain and death.

The Holocaust provided numerous opportunities for the enrichment of the non-Jewish population at the expense of the doomed Jewish population.  The expulsion of the Jews from their homes to the ghettos and their exclusion from many branches of the economy improved the living quarters and livelihoods of the many Gentiles--primarily Germans and Ukrainians in Ukraine--who took their places.  It gave large numbers of the non-Jewish population a certain investment in the Final Solution.  But benefiting in this way from the Holocaust must be distinguished from active participation in the destruction of the Jews motivated by a desire for material gain.  The Holocaust created conditions in which certain greed-driven crimes could be committed with impunity (or relative impunity) as long as they were committed against Jews.  The wave of pogroms that swept the western regions of the Soviet Union shortly after the German invasion provided an opportunity to loot, in spite of attempts by the German military authorities to prevent this. (6)  Once more systematic persecution began, Jews outside the ghettos were exposed to robbery perpetrated by brigands. (7)  Greed also motivated some to volunteer for positions in the Ukrainian police or in the watch battalions of concentration and death camps, both of which provided opportunities for enrichment through bribes and extortion. (8)

There were also those who participated in Nazi crimes because they were initially attracted by or subsequently developed a delight in cruelty and murder.  The Greek Catholic metropolitan of Halych, Andrei Sheptytsky, was particularly concerned about the cultivation of sadistic proclivities among Ukrainians who took part in Nazi-directed political murder.  In his pastoral letter of 21 November 1942, he wrote:

[The murderer] not only killed his neighbor, but he deprived his soul of supernatural life, of God's grace, and led it into an abyss from which perhaps there will be no salvation!  For by shedding innocent blood he perhaps summoned in his soul the demons of lust, which say to him to seek his own joy in the sufferings and pains of his neighbor.

The sight of the shed blood calls forth in the human soul a sensual lust, linked with cruelty, which seeks satisfaction in dealing suffering and death to its victims.  Bloodthirstiness can become such a passion, unconstrained, that its greatest pleasure is to torture and kill people....Crime becomes for [the bloodthirsty murderer] a necessary daily nourishment without which he suffers and is tormented as if he were suffering from some sickness of thirst and hunger which he must satisfy. (9)

The metropolitan's analysis of the role of sadistic impulses in perpetration has recently been borne out by a study of a German reserve police battalion and how its members coped with participation in mass executions, primarily of Jews. (10)  There is, it seems, always a sector of the population in whom sadism is active or latent.

In normal historical situations, active sadists would be marginalized as criminal elements and latent ones would not become active; similarly, in normal historical situations, greed would in most cases not lead to robbery or extortion.  But during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, criminality moved from the margins of society to its center, and individuals with an inclination to rob, extort and kill were not lost in the larger crowd of humanity, but stepped to the fore.  Thus, although certain "timeless" factors were at work in the disposition to become a perpetrator, it was the circumstances of the Nazi occupation that magnified the importance of these factors out of proportion.  By no means were all the Ukrainians who collaborated in the destruction of the Jews individuals with criminal tendencies such as described here, but it is important to be cognizant of the participation of such individuals in the mass murder and to understand that it was the particular conjuncture that raised them to an unusual prominence.

Conjunctural Factors

The Nazi occupation not only created the general conditions in which certain types of criminal behaviour flourished, but it created special conditions for Ukrainians.  There is a popular saying that crime consists of 1 percent motivation and 99 percent opportunity.  Ukrainians were afforded extraordinary opportunities by the Nazis.  In line with their racialist thinking, the Nazis made judgments about the worth and capacities of the various nationalities over whom they ruled.  Their judgments about Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Latvians were that these peoples were particularly suited for work in the destruction process.  It seems that it was the notorious Otto Globocnik who was responsible for making the decision that members of precisely these three nationalities would be recruited as "Hiwis" (from Hilfwillige, "volunteers") to clear ghettos and to conduct mass executions. (11)  Ukrainians and Balts, generally former Soviet POWs, were also deliberately recruited to serve as guards in concentration and death camps.  The Ukrainian police, unlike the Polish police, for example, were routinely assigned to participate in ghetto clearings and mass executions. (12)  The Nazis' thinking was that the Ukrainians (and the Baltic nationalities) were, owing to historical circumstances, particularly anti-Bolshevik, and therefore anti-Semitic, and, moreover, sufficiently primitive to perform whatever dirty work was required. (13)  Perhaps for this reason the Nazis decided to instigate the wave of pogroms that encompassed all the western territories of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941.  In these pogroms tens of thousands of Jews perished at the hands of the non-Jewish local population.  The Nazis attempted nothing similar to this anti-Jewish violent mass mobilization in any other territory they held.  Even if one does not agree fully with Raul Hilberg's assessment that "truly spontaneous pogroms, free from Einsatzgruppen influence, did not take place; all outbreaks were either organized or inspired by the Einsatzgruppen," (14) it is unambiguously clear from the German documentation that most of the pogroms were incited by the Germans themselves and by local agents working on their instructions. (15)

Although the Nazis considered Ukrainians to be, as it were, natural allies in the war against the Jews, experience showed them that it was not always possible to count on their collaboration. (16)  They therefore expended considerable effort on propaganda to intensify anti-Jewish feeling.  Here only a few examples can be mentioned.  In Zhytomyr, where the population was particularly reluctant to help in the destruction of the Jews, the Nazis staged something like a Stalinist show trial in which a Jew (a certain Kieper) who had served in the GPU confessed to over 1350 murders, which he committed to "give vent to his hatred for everything that was not Jewish."  He had his favorite methods for killing his victims and was not above using his rifle butt to smash the foot of a baby nursing at her mother's breast.  Instead of a public trial, however, Kieper was given a public execution.  His crimes were described on two large posters placed on the gallows.  Before the execution his crimes were announced in Ukrainian and German from a loudspeaker van.  Given the Stalinist cultural context, the show execution must have produced a considerable resonance among the population.  At any rate, the organizers of the spectacle (Einsatzgruppe C) were themselves quite satisfied with what they had achieved and recommended it as a model for others to follow. (17)  A particularly effective propaganda device, used in conjunction with the inciting of the pogroms in the summer of 1941, was to bring the local population to prisons and mass graves to view the (often mutilated) corpses of Soviet political prisoners. Jews were also paraded out, forced to clean the corpses and accused of responsibility for the atrocities. (18)  Aside from the orchestration of such major spectacles, the Nazis, of course, made use of the press, which they controlled and watched closely, to fan anti-Jewish sentiment; for example, on the eve of the final liquidation of the Galician Jews, the Nazis ordered the two major Ukrainian papers of the Generalgouvernement ( Krakivs'ki visti and L'vivs'ki visti) to run a series of anti-Semitic articles. (19)

In addition to persuasion, the Nazis used coercion to encourage Ukrainians to assume the role of perpetrators.  Coercion to this end (as opposed to the more general coercion aimed at discouraging the population at large from aiding Jews) was selectively aimed at recruiting Ukrainians, particularly Soviet POWs, to serve as guards in concentration and death camps, perhaps also to serve as Hiwis.  No systematic study of the recruitment of these categories of perpetrators has been undertaken, but the fragmentary evidence is suggestive.  In his study of Jewish resistance in Poland, Shmuel Krakowski recounts the following:

In December [1941], about 300 Soviet prisoners came to the camp in Lipowa Street [Lublin].  After a short stay in the camp, they were given Nazi uniforms and incorporated into the guard units (Wachtbattailonen).  They took part in the liquidation of the ghettos in the Lublin area and of Lublin itself.  It was from them that the Jewish prisoners found out that 100,000 Soviet prisoners-of-war had been killed near Chelm Lubelski, where they had been kept out in the open in a field surrounded by a high voltage fence.  The prisoners were given no food for several weeks, and many starved to death.  The extreme hunger led to cases of cannibalism.  Only a few hundred of the very strong survived, and they were given the option of serving the Germans. (20)
Perhaps related, if not so extreme applications of coercion explain why the Ukrainian guards sometimes collaborated with the Jewish resistance organizations, as was the case at the Plaszów concentration camp, where over 300 Jews and sixteen Ukrainian guards escaped together, and occasionally also at Sobibór. (21)

Thus far this article has concentrated on conjunctural factors introduced by the Nazis during the occupation of Ukrainian territory.  It remains to discuss two other factors in which the Nazi role was not as prominent.

The first of these is that there was a pro-German orientation in the Ukrainian nationalist movement, at least in the initial stages of the German-Soviet war, and an even stronger and more persistent anti-Soviet animus.  In the understanding of Ukrainian nationalists, the chief enemies of their nation were Communist Russia and Poland.  In the late 1930s they looked for deliverance to Hitler, who was anti-Polish and anti-Soviet and who seemed determined to redraw the map of Europe in accordance with the ethnic principle (the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland, the autonomy and then independence of Slovakia, the autonomy of Carpatho-Ukraine).  Moreover, certain Nazi circles, notably those around Alfred Rosenberg, cultivated Ukrainian sympathies and held out the prospect of a large, independent Ukrainian state to be closely associated with Germany.  When Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, the nationalists' hopes seemed on the verge of fulfillment.  At the behest of Stepan Bandera, the leader of the revolutionary wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Volodymyr Stakhiv wrote to Hitler on 23 June 1941 to express confidence that the German campaign would "destroy the corrupting Jewish-Bolshevik influence in Europe and finally break Russian imperialism" and to point out that "the restoration of an independent national Ukrainian state along the lines of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty will firmly establish the ethnic ( völkische) new order in Eastern Europe."(22)  The letter fairly accurately captures the mood of the nationalists.  The reference to the "Jewish-Bolshevik influence" was not a stock phrase of Ukrainian nationalism, which tended to identify Bolshevism more with Russians than Jews, but an indication that the nationalists were willing to accommodate Nazi anti-Semitism.

The pro-German orientation of Ukrainian nationalism remained in this pristine state only for a few weeks.  In July 1941 the Germans arrested the leaders of the Bandera movement after the latter attempted to proclaim the restoration of an independent Ukrainian state.  Not only did the Germans disallow Ukrainian statehood, but they incorporated Galicia, where Ukrainian nationalism was most deeply rooted, into the General gouvernement (i.e., the former Poland) on 1 August 1941 and entrusted the Reichskommissariat Ukraine to the self-proclaimed "brutal dog" Erich Koch.  Mistreatment and mass murders of Ukrainian POWs and civilians further estranged the nationalists from the Nazis.  However, there was the lingering feeling among many nationalists that for Ukrainians the lesser evil was Hitler, the greater evil Stalin. (23)  The pro-German orientation of the organized national movement of course facilitated perpetration, although probably, except perhaps in some of the pogroms of the first weeks, not directly.  What it probably did do, however, was create an atmosphere in which compliance with the Germans in all matters, including perpetration, was psychologically easier.

Even with the decline of the pro-German orientation, the anti-Soviet sentiments of the nationalists remained high throughout the war. (24)  This put them at odds with the Jews of the region, who naturally placed their own hopes for survival in a return of Soviet power. (25)  Although inadequately documented, it is reasonable to assume that the Bandera partisan movement, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA)--like its Polish counterpart, the Home Army (AK)--liquidated Jewish partisan bands because they were pro-Communist. (26)  In addition, the Ukrainians, like the Poles of the Eastern Borderlands, believed that the Jews had worked closely with the Soviets during their occupation of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus in 1939-41.  In Western Ukraine, the Nazi propaganda that identified Jews and Bolshevism met with some success.

The second conjunctural factor in which the Nazis played a contributory, rather than primary role, and the last of the conjunctural factors to be discussed in this article, is the circumstance that for Ukrainians the mass murder of the Jews did not stand out as an extraordinary event in the same way that it would have for most other European peoples.  The Ukrainians had become inured to mass political violence in the decades preceding the Holocaust, and it is fair to speculate that this had an impact on the national psychology and political culture.  The Austro-Hungarian political and military authorities had incarcerated in concentration camps and summarily executed tens of thousands of their own Ukrainian citizens during World War I on suspicion of pro-Russian sympathies.  The Ukrainians under Polish rule suffered "pacification" actions in the 1930s.  These amounted to large-scale, state-directed pogroms.  Although the loss of life was relatively limited, beatings and the destruction of property took place on a grand scale.  During their occupation of the formerly Polish Ukrainian territories in 1939-41, the Soviet authorities resettled close to half a million Poles to the east and conducted mass arrests of Ukrainians, thousands of whom were liquidated immediately after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war.  In Soviet Ukraine mass political violence became commonplace in the 1930s.  Hundreds of thousands of "kulaks" were arrested and deported, millions perished in the famine of 1933, almost the entire Ukrainian intelligentsia was exiled or executed and mass killing operations were conducted in places such as Vinnytsia and the Bykivnia forests.  Thus by the time the Nazis arrived, the Ukrainians may already have come to regard mass violence as a more normal component of the political environment than other European peoples did.  However, even Nazi violence was more extreme in Ukraine than it was in many other regions under Nazi rule and much of it was directed against Ukrainians (particularly prisoners of war, but also the civilian population).  Several Western scholars have pointed out that the exceptionally violent conditions of the Nazi occupation in the east had the effect of deadening the sensitivities of the local population to the particular tragedy of the Jews. (27)  In fact, though, the observation seems to call for expansion: the preceding, particularly Soviet, violence as well as the violence of the Nazi occupation in general in the east not only must have desensitized the local population to the extermination of the Jews, but must have reduced inhibitions to participation in the extermination process.

Long-Term Factors with Roots in the Era of Nationalism

As many East European peoples, the Ukrainians underwent a "national revival" in the nineteenth century, with the result that nationalism occupied an important place in the worldview of many Ukrainians. The nationalist worldview permeated Ukrainian society most thoroughly in Austrian-ruled Galicia, where it had become hegemonic by the turn of the century. (28)  The success of the national movement was more limited in Dnieper Ukraine, owing to the obstacles put in its way by the tsarist government.  The revolution of 1905, the collapse of tsarism, the revolutionary events of 1917-20 and the policy of ukrainization in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s all, however, contributed to a broadening and deepening of the movement in Dnieper Ukraine.  The Stalinist persecutions of the Ukrainian intelligentsia in the 1930s set the movement back again. (29)  Thus when the Germans entered Ukraine in the summer of 1941, Galicia was largely nationalist in outlook, while Dnieper Ukraine was markedly less so.

There were elements of the nationalist worldview in general and certain peculiarities of its formation in Galicia that seem to have come into play in connection with collaboration in anti-Jewish actions.

To begin with the most obvious, nationalism divides the world into collectivities of nations and ascribes collective characteristics and collective responsibility to members of nations.  It is thus a worldview that could without much difficulty assimilate the Nazi view that the Jews formed a race with certain collective characteristics and collective responsibility.  From the pure nationalist perspective as well as from the Nazi perspective, a Jewish child was above all a Jew, not a child.  Nationalism drew a distinct line between "us" and "the other," with solidarity limited to the "us" and assessment of "the other" from the viewpoint of its relation to "us."  The nationalist perspective generalized from the behavior of certain individuals to the whole of the national collectivity and back from this whole to other individuals whose behavior had never in fact been observed.  The Nazis appealed to this type of reasoning continually in order to justify their own anti-Jewish actions or to encourage others to commit them.  A characteristic example of the former was the aftermath to the Kieper affair in Zhytomyr: the Einsatzgruppe followed up the execution of Kieper with the shooting of 402 Zhytomyr Jews.  A characteristic example of the latter was the device of bringing randomly selected Jews to the sites of Soviet mass killings in order to instigate a pogrom.

The nationalist perspective played an important role in the development of the view that the Jews as a group had collaborated closely with the Soviet authorities, and particularly with the Soviet secret police, during the first Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine in 1939-41.  It is difficult to establish the facts of what happened during this period, although considerable progress has been made recently in sorting them out. (30)  It seems reasonable to assume that the Soviet occupation authorities relied somewhat disproportionately on Jews among the local urban population, since the Poles, who constituted the plurality of the urban population, were earmarked for displacement and deportation and the Ukrainians constituted a decided minority in the cities and those Ukrainians who were in the cities tended to be members of the intelligentsia imbued with a nationalist and anti-Soviet outlook.  It also seems reasonable to assume that pro-Soviet sympathies were more widespread among the Jewish community than among the Ukrainian community and that the type of anti-Sovietism that permeated Ukrainian society was not so common among Jews.  Although these are reasonable assumptions, they are not borne out by any evidence, and in fact the evidence points to a Soviet administration staffed overwhelmingly by Ukrainians, largely imported from the Central and Eastern Ukrainian territories, but including locals, especially in the countryside, and to the development of anti-Soviet feelings among Jews as a result of the expropriation of their businesses and the suppression of their national organizations.  How does one account, then, for the stereotype of the Soviet-abetting Jews?  The probable answer lies in the nationalist way of thinking.  The collaboration of individual Jews with the Soviet authorities would be generalized so that "the Jews" would be seen as Soviet collaborators.  On the other hand, the same collaboration of numerous individuals of Ukrainian nationality would be completely excepted from generalization, since this would be inadmissible from the nationalist standpoint, which sees one's own nation in ideal terms; deviants from the nationalist ideal would be conceived of as "exceptions" and, more frequently, "traitors," in any case not at all representative of the nation as a whole.

The image of the Jews as collaborators with the Soviets was probably also reinforced by the traditional Ukrainian nationalist image of the Jews as inveterate collaborators with the Ukrainians' national enemies.  This view was rooted in historical reality.  For all of the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century Ukrainians constituted a submerged nationality in which another nationality controlled the state apparatus and also dominated cultural life. The goal of the Ukrainian national movement was to change this situation so that Ukrainians possessed both political and cultural authority.  The Jews, however, tended to support the dominant political nationality and assimilate to the dominant national culture.  Characteristically, assimilated Jews spoke German and later Polish in Galicia, Magyar and later Czech in Transcarpathia, German and later Romanian in Bukovina and Russian in the rest of Ukraine.  In the Polish- Ukrainian national conflict in Austrian Galicia, they sided with the Poles until the early twentieth century, and in the Russian- Ukrainian conflict during the revolution, they tended to side with the Russians.  The Jews were protecting their interests as a vulnerable minority; there was also little assimilative attraction for them in either Ukrainian society, composed so overwhelmingly of peasants, or in Ukrainian culture. During the Holocaust the image of Jews as allies of the Ukrainians' enemies primarily referred to Jewish sympathies with the Soviets.  The image (or in the following case, the actual role) was also more general.  During the Ukrainian-Polish irregular war that was conducted as a shadow conflict within World War II, some Jewish partisans sided with the Polish side and therefore were attacked by forces associated with the Bandera movement. (31)

The view of Jews as cultural and political allies of the Ukrainians' enemies was only one component of the image of the Jews that had been constructed within the Ukrainian national movement prior to the Second World War.  The other major component was socio-economic, the view of Jews as the exploiters of the Ukrainian people.  This subject will be examined in the next section, however.

Ukrainian nationalism incorporated little modern anti- Semitic ideology. (32)  The main thrust of the Ukrainian struggle was directed against Russians and Poles; the Jews were merely adjunct.  Ukrainian nationalism never developed the fully articulated anti-Semitism that existed in Polish, Russian, Hungarian or Romanian nationalisms. (33)  Ukrainians and Ukrainian nationalists may have disliked Jews, but they did so on traditional or on real-political grounds; rarely would they demonize Jews or place them at the center of some conspiracy.  None the less, in the era of nationalism anti-Semitic ideology was widespread in Eastern Europe, and certainly the Ukrainians were frequently exposed to it, even if they did not incorporate it into their own nationalist discourse.  In some cases, anti- Semitism was a major component of the ideology of nationalist movements with which the Ukrainian national movement engaged in intense conflict, such as Polish National Democracy in Austrian Galicia and interwar Poland and the Russian Black Hundreds in tsarist Ukraine.  In certain states within which the Ukrainians found themselves, anti-Semitism suffused the political culture (late imperial Austria, imperial Russia, interwar Poland, interwar Romania).  This constant exposure to anti-Semitic ideology probably facilitated its acceptance when it was also espoused, in a more lethal form, by the German occupation authorities.

Finally, there is a peculiarity of the way that nationalism developed among the Ukrainians of Galicia that seems to have had a major effect on participation in the annihilation of the Jewish population.  It is useful to return again to a diagnosis made by the head of the Greek Catholic church, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky.  In a number of his pastoral letters, beginning in 1907 (34) and continuing through the pastoral letter of 1942 cited earlier, Sheptytsky identified a moral defect in the Ukrainian national movement in Galicia: it practiced "politics without God."  By this he meant that it sometimes acted in the erroneous conviction "that politics frees a person from the obligation of Divine law and justifies crime...." (35)  Before the Nazi occupation, Sheptytsky chiefly had in mind nationalist acts of terrorism, and in particular politically motivated assassinations.  What he discerned was that the principle of the end justifying the means had somehow gone too far within the political culture of Galician Ukrainian nationalism.  It is not the place here to explore in any detail the roots of this "politics without God," but probably it can be dated back to a critical experience of the late 1860s through mid 1870s when the Galician intelligentsia, then largely Russophile in outlook, participated in and encouraged the forcible conversion of the Chelm eparchy to Russian Orthodoxy, acting as accessories to violations of conscience, murder and mass exile in order to achieve a political end. (36)  In any case, the radical dissociation of politics from ethics was a discernible strain in the Galician Ukrainian national movement decades before the Holocaust.

During the Holocaust, however, this dissociation could, and did, have particularly grievous consequences.  A remarkable example is the decision by the Bandera movement to infiltrate the Ukrainian police units set up by the Germans.  Although the police units were at first largely recruited from the pre-existing police forces, volunteers were also accepted, especially after the Germans realized that the pre-existing police formations, particularly in the pre-1939 Soviet Ukraine, included a large number of Communist party members in their ranks.  The Bandera movement, that is, the radical wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, was intent on establishing a Ukrainian state and understood that it needed an armed force to achieve this goal.  Participation in the police units would provide Ukrainian nationalists with some training and with arms.  Indeed, the thousands of Ukrainian policemen who deserted in the fall of 1942 contributed immensely to the formation of the Bandera-dominated UPA. (37)  Prior to that the Bandera movement had virtually taken over a police academy in Rivne, where the Banderites stockpiled weapons and taught recruits to prepare for "a war of liberation of Ukraine against Germany" until their activities were uncovered by the Germans in the spring of 1942. (38)  The nationalists of the Bandera movement reckoned that as the front moved eastward, relatively few German forces would be left in Ukraine.  At that point, the Ukrainian police could overwhelm the German civil administration ("If there were fifty policemen to five Germans, who would hold power then?"). (39)

Of course, infiltrating the Ukrainian police formations meant taking part in anti-Jewish actions.  Apparently, this did not constitute an obstacle of conscience for the radical nationalists.  In fact, taking part in some actions was probably useful, since weapons could be confiscated during ghetto clearings and added to the stockpile. (40)  When the Germans discovered the stockpiles associated with the Rivne academy, the members of the Bandera movement denied that they were theirs and said they belonged to Jews. (41)  According to the Germans, to finance their activities, the Banderites raised some of their contributions from Jews, whom they often blackmailed. (42)  On the other hand, the Bandera movement provided some Jews with false papers. (43)  The impression created by the German documentation is that the extreme Ukrainian nationalists were so indifferent to the fate of the Jews (44) that they would either kill them or help them, whichever was more appropriate to their political goals.  Morality (Sheptytsky's "obligation of Divine law") did not enter into the calculation.

Long-Term Factors with Medieval and Early Modern Roots

Of the factors facilitating collaboration whose roots can be traced back centuries, the preeminent one was the socio-economic antagonism between Ukrainians and Jews.  This was an antagonism dating back to the early modern era, when Jews served as lessees and managers of estates and manorial appurtenances, while Ukrainians were enserfed peasants living under extremely oppressive conditions.  The hard feelings engendered by this situation resulted in several bloody massacres of Jews by Ukrainian Cossacks and peasants, notably during the Cossack uprising led by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the middle of the seventeenth century and during the Haidamaka uprisings of the eighteenth century.  In the nineteenth century the antagonism underwent some fundamental transformations, but remained salient.  Serfdom was abolished, but the penetration of a money economy into the Ukrainian countryside gave rise to new conflicts in which Jewish moneylenders, tavernkeepers and shopkeepers found themselves at odds with Ukrainian peasants, priests and aspiring petty bourgeois. (45)  The unscrupulous Jew plying the simple peasant with drinks in order eventually to foreclose on his land became a stock figure of popular Ukrainian political literature.

Certainly the realities that lay behind the antagonism had been considerably reduced during the decades immediately preceding the Holocaust.  In Soviet Ukraine the whole economic structure had been transformed, but it is likely that elements of the old antagonism resurfaced whenever a Ukrainian peasant encountered a Jew entrusted with grain requisition.  In interwar Galicia the development of the Ukrainian cooperative movement and the success of the temperance movement were phenomenal; moreover, interwar Poland was much more hostile to Jewish economic activity than had been prewar Austria--all of which must have drastically lowered the incidence of Ukrainian-Jewish socio-economic conflict.

Memories, however, especially memories encoded in the national worldview, can outlast realities:  In the anti-Jewish articles contributed by Ukrainian authors to Krakivs'ki visti in the summer of 1943, the most common theme was that Jews were responsible for the immiseration of the Ukrainian peasantry (the next most common theme was that the Jews aided the Soviets in 1939-41). (46)

The persistence of the socio-economically motivated resentment of the Jews into the time of the Holocaust of course strengthened the image of the Jew as an inimical "other," with whom, therefore, one need have no solidarity, whose removal, in fact, would be welcome.  Moreover, the rather widespread notion that Jews became rich through cheating and exploiting Ukrainian peasants must have served to lessen inhibitions about robbing or blackmailing them.

Another factor reaching back centuries, in this case close to a millennium, is the religious one.  The idea that there is a continuum of anti-Semitism within Christianity which contributed significantly to the Holocaust has often found expression in the literature.  Raul Hilberg made the case laconically, but powerfully in the introduction to his magisterial work on the destruction of the European Jews.  More recently, at greater length and with elaborate theoretical underpinnings, Gavin Langmuir has sought to demonstrate the connection between aspects of Christian religiosity and Nazi anti-Semitism. (47)  As stimulating as Langmuir's work is, it is of little direct relevance to the issue of Ukrainian religious anti-Semitism, because Langmuir, and Hilberg as well, conceive of Christendom only as Western Christendom, completely abstracting from the separate development of Eastern, Byzantine Christendom, which is the Christendom relevant for Ukraine.

Sources indicate that Christian anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism (cf. Langmuir's distinction) was present at least among clerical circles during the Holocaust.  The most striking case of this concerns Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky.  Although Sheptytsky protested several times against the Nazi persecution of the Jews and rescued a number of Jews himself, his thinking displayed religiously motivated anti-Jewish attitudes that could have led to the opposite behavior in a cleric with less compassion.  For example, in a discussion with a French collaborator, Dr. Frederic, a discussion in which the metropolitan denounced the murder of the Jews in no uncertain terms, the metropolitan also agreed with Dr. Frederic's observation that the Jews had avowed the destruction of Christianity. (48)

Rabbi David Kahane, who was hidden by Sheptytsky, recorded in his memoirs the following encounter:

The metropolitan fell silent for a moment and continued: "Have you ever thought about it and asked yourself, what is the source of the hatred and savage persecution of the Jewish people from ancient times until the present?  What is their origin?"  He pointed at the bookshelves, asked me to find the New Testament in Hebrew translation and locate chapter 27, verse 25 in the Gospel according to Matthew:  "It says there 'And the whole people answered and said His blood will be on us and on our children.'..."(49)
Other clerics were unable to harbor such views and yet oppose the murder of the Jews in word and deed as Metropolitan Sheptytsky did.  When Kurt Lewin, the son of a rabbi, sought refuge in a Greek Catholic monastery, the hegumen refused to accept him, arguing that the fate befalling the Jews was God's will and that he did not wish to act against this will. (50)  According to a source tainted, however, by an anti-Ukrainian bias, the Greek Catholic pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul in Lviv told the faithful from the pulpit to turn all Jews over to the Germans. (51)

There is a scene in Claude Lanzmann's film Shoah in which the director coaxes from a group of Poles gathered outside the church an explanation of the Holocaust as the result of the Jews' crucifixion of Jesus.  If a French director could coax this out of simple people some forty years after the Holocaust, how much more readily such an explanation must have come to mind during the actual events themselves.  Still, it would probably be a mistake to place too much emphasis on religious factors in the concrete case of the Ukrainians.  Most of them had just lived through two decades of state-sponsored atheism, and even in Galicia the secularization of the worldview, in connection with the diffusion of the national movement, had proceeded very far ("politics without God" was but one symptom of this).  In the anti-Jewish articles submitted to Krakivs'ki visti in 1943, religious motifs are notably absent.

The final factor to be considered among the set of very long-term factors is best posed as a question:  Was there some strand of anti-Jewish violence within the Ukrainian folk culture?  Before the Second World War, Ukrainians had engaged in mass violence against Jews three times:  during the Khmelnytsky uprising (mid-seventeenth century), the Haidamaka uprisings (eighteenth century) and the struggle for statehood led by Symon Petliura (1919-20).  Did these moments encode a possibility of behavior which facilitated Ukrainian participation in the pogroms of the summer of 1941?  The pogroms were largely inspired by the Germans, but there was also an element of spontaneity in them. (52)  Moreover, there were isolated incidents of pogroms against the Jews in 1939, when the Soviets, not the Nazis, invaded Western Ukraine. (53)  Certainly there were continuities throughout the incidents of mass anti-Jewish violence:  The Jews in each case were regarded as exploiters and as allies of the Ukrainians' enemies.  Was it these continuities of the situation alone that produced several historically discrete episodes of anti-Jewish violence, or did they also leave some cultural sediment?  There are at least some elements in the folk culture which suggest the existence of a violent animosity, such as the proverb Kozhdyi zhyd shybenytsi vart (Every Jew deserves the gallows). (54)  More substantially, there was a belief current among some Galician Ukrainian peasants in the second half of the nineteenth century that a day of reckoning was coming when all the Jews would be slaughtered.  This belief figured prominently in the myth about the Moskal' (the Russian tsar) who was supposed to conquer Galicia and institute a radical agrarian reform, (55) and it was also expressed by a peasant who was exposed to socialist propaganda. (56)  The belief in this day of reckoning did not translate into action during the period of Austrian rule and seems to have disappeared or lain dormant in the interwar era, but it may well have resurfaced, and assumed a more active character, during the Nazi occupation.  (It should be noted that these reflections do not actually prove the existence of a strand of anti-Jewish violence within the highly complex Ukrainian folk culture, but rather suggest the possibility of its existence.)


The investigation so far has sorted out the factors facilitating collaboration into three large timeframes.  It remains to reflect upon the importance of each timeframe in the production of the final result: the participation of sectors of the Ukrainian population in the murder of the Jews.

The factors originating within the timeframe most remote from the Holocaust are also the most problematic.  In the case of both the religious and folk-cultural elements identified as germane to collaboration, these were elements marginal within the total complex of the systems within which they were found.  Both Christianity and Ukrainian folk culture were rich and complex systems, most of the content of which can be judged to be humane and valuable.  The strands of anti-Judaism and violent anti-Jewish animosity were not at all prominent in the tapestries as a whole.  In fact, they were contradictory (particularly in the circumstances of the Holocaust) to much else in their respective systems.  The attitudes of Metropolitan Sheptytsky bring this out in relief.  On the one hand, he was unenlightened enough to preserve archaic Christian anti-Judaic attitudes into the mid-twentieth century; on the other hand, the elements central to his Christian worldview (love, compassion, justice) worked against any collaboration in the destruction of the Jews and motivated him, in fact, to save Jews and protest against their slaughter. (57)  Similarly, in the case of the folk culture, if a strand of anti-Jewish violence did indeed exist within it, it was quite tangential in comparison to such central elements as hospitality and generosity (hostynnist', shchedrist'), which would demand that a Jew seeking aid should be fed and helped.  The point here is that it was not the religion or the folk culture of the Ukrainians that led to collaboration; it was the collaboration itself that tapped or activated particular, peripheral elements of these two--historically primary--cultural systems.  That is, the direction of the dynamic was from the 1940s back, not from the middle ages or early modern era forward.

The same direction of the dynamic is clearly evident with respect to the third factor identified as having roots before the nineteenth century, that is, the socio-economic antagonism between Ukrainians and Jews.  The actual socio-economic relations that produced that antagonism had almost disappeared in the two decades preceding the Holocaust.  The antagonism was therefore waning, not reaching a crescendo as the 1940s approached.  It was the Holocaust which recalled it, not it which summoned up the Holocaust.  In the case of the socio-economic antagonism (in contrast to the cases of anti-Judaism in Christianity and putative anti-Jewish violence in the folk culture) there was another element at work:  its codification within the nationalist image of the Jews.  It is this codification which probably accounts for its otherwise not easily explicable salience during the Holocaust.

This brings the analysis to the temporally closer set of long-term factors: those connected with the formation and diffusion of the nationalist worldview.  Nationalism could be assimilated to the purposes of Nazism, because Nazism was a virulent mutant of nationalism (as, mutatis mutandis, Stalinism was of socialism).  Certain assumptions and propositions were held in common, such as in-group solidarity and even primacy, the identification of certain out-groups as enemies and the formation of these in- and out-groups on the basis of nationality.  But Nazism activated the dark side of "the modern Janus."  East European nationalisms also had their positive side: the assertion of emancipation, self-empowerment and human dignity on the part of oppressed, marginalized and despised peoples.  This side was useless to Nazism and not only irrelevant to, but contradictory to the collaborative impulse.  Again, what was enlisted from the nineteenth century for collaborative purposes was a result of the demands of the Holocaust, not of the entelechy of the national worldview formed in the nineteenth century:  The direction of the dynamic was clearly from the 1940s back.

The radical dissociation of Christian ethics from politics which occurred during the formative period of Ukrainian nationalism in Galicia was a most unfortunate development, with evil consequences. (58)  Here too, however, the importance of the conjunctural moment was crucial.  For one thing, the dissociation was only one possibility within Ukrainian nationalism; there were also competing possibilities as well as contradictory impulses (for example, although Christian ethics were largely removed from the political culture, the concept of honor certainly was not).  A moment that expressed the other possibilities was when the Ukrainians of Galicia proclaimed the Western Ukrainian National Republic on 1 November 1918 and took control of Lviv.  The Ukrainians at that moment failed to behave in a truly twentieth-century manner by neglecting to arrest the Polish leadership and intelligentsia in mass, with the predictable result that the latter organized a successful rebellion and evicted the Ukrainians from their capital two weeks later.  The failure of the movement for independence and the incorporation of Ukrainian- inhabited Eastern Galicia into the restored Polish state tipped the balance in favor of a more ruthless, fanatical nationalism in the 1920s and 1930s.  The Galician Ukrainian nationalists drew the same conclusions from the failure of the independence movement in Dnieper Ukraine:  They rejected the heritage of the soft, democractic Central Rada and lionized either the armed struggle of Petliura (the majority, radical nationalist view) or the authoritarian rule of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky (the minority, conservative view).

Furthermore, the "politics without God" until the Second World War found expression in acts of political terrorism--armed attacks against Polish institutions and assassinations.  From many perspectives, not just that of Ukrainian nationalism, these acts can be ultimately evaluated as heroic.  Even if one does not share a perspective that permits a positive evaluation of politically motivated killing, the terrorism of the interwar era appears relatively harmless by comparison with the actions that an ethically indifferent politics facilitated in the Second World War, namely mass murders among the Polish population in Volhynia and in certain districts of Galicia and participation in the mass murder of the Jewish population.  Again, the conjunctural was paramount.

Ultimately, the participation of Ukrainians in the extermination of the Jews was a result of the Nazis' recruitment of them to this end.  The Nazis used persuasion and force to facilitate recruitment.  They took advantage, too, of the Ukrainians' opposition to and brutalization by Soviet rule.  And they, or rather the destruction process they initiated, activated whatever could be found in general human nature or in specifically Ukrainian tradition that would reduce inhibitions to or even motivate complicity in murder.

  1. The author would like to thank the Central Research Fund of the University of Alberta for a grant to conduct research at the Yad Vashem Archives and also to thank the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for hosting him during his stay. For their insights and patience the author also wishes to thank the students who participated in his seminar on Historical Controversies Surrounding the Holocaust. A special debt is owed to those who read an earlier draft of this article and, by their astute comments, helped to refine the argument: Chrystia Chomiak, Myrna Kostash and Alan Rutkowski. (return)

  2. David Matas, "Bringing Nazi War Criminals in Canada to Justice," and Roman Serbyn, "Alleged War Criminals, the Canadian Media, and the Ukrainian Community," in Ukraine during World War II: History and Its Aftermath: A Symposium, ed. Yury Boshyk (Edmonton: 1986), 113-20 and 121-30.  The "60 Minutes" segment "The Ugly Face of Freedom" was aired on 23 October 1994; numerous reactions to it appeared in The Ukrainian Weekly (Jersey City) over the next several months. (return) 
  3. Classic texts are: Taras Hunczak, "Ukrainian-Jewish Relations during the Soviet and Nazi Occupations," in Ukraine during World War II, ed. Boshyk, 39- 57.  Aharon Weiss, "Jewish-Ukrainian Relations in Western Ukraine during the Holocaust," in Ukrainian-Jewish Relations in Historical Perspective, ed. Peter J. Potichnyj and Howard Aster (Edmonton: 1988): 409-20. (return) 
  4. David Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary (Amherst, Mass.: 1990), 76. (return) 
  5. For this aspect of the story, see M.V. Koval', "Natsysts'kyi henotsyd shchodo ievreiv ta ukrains'ke naselennia (1941-1944 rr.)," Ukrains'kyi istorychnyi zhurnal, 1992, no. 2, pp. 25-32. (return) 
  6. The Wehrmacht executed several Ukrainians for looting during the pogrom in Drohobych.  Harry Zeimer, "Report from Drohobych, Fall 1942," Yad Vashem Archives [YVA], M20/136, p. 1. "In some places measures had to be taken against the Ukrainian militia and its leaders as looting and ill treatment occurred regularly....In many places, the local and field commandants disarmed and dissolved the militia and arrested their leaders.  Part of the militia behave in such a way that even the Ukrainian peasants call them 'Bolshevik hordes.'" "Operational Situation Report USSR No. 43" (5 August 1941), in The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads' Campaign against the Jews July 1941-January 1943, ed. Yitzak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski and Shmuel Spector (New York: 1989), 66.  The Wehrmacht itself, however, was not above looting.  During the pogrom in Uman (August 1941) "Jewish apartments were completely demolished and robbed of all utensils and valuables.  In this action, too, members of the Wehrmacht almost exclusively took part." Ereignismeldung UdSSR, no. 119 (20 October 1941), 5 (copy preserved in YVA, O51/14).  (The previous passage is mistranslated in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al., 196.)  On German and Ukrainian looting in the Uman pogrom, see also Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust (New York, London, Toronto, Sydney: 1982), 199-200. (return) 
  7. Referring, it seems, to 1942, a Jewish partisan noted in his memoirs:  "The last remnants of the Horodenka Jews, seeing no other way out for themselves, decided to cross the Dniester and head for the towns of Tlust and Buczacz.  Not all made the journey safely.  Some were robbed on the way by bands of Ukrainians, and arrived penniless....[Later,] all the unarmed Jews in nearby forests concentrated themselves around our [partisan] group.  They were in constant danger of attacks, mainly by the local Ukrainian population.  The Ukrainians would lie in wait for them along the roads that led to the villages.  Every unarmed Jew was beaten mercilessly, robbed of his money and clothing and left completely naked." Joshua Wermuth, "The Jewish Partisans of Horodenka," in They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe, ed. Yuri Suhl (New York: 1975), 226-27. (return) 
  8. The guard unit at the Ianiv concentration camp was said to have been composed of "Soviet prisoners and deserters and various Ukrainian fascists from the Kyiv region" who were "attracted by the relatively bearable standard of living and the opportunity for dirty revenue." Tadeusz Zaderecki, "Gdy swastyka Lwowem wladala... (Wycinek z dziejów okupacji hitlerowskiej)," 144.  (A copy of the Polish original of Zaderecki's memoirs are preserved in YVA, 06/28.  The memoirs have been published only in Hebrew translation.  There are some problems with the memoirs' reliability [see Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary, 156-57] and they have a pronounced anti-Ukrainian bias [see, e.g., the general slurs on Ukrainian intelligence on pp. 35-36].)  For a discussion of how the Polish police profited from bribery and extortion, see Adam Hempel, Pogrobowcy kleski: Rzecz o policji 'granatowej' w Generalnym Gubernatorstwie 1939-1945 (Warsaw: 1990), 172-80.  Bribing of Ukrainian guards was so common that Jewish resistance organizations in the camps felt that this was the best way of acquiring weapons.  Shmuel Krakowski, The War of the Doomed: Jewish Armed Resistance in Poland, 1942-44 (New York, London: 1984), 240 (Treblinka), 252 (Plaszów). (return) 
  9. [Andrei Sheptyts'kyi,] Pys'ma-poslannia Mytropolyta Andreia Sheptyts'koho ChSVV. z chasiv nimets'koi okupatsii (Yorkton, Sask.: 1969), 225-26.  I have assumed that the words printed here as prokliattia and prokliata (curse and cursed) are errors for prolyttia and prolyta (shedding and shed); otherwise the passage does not make sense.  For the background to this pastoral letter, see Shimon Redlich, "Sheptyts'kyi and the Jews during World War II," in Morality and Reality: The Life and Times of Andrei Sheptyts'kyi, ed. Paul Robert Magocsi (Edmonton: 1989), 145-62. (return) 
  10. Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland (New York: 1992).  See especially the passages on the changes that transpired in Lieutenant Gnade, the story of the Berlin musicians who took part in executions for the thrill of it (p. 112) and the conclusions in which the case of Reserve Police Battallion 101 is considered in light of various psychological and sociological experiments (particularly pp. 167-68). (return) 
  11. Browning, Ordinary Men, 52.  This is a valuable, but thoroughly Orientalist study.  After pointing out on p. 52 that Globocnik chose Ukrainians, Latvians and Lithuanians to become "Hiwis," Browning later, on p. 158, says in defence of the Poles that "the large units of murderous auxiliaries--the notorious Hiwis--were not recruited from the Polish population, in stark contrast to other nationalities in pervasively anti-Semitic eastern Europe."  This is to ignore the rather crucial fact that the Poles were not offered the opportunity to serve as Hiwis.  Or else it is to assume that Globocnik's and other Nazis' ideas about various peoples and nationalities have validity. (return) 
  12. In his final report on "The Solution of the Jewish Question in Galicia," SS-Gruppenführer and General Lieutenant of the Police Fritz Katzmann singled out those who aided him in the difficult job of making the District of Galicia judenfrei.  They were "the forces of the Security and Order Police, the Gendarmerie, the Special Service and the Ukrainian Police."  Kaztmann, SS-Gruppenführer und Generalleutnant der Polizei, "Lösung der Judenfrage in Galizien," 30 Juni 1943, International Military Tribunal, Nürnberg, German, USA Exhibit 277, L-18, p. 18 (consulted in YVA, O6/28-1).  Katzmann's authoritative report is quoted here because, in spite of the evidence of numerous German documents as well as eyewitness testimonies, the involvement of the Ukrainian police in the destruction process is often passed over in silence or denied in Ukrainian circles.  At the Conference on Jewish-Ukrainian Relations in Historical Perspective (McMaster University, 1983) a man who claimed to have served as a Ukrainian policeman under the Nazi occupation challenged statements made by Aharon Weiss and denied that the Ukrainian police took part in anti-Jewish actions.  When, as co-editor for history of Encyclopedia of Ukraine, I added a sentence about participation in the murder of Jews to the article on "Ukrainian Auxiliary Police," the sentence was stricken from the final version. (return) 
  13. "The Ukrainians were used principally for dirty work--thus Einsatzkommando 4a went so far as to confine itself to the shooting of adults while commanding its Ukrainian helpers to shoot children."  Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (Chicago: 1961), 205.  Otto Wöhler, chief of staff of the Eleventh Army, after witnessing executions by Romanians, noted that "because of the eastern European conception of human life, German soldiers may become witnesses of events...which violate German feelings of honor most deeply."  Ibid., 213. (return) 
  14. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 204. (return) 
  15. The locus classicus is the report of Franz Walther Stahlecker, commander of Einsatzgruppe A, in his report to Reinhard Heydrich concerning the pogroms in Kaunas:  "In the first hours after the entry of the forces we also persuaded, not without considerable difficulties, local antisemitic elements to start pogroms against the Jews....It was desirable, outwardly, to show that the first steps were made by the local population on its own initiative, as a natural reaction to their subjugation at the hands of the Jews for decades, to the recent communist terror."  Cited in Bauer, A History of the Holocaust, 184. (return) 
  16. Einsatzgruppe C, stationed in Zhytomyr, complained that "carefully planned attempts made at an earlier date to incite pogroms against Jews have unfortunately not shown the results hoped for."  "Operational Situation Report USSR No. 47" (9 August 1941), in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al., 79.  For months thereafter, and in spite of special measures to convince the local Ukrainians, Einsatzgruppe C continued to have difficulty with them; not only could they not be "persuaded to take active steps against the Jews," but they were not even willing to reveal the hiding places of Jews.  Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 202. (return) 
  17. Ereignismeldung UdSSR, no. 58 (20 August 1941), 9-11, in Einsatzgruppen in der UdSSR und die Judenfrage, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation (N.p.: n.d.) (YVA, O51/14a). (This source consists of photocopied short excerpts from Ereignismeldungen UdSSR, Tätigkeits- und Lageberichten der der UdSSR and Meldungen aus den besetzten Ostgebieten.) The section on the Kieper incident is partially translated in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al., 96-97, but the whole section on the propaganda aspect is omitted without either explanation or acknowledgement. (return) 
  18. See, for example, The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al., 12, 29-33, 39-40, 80.  Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary, 6-8. Shmuel Spector, The Holocaust of Volhynian Jews 1941-1944 (Jerusalem: 1990), 68. Zeimer, "Report," 1.  The same device was employed in the Baltic region. (return) 
  19. Henry Abramson, " 'This is the Way it Was!' Textual and Iconographic Images of Jews in the Nazi-Sponsored Ukrainian Press of Distrikt Galizien," paper presented to the Conference on "Journalism and the Holocaust, 1933- 1945," Yeshiva University, New York, October 1995 (I am grateful to Dr. Abramson for providing me with a copy of his paper).  John-Paul Himka, "Krakivs'ki visti and the Jews, 1943: A Contribution to the History of Ukrainian-Jewish Relations during the Second World War," in Ukraine: Developing a Democratic Polity: Essays in Honour of Peter J. Potichnyj, ed. Stefania Szlek Miller, forthcoming (this Festschrift appeared as a special issue of The Journal of Ukrainian Studies, 1996). (return) 
  20. Krakowski, War of the Doomed, 264. (return) 
  21. Krakowski, War of the Doomed, 246 (Plaszów), 250 (Sobibór). (return) 
  22. Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik 1918-1945: Aus dem Archiv des Deutschen Auswärtigen Amts, Serie D: 1937-1941, Band XIII.1: Die Kriegsjahre, Sechster Band, Erster Halbband: 23. Juni bis 14. September 1941 (Göttingen: 1970), 122. (return) 
  23. The standard work on the nationalists during the war is John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd ed. (Littleton, Colorado: 1980). (return) 
  24. From the viewpoint of some Ukrainians, the difference between Hitler and Stalin could be perceived in this way:  Hitler may well be the more murderous of the two, but he murders fewer of us than Stalin does.  Of course, this was not a viewpoint common to all Ukrainians, as evidenced by massive participation of Ukrainians in the Soviet partisan movement as well as in the ranks of the Red Army, but it was one with a certain appeal given the Ukrainians' negative experience with Stalinist rule and the certain prospect of its return should the Germans be defeated. (return) 
  25. "...The Jewish Council of Elders [in Starokostiantyniv, about halfway between Ternopil and Zhytomyr] spread the rumor that the Russians were advancing again; whereupon the Jews publicly threatened and abused the Ukrainians."  "Operational Situation Report USSR No. 59" (21 August 1941), in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al., 100.  "The Reds drop leaflets announcing their forthcoming return. They threaten to shoot that part of the population which is friendly to the Germans.  The Jews are called upon to remain in hiding for the time being.  Their rescue is said to be imminent."  Operational Situation Report USSR No. 187 (30 March 1942), in ibid., 322. (return) 
  26. The attitude of the Ukrainian partisan movement to the Jews is discussed most fully in Spector, The Holocaust of Volhynian Jews, 268-73.  Unfortunately, the account is not reliable.  For example, Spector states that "in the course of the operation it [the army of Taras Bul'ba-Borovets'] murdered the Jews of Olevsk and apparently also Jews in several other localities in that area."  The sources cited in the footnote, however, do not contain this information.  On AK units attacking Jewish partisans, see Krakowski, War of the Doomed, 14.  From the memoirs of a Jewish partisan: "In the last months of the war our security was under constant threat.  Large groups of armed Ukrainians, the well-known Bandara bands [sic], were determined to wipe us out completely."  Wermuth, "The Jewish Partisans of Horodenka," 228. (return) 
  27. "If the mass murder of Jews aroused little indignation, let alone resistance, it was not because it was carefully hidden but because its unique and absolute horror was submerged in an atmosphere of rampant naked violence."  Arno J. Mayer, Why Did the Heavens not Darken? The "Final Solution" in History (New York: 1988), 273.  "For Westerners the Jewish tragedy stands out more starkly than for East Europeans who witnessed the totality of the Nazi occupation."  Zvi Gitelman, "History, Memory and Politics: The Holocaust in the Soviet Union," Holocaust and Genocide Studies 5, no. 1 (1980), 34. (return) 
  28. John-Paul Himka, Galician Villagers and the Ukrainian National Movement in the Nineteenth Century (Edmonton, London and New York: 1988). (return) 
  29. Bohdan Krawchenko, Social Change and National Consciousness in Twentieth-Century Ukraine (London: 1985). (return) 
  30. Jan Gross, "The Jewish Community in the Soviet-Annexed Territories on the Eve of the Holocaust: A Social Scientist's View," in The Holocaust in the Soviet Union: Studies and Sources on the Destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-Occupied Territories of the USSR, 1941-1945, ed. Lucjan Dobroszycki and Jeffrey S. Gurock (Armonk, NY, and London: 1993), 155-71.  Ben-Cion Pinchuk, "Sovietisation and the Jewish Response to Nazi Policies of Mass Murder," in Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939-46, ed. Norman Davies and Antony Polonsky (New York: 1991), 124-37. (return) 
  31. Wermuth, The Jewish Partisans of Horodenka, 229-30. (return) 
  32. An important essay on this question is Henry Abramson, "The Scattering of Amalek: A Model for Understanding the Ukrainian-Jewish Conflict," East European Jewish Affairs 24, no. 1 (1994): 39-47. (return) 
  33. Crucial to the difference between these nations and the Ukrainian nation was that they were state nations with their own bureaucracies and landlords.  Enmity towards the Jews played a role for them in national consolidation that had little relevance for Ukrainian society. (return) 
  34. John-Paul Himka, "Metropolita Szeptycki wobec zagadnien reformy wyborczej, 1905-1914," in Metropolita Andrzej Szeptycki. Studia i materialy, ed. Andrzej A. Zieba (Cracow: 1994), 146.  See also: John-Paul Himka, "Sheptyts'kyi and the Ukrainian National Movement before 1914," in Morality and Reality, ed. Magocsi, 37. (return) 
  35. Sheptyts'kyi, Pys'ma-poslannia...z chasiv nimets'koi okupatsii, 225. (return) 
  36. This incident is treated in depth in John-Paul Himka, The Greek Catholic Church and the Ruthenian National Movement in Galicia, 1867-1900 (as yet unpublished book manuscript). (return) 
  37. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 148. (return) 
  38. Meldungen aus den besetzten Ostgebieten, no. 4 (22 May 1942), 2 (YVA, O51/14).  The relevant passages have been omitted from The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al. (return) 
  39. Ereignismeldung UdSSR, no. 191 (10 April 1942), 38 (YVA, O51/14).  This passage is not included in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al. (return) 
  40. "It is noteworthy that...on the basis of a secret order from a militia leader, confiscated weaponry and munitions were not turned over to the German Wehrmacht, but were stockpiled by the militia station."  Meldungen aus den besetzten Ostgebieten, no. 4 (22 May 1942), 2 (YVA, O51/14).  The report does not mention the specific contexts in which the weaponry was confiscated. (return) 
  41. Ibid. (return) 
  42. Ibid., 4.  This passage is included in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al., 343. (return) 
  43. Ereignismeldung UdSSR, no. 187 (30 April 1942), 16-17.  This passage is not included in The Einsatzgruppen Reports, ed. Arad et al. (return) 
  44. As Ivan L. Rudnytsky has pointed out, the Bandera underground held illegal conferences and published clandestine anti-German propaganda.  "Thus there was no objective obstacle to the OUNr [the Bandera movement] condemning the genocide of the Jews and warning Ukrainians against taking part in Nazi bestialities."  Ivan Lysiak-Rudnyts'kyi, "Natsionalizm i totalitaryzm (Vidpovid' M. Prokopovi)," Journal of Ukrainian Studies 7, no. 2 (Fall 1982): 85. (return) 
  45. These antagonisms and their reflection in the Ukrainian popular political press are examined in detail in John-Paul Himka, "Ukrainian-Jewish Antagonism in the Galician Countryside during the Late Nineteenth Century," in Ukrainian-Jewish Relations, ed. Potichnyj and Aster, 111-58. (return) 
  46. Himka, " Krakivs'ki visti and the Jews." (return) 
  47. Gavin I. Langmuir, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford: 1990). (return) 
  48. Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 330. (return) 
  49. Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary, 142.  On the next day, the metropolitan regretted that he had said these things and apologized to the rabbi.  "I ask you to forgive me. After all I am mortal and for a moment I let myself be distracted."  Ibid., 143. (return) 
  50. Ibid., 146. (return) 
  51. Zaderecki, "Gdy swastyka Lwowem wladala," 256 (and mentioned again on p. 383). (return) 
  52. This element is accented in Andrzej Zbikowski, "Local Anti-Jewish Pogroms in the Occupied Territories of Eastern Poland, June-July 1941," in The Holocaust in the Soviet Union, ed. Dobroszycki and Gurock, 173-79. (return) 
  53. Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton: 1988), 32-33. Spector, The Holocaust of the Volhynian Jews, 23. (return) 
  54. Himka, "Ukrainian-Jewish Antagonism," 155 n. 115. (return) 
  55. John-Paul Himka, "Hope in the Tsar: Displaced Naive Monarchism among the Ukrainian Peasants of the Habsburg Empire," Russian History 7, pts. 1-2 (1980): 125-38. (return) 
  56. John-Paul Himka, Socialism in Galicia: The Emergence of Polish Social Democracy and Ukrainian Radicalism (1860-1890) (Cambridge, MA: 1983), 126- 27. (return) 
  57. The metropolitan was a compassionate man by nature, and one might think that his personality rather than his religious convictions were paramount in his actions on behalf of the Jews.  However, he made several explicit statements about how participation in the murder of the Jews imperilled the salvation of the faithful entrusted to his care.  On this important matter he was reasoning as a bishop, not just following the impulses of his character. (return) 
  58. The focus here is on Christian ethics to simplify the analysis.  Ukrainians associated with the socialist movement and democratic nationalism had their own secular ethics, but for the vast majority of Ukrainians the ethical background was Christian.  To illustrate the possibilities within non-Christian ethics, two examples should suffice.  Roman Rosdolsky was a nationally conscious Ukrainian and profoundly anti-Stalinist, but he was also a Marxist-Leninist.  He aided Jewish refugees from the Cracow ghetto and suffered terrible consequences.  Roman Rosdolsky, "A Memoir of Auschwitz and Birkenau." Monthly Review 39, no. 8 (January 1988): 33-8.  The "Mitrynga group" within the Ukrainian nationalist underground was infused with democratic principles; it condemned the violence that other Ukrainian nationalists directed against the civilian Polish population.  Borys Levyts'kyi, "Natsionalistychnyi rukh pid chas Druhoi svitovoi viiny. Interv"iu," Dialoh, no. 2 (1972): 4-31. (return)

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE:  John-Paul Himka is a Professor teaching East European History in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta.  Dr. Himka specializes in religious and social history, with particular interest in Ukrainian history and the role Ukrainians have played in the greater history of Eastern Europe. 



Copyright © 2002 M S Rosenfeld