Ukrainians v.2

Question

I have begun reading a book containing entries from childrens' diaries and journals written during the Holocaust. Some of these entries have mentioned Ukrainians in them. I am wondering what role the Ukrainians played in the extermination of the Jewish people and in thier lives in the ghettos.

Richard J. Green answers:

Ukrainians were often employed as camp guards and executioners in Poland. Most of the major death camps had contingents of Ukrainian guards. Christopher Browning writes in Ordinary Men: Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland on p. 51:

Globocnik also utilized two other sources of manpower.... Second and far more important, were the so-called Trawnikis. Unable to satisfy his manpower needs out of local resources [it is telling that he could not recruit Poles -RJG], Globocnik prevailed upon Himmler to recruit non-Polish auxiliaries from the Soviet border regions. The key person on Globocnik's Operation Reinhard staff for this task was Karl Streibel. he and his men visited POW camps and recruited Ukrainian, Latvian, and Lithuanian "volunteers" (Hilfswillige or Hiwis).

Browning goes on to describe how these sources of manpower were used to shoot Jews in mass as well as to aid in deporting them to the Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor).

Raul Hilberg in the 1985, 3 volume addition of The Destruction of the European Jews, p. 309 sheds some light on Ukrainan action in the Ukraine:

From the Ukraine Einsatzkommando 6 of Einsatzgruppe C reported as follows: [Hiberg quotes RSHA IV-A-1, Operation Report USSR No. 81, Sept 12, 1941, NO-3154]

Almost nowhere can the population be persuaded to take active steps against the Jews. This may be explained by the fear of many people that the Red Army may return. Again and again this anxiety has been pointed out to us. Older people have remarked that they have already experienced in 1918 the sudden retreat of the Germans. In order to meet the fear psychosis, and in order to stop the myth [Bann] which in the eyes of many Ukrainians, places the Jews in the position of the wielder of political power [Träger politischer Macht], Einsatzkommando 6 on several occassions marched Jews before their execution through the city. Also, care was taken to have Ukrainian militiamen watch the shooting of Jews.

This "deflation" of the Jews in the public eye did not have the desired effects. After a few weeks, Einsatzgruppe C complained once more that the inhabitants did not betray the movements of hidden Jews. The Ukrainians were passive, benumbed by "Bolshevist terror." Only the ethnic Germans in the area were busily working for the Einsatzgruppe.

Neutrality is a zero quantity that helps the stronger party in an unequal struggle. The Jews needed native help more than the Germans did. The Einsatzgruppen, however, not only had the advantage of a generally neutral population; they also managed to obtain - at least from certain segments of the local citizenry - two important forms of cooperation in the killing operations: pogroms and the help of auxiliary police in seizures and shootings.

I hope that this sheds a little light on this unpleasant topic.

Best,

Rich Green

A different questioner follows up:

May I suggest also quoting Dr. Norman Davies, a noted Historian of the Second World War when in the future you reply to seemingly rhetorical questions such as "role the Ukrainians played in the extermination of the Jewish people and in their lives in the ghettos.

I know your intention is not to fan the flames of anti- Ukrainian hatred but comments such as "Ukrainians were often employed as camp guards and executioners in Poland. Most of the major death camps had contingents of Ukrainian guards." may be misconstrued. Possibly the passage below by Dr. Davies may provide more balance.

"Western commentators are often unaware of the diabolical mechanisms which were used by Nazi recruitment agencies in the lower levels of the service. Nazi recruiters readily exploited the power of life and death which they wielded over POW's prison convicts, hardened criminals, slave labourers, or innocent civilians caught up in their net. They did not count on the good will of the true volunteers, preferring men and women who, like runaway conscripts, could easily be blackmailed into subservience. One should not forget that they found no difficulty in finding Jewish Police to run the ghettos, in recruiting Jewish kapos to keep order inside the camps, or organizing Jewish kommandos to work the crematoria. Individuals who were trapped in this infernal machine through no fault of their own, can never be classified as collaborators. They are best described as victims."

Yale Edeiken responds:

Hello. I am one of the people who answers questions for the Holocaust-History Organization and several of us have discussed the proper answer to to your question. The role of many of the ethnic groups caught between the Soviet Union and the Third Reich is not easy to define. We believe that it should be the subject of open discussion in other forums. While we have a real interest in the questions your raise, we just do not feel that this is [the] proper forum for a scholarly debate.

The heart of your question is:

I know your intention is not to fan the flames of anti- Ukrainian hatred but comments such as "Ukrainians were often employed as camp guards and executioners in Poland. Most of the major death camps had contingents of Ukrainian guards." may be misconstrued.

We have carefully read your e-mail concerning our statements about the participation of a portion of the Ukrainian population in aiding the nazis in the perpetration of the Holocaust. While we agree that not all Ukrainians cooperated with the Holocaust or were voluntary enlistees in the SS, our research shows that a significant portion of the Ukrainian population voluntarily cooperated with the invaders of their country and voluntarily assisted in the Holocaust. As such, the statement to which you object is an accurate answer even though it does not recognize (as it should) the many Ukrainians who resisted the Nazi invasion.

It is clear that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was closely associated with the Nazis and that "Many members of the OUN were Nazi agents involved in subversion, espionage, sabotage, terrorism and outright murder." "Alliance for Murder: the Nazi-Ukrainian Nationalist Partnership in Genocide" B.F. Sabrin, ed. (New York; 1991). It is also clear that many of the 100,000 Ukrainians who volunteered to serve with the Nazis were not coerced into joining the SS. "The Order of the Death's Head," Heinz Hohne (translation published 1970; New York).

In an effort to make sure that these authors were not biased we also checked the contemporary reports of the Einsatzgruppen which have been published as "The Einsatzgruppen Reports" edited by Arad, Krakowski, and Spector (New York; 1989). While these reports do contain statements such as "Ukrainian mayors and militia commanders were held responsible for hostile utterances against Germany, for ignoring German orders, and for tearing up German regulations." (OSR-USSR 56; August 18, 1941), these contemporary records also document the cooperation of many Ukrainians with the genocide.

As early as July, 1941, it is reported that in the town of Zlochev that "A revolutionary Ukrainian administration has been established there which welcomes the Germans as their allies with posters and leaflets." (OSR-USSR 24). Other reports detail the cooperation of local Ukrainians with the German army in arresting and murdering Jews. (OSR-USSR 38; OSR-USSR 47). Some of these reports go even further. One states "1,107 Jewish adults were shot by Kommando 4a and 561 juveniles by the Ukrainian militia." (OSR-USSR 88) These are not isolated examples; the reports of the Einsatzgruppen operating in the Ukraine frequently mention the cooperation of Ukrainian militia and populance.

We feel that an important part of our mission is [to] enlighten those who visit our web-site on the role that bigotry and anti-Semitism played in the Holocaust. For several generations before the German invasion the czars and the commisars promoted anti-Semitism as a political weapon to divert the attention of the Ukrainians from their understandable aspirations to be govern themselves. (Walter Laqueur, "Black Hundred" New York; 1993) We do not feel that we can sugar-coat history by ignoring the facts that anti-Semitism was endemic in the Ukraine and that a significant portion of the population acted upon that anti-Semitism by assisting in the perpetration of the Holocaust. There was, in fact, a pool of willing Ukrainian volunteers who assisted in the Holocaust.

Finally we recognize the struggle of many Ukrainians against the Nazi invaders. There were brave people who resisted both the invaders and their neighbors willing to collaborate with them. Their activities have been memorialized in a fine book "They Were True Heroes" by Yakov Suslenski (Kiev; 1995). We feel that it would not only be a disservice to history to ignore the Ukrainians who cooperated with genocide, but that to do so would diminish the brave efforts -- made at the risk of torture and death -- of those who did resist.

We hope this explains our position.

--Yale F. Edeiken

The Holocaust History Project

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