Ukrainian collaborationism with the Axis powers

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

During the military occupation of Ukraine by Nazi Germany, a large number of Ukrainians chose to cooperate with the Nazis. Reasons for this generally included resurgent Ukrainian nationalism, aspirations for regaining Independence and widespread anger and resentment against the Russians over the Holodomor, which occurred only a few years before. These were coupled with rampant racism towards other ethnic groups (such as Jews, Tatars, Roma peoples and Poles) as well as a prevailing sentiment of antisemitism. However, the absence of Ukrainian autonomy under the Nazis, mistreatment by the occupiers, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians as slave laborers, soon led to a rapid change in the attitude among the collaborators.

By the time the Red Army returned to Ukraine, a significant number of the population welcomed its soldiers as liberators.[1] More than 4.5 million Ukrainians joined the Red Army to fight Nazi Germany, and more than 250,000 served in Soviet partisan paramilitary units.[2]

Attitudes towards German invasion

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

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

Ukrainians who chose to resist and fight German occupation forces joined the Red Army or the irregulars. However, especially in the region of Galicia assigned to General Government, there was little to no loyalty towards the Soviet Union; the region had only been part of the U.S.S.R since its seizure by the Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939. Although the Ukrainian SSR did give the people a degree of national and cultural autonomy, it came at a heavy price. In 1933 millions of Ukrainians starved to death in the infamous, likely orchestrated famine, the Holodomor,[3] and in 1937 several thousand intelligentsia were exiled, sentenced to Gulag labor camps or simply executed. The negative impact of Soviet policies helped gain support for the German cause, and in some regions the nationalist minority initially viewed the Nazis as allies in the struggle to free Ukraine from Stalinist oppression and achieve independence again.

Under occupation

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

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

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


Holocaust in Ukraine: the map

The atrocities against the Jewish population during the Holocaust started within a few days of the beginning of the Nazi occupation. There are indications that the Ukrainian auxiliary police was used in the round-up of Jews for the Babi Yar massacre[8][9] and in other Ukrainian cities and towns, such as Stepan,[10] Lviv,[11][12] Lutsk,[13] and Zhytomyr.[14] On September 1, 1941, Nazi-controlled Ukrainian newspaper Volhyn wrote "The element that settled our cities (Jews)... must disappear completely from our cities. The Jewish problem is already in the process of being solved."[15]

Anti-semitism had turned to a hatred of Jews by those Ukrainians who blamed Jews that had worked for Polish landlords, alongside with religious prejudice. Also, the murders of prisoners by Soviet secret police retreating eastwards from the German invasion were blamed on Jews. These feelings fueled ultra-nationalist Ukrainian militias which accompanied Nazi armies moving in eastern Europe.[16] The German commander gave an enraged crowd in Boryslaw - who had seen bodies of young men murdered and laid out in the town square - 24 hours to act as they wished against the Jews - they were forced to clean the dead bodies, to dance, and then killed by beating with axes, pipes, etc. The same sort of murders took place in Brzezany. In Lviv, some 9,000 Jews were murdered by Ukrainian nationalist extremists.[16][17] As late as 1945, Ukrainian nationalists were still rounding up and murdering Jews.[18]

In May 2006, the Ukrainian newspaper Ukraine Christian News commented: "Carrying out the massacre was the Einsatzgruppe C, supported by members of a Waffen-SS battalion and units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln. The participation of Ukrainian collaborators in these events, now documented and proven, is a matter of painful public debate in Ukraine."[19]

While some of the collaborators were volunteers, others were no doubt given little choice. Ukrainians captured fighting for the Red Army were sometimes given the choice of possibly dying of near starvation and exposure in the ill-equipped POW camps reserved for the Red Army[20] or working for the invaders as a hiwi, including duty in the concentration camps and ghettos as guards. The men selected for such duty were trained in the Trawniki concentration camp and were used in that part of the Final Solution known as Operation Reinhard. However, they were never fully trusted, and some would escape their enforced duty, sometimes along with the prisoners they were guarding, and occasionally killing their SS commanders in the process.[21][22]

Collaborationist organizations, political movements, individuals, and military volunteers

Auxiliary police

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

109, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 201-st Ukrainian Schutzmannschaftant-battalions participated in anti-partisan operations in Ukraine and Belarus. In February and March 1943, the 50th Ukrainian Schutzmannschaftant-battalion participated in the large anti-guerrilla action «Operation Winterzauber» (Winter magic) in Belarus, cooperating with several Latvian and the 2nd Lithuanian battalion. Schuma-battalions burned down villages suspected of supporting Soviet partisans.[23] On March 22, 194, all the inhabitants of the village Chatyń in Belarus were burnt alive by the Nazis, with participation of the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion.[24][25]

Ukrainian volunteers in the German armed forces

SS Division "Galizien"

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

The prevailing belief is that these men eagerly volunteered to take part in a patriotic war against the Soviets, not because of any support for Nazi Germany.[28] Also, at least some of them were victims of compulsory conscription, since Germany had now suffered defeats and lost manpower on the eastern front.[29] Sol Litman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center claims that there are many proven and documented incidents of atrocities and massacres committed by the Waffen-SS Galizien against minorities, particularly Jews during World War II.[30] However other authors, including Michael Melnyk,[29] and Michael O. Logusz,[31] maintain that members of the division served almost entirely on the front lines against the Red Army and defend the unit against the accusations made by Litman and others. Official SS records show that the 4,5,6 and 7 SS-Freiwilligen regiments were under Ordnungspolizei command at the time of the accusations.[27][32] Neither the division nor any of its former members were ever charged with any war crimes (see 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Ukrainian)#Accusations of war atrocities).

Ukraine propaganda news

  • Ukrainskyi Dobrovoletz (Der ukrainische Kämpfer) - Ukrainische Freiwilligenverbände

Ukrainian units in the German work organization

Ukrainian National Committee

In March 1945, the Ukrainian National Committee was set up after a series of negotiations with the Germans. The Committee represented and had command over all Ukrainian units fighting for the Third Reich, such as the Ukrainian National Army. However, it was too late, and the committee and army were disbanded at the end of the war.

Heads of local Ukrainian administration and public figures under the German occupation

See also


  1. Bauer, Yehuda: "The Holocaust in its European Context" pg. 13-14. Accessed December 24, 2006.
  2. Potichnyj, Peter J.: "Ukrainians in World War II Military Formations: An Overview". Accessed December 24, 2006.
  3. [1] Though many scholars view this as induced or exacerbated by the Soviet government, disagreement still surrounds the issue which also is controversial in latter-day Ukraine
  4. Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, by John A. Armstrong in The Journal of Modern History Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), p. 409
  5. Terrorists or National Heroes? Politics of the OUN and the UPA in Ukraine Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D.[2]
  6. Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, by John A. Armstrong in The Journal of Modern History Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), p. 409
  7. Katchanovski page 9
  8. "The implementation of the decision to kill all the Jews of Kiev was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a. This unit consisted of SD (Sicherheitsdienst; Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; Sipo) men; the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion; and a platoon of the No. 9 police battalion. The unit was reinforced by police battalions Nos. 45 and 305 and by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police." (Extracts from the Article by Shmuel Spector, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman, editor in Chief, Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, MacMillan Publishing Company,1990)
  9. despite the fact that the auxiliary Ukrainian police units were only established in November of that year. "The Ukrainians led them past a number of different places where one after the other they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes and overgarments and also underwear. They also had to leave their valuables in a designated place. There was a special pile for each article of clothing. It all happened very quickly and anyone who hesitated was kicked or pushed by the Ukrainians to keep them moving." (Statement of Truck-Driver Hofer Describing the Murder of Jews at Babi Yar)
  10. The Generations of Stepan The History of Stepan and Its Jewish Population
  11. July 25: Pogrom in Lvov
  12. June 30: Germany occupies Lvov; 4,000 Jews killed by July 3
  13. June 30: Einsatzkommando 4a and local Ukrainians kill 300 Jews in Lutsk
  14. September 19: Zhitomir Ghetto liquidated; 10,000 killed
  15. NAAF Holocaust Timeline Project 1941
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Third Reich at War, Richard J. Evans, Penguin Books Ltd., London, ç2008, p. 223
  17. The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, Lucy S. Dawidowicz, Bantam Books Inc., New York, ç1975, p.171
  18. The Holocaust Chronicle, A History in Words and Pictures, Edited by David J. Hogan, Publications International Ltd, Lincolnwood, Illinois, p.592
  19. Holocaust Victims Honored in Babi Yar (Ukraine Christian News, May 3, 2006) Accessed January 14, 2006
  20. 3.5m (57%) WWII Red Army POWs died in captivity
  21. Examination of Ukrainian Collaboration in WWII
  22. Ukrainian and Jewish collaboration at Belzec
  23. Gerlach, C. «Kalkulierte Morde» Hamburger Edition, Hamburg, 1999
  24. State Memorial Complex "Khatyn" official web-page - The destruction of the village of Khatyn is a tragic and vivid example. The village was annihilated by the thugs from the 118th police battalion which was stationed in a small town of Pleschinitsy and the thugs from the SS battalion "Dirlewanger" which was stationed in Logoisk.
  25. В.И. Адамушко "Хатынь. Трагедия и память НАРБ 2009 ISBN 978-985-6372-62-2
  26. K.G. Klietmann Die Waffen SS; eine Dokumentation Osnabruck Der Freiwillige, 1965 p.194
  27. 27.0 27.1 GEORG TESSIN Verbande und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945 DRITTER BAND: Die Landstreitkrafte 6—14 VERLAG E. S. MITTLER & SOHN GMBH. • FRANKFURT/MAIN ISBN 3-7648-0942-6 page 313
  28. Williamson, G: The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror
  29. 29.0 29.1 Melnyk, Michael. To Battle: The Formation and History of the 14. Gallician SS Volunteer Division. Helion and Company Ltd.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Litman, Sol (2003). Pure Soldiers or Bloodthirsty Murderers?: The Ukrainian 14th Waffen-SS Galicia Division (Hardcover ed.). Black Rose Books. ISBN 1-55164-219-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Logusz, Michael. Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th grenadier Division 1943-1945. Schiffer Publishing.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Tessin, Georg / Kannapin, Norbert. Waffen-SS und Ordnungspolizei im Kriegseinsatz 1939-1945.ISBN 3-7648-2471-9 p.52.

Further reading

  • Andrew Gregorovich (1995). The Ukrainian Experience in World War II With a Brief Survey of Ukraine's Population Loss of 10 Million (Electronic Reprint ed.). Forum.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> here [3]
  • Gilbert Martin (1987). The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War (Reprint ed.). Owl Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-0348-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Gilbert Martin (1986). The Holocaust: The Jewish tragedy (Unknown Binding ed.). Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-216305-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, by John A. Armstrong in The Journal of Modern History > Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), pp. 396–410
  • Mordecai Paldiel (1993). The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. KTAV Publishing House in association with the ADL. ISBN 0-88125-376-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> [4]
  • Mordecai Paldiel and Elie Wiesel (2007). The Righteous Among the Nations: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-115112-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> [5]