Inspection of Trawnikimänner by Karl Streibel at Trawniki. They were tasked with the liquidation of Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland.
Inspection of Trawnikimänner by Karl Streibel at Trawniki. They were tasked with the liquidation of Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland.
This is one of many scenes in a World War II soccer film that have riled Ukrainians as their country prepares to co-host the European Championship, the world’s second-biggest soccer tournament after the World Cup. The film, Match, which was made in Russia and released earlier this month in Ukraine, tells the story of a soccer game organized in Kiev in 1942 against the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of what was then the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. A team of locals beats a team comprised of Germans — and some of the players are later killed for refusing to throw the match.
The film, which received a majority of its funding from the Russian government, is typical war-movie fare, with a tough-talking hero, a simpering heroine and underhanded villains. But what sets it apart from others in the genre is the portrayal of most of the Ukrainian speakers in the film as Nazi collaborators and sympathizers. The mayor of Kiev is depicted as a weak Nazi stooge who tries to steal the Russian-speaking hero’s girl. Ukrainian guards help Nazi killers at Babyn Yar, the ravine in Kiev where tens of thousands of Jews and others were massacred.
Ukrainians have reacted with outrage at such portrayals. Many call the film an attempt to humiliate the country, which was ruled for centuries by Moscow but is now trying to wriggle free of the Kremlin’s grip and form closer ties with Europe.
Ever since Ukraine declared independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has fought hard to keep the country in its sphere of influence. Russians trace the origins of their nation back to Kiev, which gives Ukraine a special meaning in the national psyche, and one of Moscow’s favored tools has been to appeal to the countries’ common history and culture.
“Ukrainians now think of themselves as a nation that exists separately from the Russian nation, but the Russian nation thinks on the scale of the Soviet Union, of an empire,” says Stanislav Kulchytskiy, a Ukrainian historian. “Russia is a great state and wants to act like a lord. The European Union would provide Ukraine with some defense from Russia’s constant striving to swallow it.”
Ukrainian film officials initially said they would ban the movie over fears it might stir up ethnic tensions ahead of the Euro 2012 championship, which kicks off June 8. They eventually relented, but when the film premiered in Kiev on April 26, activists from the nationalist Svoboda party broke up the event. “Out, Muscovite occupiers!” “Shame on Ukrainophobic films!” a group of around two dozen young men chanted as they tore down posters advertizing the film.
Historians say that some Ukrainians did collaborate with the Nazis during World War II. Some worked as auxiliary police; others formed armed groups to fight for an independent Ukrainian state and briefly hoped the Nazis would help them. But critics say the film is exaggerated to suggest that all Ukrainians who wanted independence were Nazi lackeys — and that Ukraine would be better off sticking with Russia. “It’s shot from the official Russian point of view that says all people who fought for Ukrainian independence are bad,” says Ukrainian journalist Oksana Faryna, who has written about the movie for the Kyiv Post. “It’s political propaganda to bring Ukraine back to Russia, to show we are one nation with one history. It makes Ukrainians look like ‘Little Russians’ who should let their big brother show them what to do.”
Even the events surrounding the match are in dispute. The so-called “Death Match” depicted in the film took place on Aug. 9, 1942, between a Soviet team called Start and Germany’s Flakelf. According to the Soviet version of the story, Start players were warned that they should lose or face dire consequences. After they won the match 5-3, some of the players were sent to a concentration camp and shot. The story became legend in the Soviet Union, where it was used as a patriotic tale of loyalty and resistance.
But some accounts dispute this version of events. One theory suggests that the men were shot after glass was discovered in the bread of German officers made at the bakery where the players were working. “It’s a film that offends Ukrainian honor and attaches Soviet myths to us Ukrainians,” Ihor Miroshnichenko, a sports journalist and nationalist activist, said at the protest on April 26. “There was no ‘death match.’ It’s a fabrication of Muscovite propaganda, of Soviet agitprop.”
The film’s producers don’t shy away from the fact they are perpetuating the Soviet version of events, calling the movie “a historical patriotic drama.” “It’s a film about all of us and our shared Motherland,” they say in a joint statement on the film’s website. But the director, Andrei Maliukov, denies any political motivation behind the film or the depictions of Ukrainian characters. “I didn’t think about making a pro-Ukrainian or anti-Ukrainian film,” he told reporters in April. “It’s a film about love, about soccer, about how tough it was for some people to live in this historical moment.”
Ukrainians, meanwhile, lament the fact that no film has been made locally about the World War II match. “We don’t have our own film industry or any filmmakers with financing who can present real, complicated stories with different shades to allow the viewer to decide,” Faryna says. If Ukraine could do that, it would be one way to show Russia that it is truly independent.
A group of Russians captured by the Nazis during Operation Barbarossa: Documents from secret archives have revealed how some Soviets believed the Germans were Christian crusaders come to throw of the yoke of communism.
By Allan Hall
An extraordinary secret archive has revealed for the first time how thousands of Soviet citizens collaborated with Nazi invaders during World War II.
The cache of documents, some retrieved from the files of the KGB, shows how many viewed the Germans as Christian liberators – and their own masters as godless Communists.
This view was reinforced when the soldiers of the Third Reich opened up 470 churches in north-western Russia alone and reinstated priests driven from their pulpits by Stalin.
In turn, the clergy co-operated closely with S.S. death squads in betraying Communist officials, Jews and partisan resistance groups.
Perhaps most astonishingly, the Germans even shipped numerous mayors, journalists, policeman and teachers back to the Reich to show them the ‘German way of life.’
Russia has always portrayed the war against the Germans as a historic struggle which cost 27million lives but ultimately defeated the Nazis forever.
Until now, there has been little examination of the extent of collaboration by Soviet citizens with the invaders.
And there is no doubt that there many Russians detested the Nazis who inflicted mass atrocities on the civilian population.
But the archive, assembled by Professor Boris Kovalyov of the University of Novgorod, undermines the one-dimensional nationalist view of Soviet history.
Unsurprisingly, the research has already triggered a huge debate in Russia about attitudes to the Nazis.
‘The files give an extraordinary glimpse into a country that was deeply divided and not at all as heroic as Stalin made out,’ Prof Kovalyov, who teaches historical jurisprudence, said.
‘They show how local journalists strove under S.S. supervision to present to their compatriots the Nazis as friends of the Russians.
‘There was even praise in newspapers edited by former Communists for Alfred Rosenberg, the chief racial theorist for the Nazis who had made speeches in the past talking of the “sub-humanity of the Russians.”
‘Of course these newspapers were all collected and burned, or locked away, when the tide of war turned. And those who wrote the articles were executed.’
The Nazis marched on Russia in summer 1941 after Hitler put plans for the invasion of Britain on hold.
He had met heavy resistance and had become increasingly paranoid about the Soviets grabbing valuable natural resources as they expanded their empire.
The campaign was code-named Operation Barbarossa and plunged the Third Reich into a catastrophic situation of war on all fronts.
Troops were given stark rules of engagement. They were to press ahead with a ‘war without rules’ that would see the merciless execution of millions.
But the freshly rediscovered archives reveal a far more complex situation.
In many instances, the Nazi commanders attempted a ‘hearts and minds’ campaign to win over civilians already oppressed by Communist dictates which included a ban on religious worship.
The propaganda war had considerable success, with newspapers and collaborators praising the Germans.
‘We pray to the all-powerful that he gives Adolf Hitler further strength and power for the final victory over the Bolsheviks!’ ran one article in the newspaper ‘For the Homeland!’ that was printed in Pskow in December 1942.
Clandestine tours of Germany were also hugely effective for provincials who had never travelled ten miles beyond their birthplace, never seen indoor plumbing or central heating, such trips worked wonders.
When they returned to the Soviet Union, said Professor Kovalyov, they were ‘deeply impressed”’ and worked hard to undermine the stiffening Soviet resistance to the Nazi armies.
Even in January 1943, as the fate of the German Sixth Army was being sealed at Stalingrad – and with it the war – many Russians still enthused about the charms of Nazism.
Ian Borodin, a village mayor from Piskowitschi, wrote that month: ‘Germany is a country of gardens, first class steelworks and autobahns. It has exemplary order. We should fight for it!’
In the end it was the Nazis themselves who squandered the opportunity to rally an entire people to its cause.
As news of German atrocities spread and the Soviet Red Army began pushing the invader back, the population that had been initially so enthusiastic for Hitler now began to turn against him.
The Nazis were eventually driven out of Russia and the Red Army pressed on to Berlin, routing Hitler’s forces on the way.
For those tens of thousands who had shown disloyalty to Stalin during the occupation there was only death awaiting them or long years in the gulag.
Professor Kovalyov intends to publish a book based on his research next year.
After Hitler came to power in 1933 the order was given to demolish a rundown part of Berlin that had been notoriously ‘Red’ and an area the Nazis never had any serious support in. The residents thought they were being punished, but instead their flats were rebuilt with central heating and other improvements – how to win hearts and minds….. By 1939 living standards had increased to the point where Russian civilians visiting Nazi Germany would have been greatly impressed. It’s said that when US troops entered Germany in 1945 towards the war’s end it was the first time many of them had come across bathrooms with showers and indoor flushing toilets since leaving the USA, and yes that included those who had been stationed in 1940’s England! Good article – and illustrates how the German’s lost the opportunity to bring the critical mass of Soviet citizenry ‘on side’. Had they done so I don’t doubt they would have defeated Stalin and forced the Western powers to accept a negotiated peace.
– A Richards, London
The purpose of this Web page is to present the factual and true information concerning the Galician Division, which fought against the Soviet Union within the framework of the German Army, during the Second World War. Since the end of the war the information media has been repeatedly maligning this military unit, accusing it of misdeeds and war crimes, without giving it a forum for the presentation of the true account of its activities. The information on this Web page is offered as a means to set the record straight.
The Division was established in Western Ukraine in the spring of 1943. During the course of its existence, its name was changed several times. Known at first as the 14th SS Riflemen Division Galizien, it later became Waffengrenadier Division Galizien, der SS Ukr. #1, and finally, First Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army.
The idea of creating a distinctly Ukrainian military force came to fruition soon after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war and was widely supported by the Ukrainian population in Western Ukraine. In the spring of 1943 it was reinforced by the viewpoint that the Ukrainians urgently needed to establish a nucleus of Ukrainian power, and to build it up by whatever means possible, before the Nazi collapse. It was argued that only if and when Ukrainians become a power factor, could they expect recognition from the Western powers.
Much as they abhorred the Nazis, the Ukrainians hated and feared the Communists even more. Following the Stalingrad debacle, it became apparent that the prospect of a German victory was extremely remote. Many Ukrainian leaders envisioned a protracted struggle in which both totalitarian powers would be so weakened, that they would be forced to surrender their domination in Eastern Europe. The Ukrainians were also convinced that in accordance with either the dictum of the Atlantic Charter, or the elementary principles of the balance of power, Great Britain and the United States would prevent the Soviet Union from completely occupying Eastern Europe. They anticipated a period of power vacuum, like that of 1918, during which it could be possible for a nation possessing a strong, organized military force, to assert itself.
The recruitment campaign to form a Ukrainian military division attracted mostly young people who had been raised cherishing the ideals of a sovereign and independent Ukraine. The campaign also attracted veterans of Ukrainian military units from the First World War. The process of organizing the unit and the training of the recruits took a full year. In July 1944 the Division was ready for combat.
It first encountered the Red Army, with its overwhelming superiority in manpower, armor, and air power during the Soviet’s most successful offensive against the Germans. Near the town of Brody, in Western Ukraine, the Division together with the German XIII Army Corps was encircled and decimated. Only 3,000 Division troops were able to escape. Eventually they formed the nucleus of the new, reorganized Division. Following retraining, the Division again faced the Red Army in Austria, near Feldbach.
Before the end of the war the Division separated itself from the German Armed Forces, and was renamed the First Division of Ukrainian National Army. Its officers and soldiers swore allegiance to Ukraine, thus becoming a truly Ukrainian national military unit.
The Division was a par excellence combat unit. It only engaged in military action against the Soviet forces — never against the Western Allies. This was a condition demanded by Ukrainians prior to the creation of the Division. During the course of its existence the Division was never engaged in any police action or in any actions against the civilian population. During its first year the Division’s troops spent their time in various training camps, mostly in Germany. Then came the fateful battle of Brody, which was followed by a period of replenishment in Germany, Slovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as the final battles in Austria.
The accusations, which contend that the Division participated in the extermination of the Jewish population are baseless. In Ukraine, by the summer of 1943 the activities promoted by the extermination policies had run their course before the Division even existed. Also baseless is the accusation that the Division took part in the suppression of the Warsaw uprising in 1944. At that time the Division was undergoing a replenishment and restoration in Germany, after fateful battle of Brody and no soldier of the Division ever set foot in Warsaw at that or any other time.
After the war, the Division troops who surrendered to the British forces were interned by them in POW camps in Italy, where they were screened by the British and Soviet authorities alike. No charges of war crimes were levied against them. In 1947 they were transferred to England and freed, and in 1950 some of them immigrated to Canada. The Division soldiers who surrendered to the Americans were freed in Germany. Following thorough screening and full disclosure of their war-time activities, some were allowed to immigrate to the United States.
Today, it is unfortunate that quite often rumors as well as slanderous and false information about the Division are being made public through various vehicles of the media, including through the Internet. Mainly, these false allegations stem from the legacy of the recently defunct Soviet Union and its powerful KGB. This infamous secret police was known to have effectively spread all kinds of disinformation, poisoning public opinion with the aim of discrediting their enemies and achieving political goals. There are countless examples of their tactics. During the Cold War period even the Western Powers were repeatedly victimized in this manner. (See, for example: KGB, John Barron, Readers Digest Press, 1974).
The Division Galicia was the only Ukrainian military unit fighting the Soviet Union during the Second World War with the ultimate aim of freeing the Ukrainian people from communism and achieving independence for Ukraine. Therefore, the Division, understandably became a target of the false and vicious attacks launched by the Soviets, who hurled accusations of various misdeeds and crimes designed to defame the Division and its veterans in the post war period. In a similar manner, the Ukrainian émigré community and its efforts aimed towards liberation from communism, were also targeted for disinformation and slander. It must be unequivocally stated that these libelous assaults are baseless and have no historical proof. There are no credible sources of information to back up these false allegations, except the Soviet archives, which are generally considered as sources of disinformation.
This falsehood was greedily picked up by the enemies of the Ukrainian people and by those who are against Ukraine as an independent and sovereign country. We, therefore challenge all those, who are spreading these lies, to provide any credible evidence substantiating their assertions.
Justice Minister Hon. Anne Mclellan clears the Ukrainian Galicia Division of any wrongdoing in war and confirms the conclusions reached by the Commission of Hon. Justice Jules Deschenes in December 1986. For further information please read the following press releases of the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association:
Judge’s remarks praised by Ukrainian Community — November 16th 1998.
Justice minister clears Ukrainian division of any wrongdoing in war — November 19th 1998.
The Soviet Union
Nazi Germany terminated the Non-Aggression Pact signed by Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov with its invasion of the Soviet Union at 3:15 am on June 22, 1941. Large areas of the European part of the Soviet Union would be placed under German occupation between 1941 and 1944. Soviet collaborators included numerous Russians and members of other ethnic groups.
The Germans attempted to recruit Soviet citizens (and to a lesser extent other Eastern Europeans) voluntarily for the OST-Arbeiter or Eastern worker program; originally this worked, but the news of the terrible conditions they faced dried up the volunteers and the program became forcible.
Before World War II, Ukraine was divided primarily between the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union and the Second Polish Republic. Smaller regions were administered by Romania and Czechoslovakia. Only the Soviet Union recognised Ukrainian autonomy, and large numbers of Ukrainians, particularly from the East, fought in the Red Army.
The negative impact of Soviet denationalisation policies implemented in the 1930s were still fresh in the memory of Ukrainians. These included the Holodomor of 1933, the Great Terror, the persecution of intellectuals during the Great Purge of 1937-38, the massacre of Ukrainian intellectuals after the annexation of Western Ukraine from Poland in 1939, the introduction and implementation of Collectivisation.
As a result, the population of whole towns, cities and villages, greeted the Germans as liberators which helps explain the unprecedented rapid progress of the German forces in the occupation of Ukraine.
Even before the German invasion, the Nachtigall and Roland battalions were set up and trained as Ukrainian battalions in the Wehrmacht, and were part of the initial invading force.
With the change in regime ethnic, Ukrainians were allowed and encouraged to work in administrative positions. These included and the auxiliary police, post office, and other government structures; taking the place of Poles, Russians and Jews.
Ostlegionen (literally “Eastern Legions”) or Osttruppen (“Eastern Troops”) were conscripts and volunteers from the occupied eastern territories recruited into the German Army of the Third Reich during the Second World War.
The staff of the disbanded 162nd Infantry Division in Poland was charged with the raising and training of the six Eastern Legions. It eventually raised and trained 82 battalions. A total of 98 battalions were raised with 80 serving on the Eastern Front and in the Balkans. 12 were later transferred to France and Italy in 1943
While the German armies had been desperately trying to carve out this new empire in the East, the tentacles of the SS and its various subsidiary organizations had been assiduous in their allotted task of securing the civilian population. In Russia their first move was to deprive the people of their local party officials. Hitler ordered that all political commissars were to be liquidated, and instructions went out to the ‘special units’, who acted independently of the army, that some were to be decapitated and their heads brought back to Berlin for further study. The SS were obviously intrigued with the cranial characteristics of those who were classed as untermenschen, a species of Slavic sub-humanity. But this was only the preliminary stage – a mere curtain-raiser to what was to come. This barbaric treatment of prisoners of war became a byword even among some Germans themselves. The Wehrmacht was sometimes involved, but almost invariably these tasks were left to the not so tender mercies of the special units. A report of the Soviet Chief-of-Staff at Sebastopol in December 1941 gives us some idea of the situation: he states
as a rule troop formations exterminate prisoners without interrogation…the shooting of prisoners at the place of capture or at the front line, which is practised most extensively, acts as a deterrent to soldiers of the enemy wanting to desert to us. (Hohne 1969:432)
The special units usually comprised Security Service (SD) personnel plus contingents of the Armed (Waffen) SS who were normally engaged on straightforward military duties, assisted by local militia. Some idea of the more general involvement of the military SS can be seen from a few random instances. Only two weeks after the opening of the Russian campaign, the ‘Viking’ Division shot 600 Jews in Galicia as a reprisal for ‘Soviet crimes’. On some occasions entire villages were destroyed as a form of reprisal, and this kind of ‘action’ was by no means confined to the East. Lidice in Czechoslovakia was destroyed in 1942 in retaliation for the assassination of the Reich-Protector Heydrich. The ‘Prinz Eugen’ Division liquidated the inhabitants of Kosutica in 1943; and in 1944 came the destruction of Klissura in northern Greece. The year 1944 also witnessed the notorious murder of the inhabitants of Oradour-sur- Glane in France by the ‘Das Reich’ Division, and the killing of Canadian and British prisoners of war by members of the ‘Hitlerjugend’ Panzer Division during the battles in Normandy.
The worst of the atrocities were carried out by the re-formed Einsatzgruppen. There were four such units each comprising about 1,000 men, including support personnel such as wireless operators, drivers etc., and detachments from the Waffen SS and the police. Their instructions were couched – quite deliberately – in extremely vague terms. They were to act on their own responsibility to take ‘executive measures against the civilian population’ (quoted in Krausnick and Broszat 1970:78). The implicit intention of shooting Jews is not stated overtly, and it is not clear to what extent the army itself was always aware of these plans, although the chiefs may well have guessed what was going to happen. According to the evidence of Otto Ohlendorf, the commander of one such Einsatzgruppe, when the groups were being formed in May 1941 in preparation for the invasion of Russia, they were told of the secret decree of ‘putting to death all racially and politically undesirable elements where these might be thought to represent a threat to security’ (Krausnick and Broszat 1970:79). During the Nuremberg trials after the war, it transpired that at the time this was understood to include communist officials, second-class Asiatics, gypsies and Jews. Despite the care taken in disguising their intentions, members of the Nazi hierarchy were sometimes quite explicit in their planning on occupation policy. At one conference held in July 1941, the officials were told ‘we are taking all necessary measures — shootings, deportations and so on…[the area] must be pacified as soon as possible, and the best way to do that is to shoot anyone who so much as looks like giving trouble’ (Krausnick and Broszat 1970:82). It does not take much imagination to realize that almost any measures, no matter how ruthless and bestial, could be justified in the name of security even where the victims – especially women and children – could be shown to pose no real threat to security at all.
There is very little evidence as to what actually took place during one of these ‘actions’. For example there is no documentary material for the events leading up to the destruction of the small town of Tuczyn in eastern Poland, although a vivid picture has been ‘recreated’ by eight of the survivors – who gave their testimonies at different times in different places. There were only fifteen survivors in all out of a population of 3,500, and the stories that were told apparently have an amazing degree of consistency. For economic reasons Tuczyn was not destroyed at the same time as many of the surrounding Jewish settlements, so when the time came – as the inhabitants knew it must – they were ‘prepared’. The head of the Jewish Council organized the people for resistance, but they had no weapons, only petrol, matches and bars. When the Germans came in the summer of 1942, the Jews set light to their own wooden houses, and the old and sick – led by the rabbi – jumped into the fire. Others tried to break out of the trap, and a thousand or so fled into the nearby Ukrainian forest. Only fifteen survived because of the actions of Ukrainian peasants who either killed them or handed them over to the Germans. Those who were saved were helped by the Baptist minority among the Ukrainians (Bauer 1976).
The actual executions were carried out on a massive scale by the members of the Einsatzgruppen, often with the active co-operation of local ‘partisans’ as, for example in Lithuania and the Ukraine. Thanks to the meticulous records kept by some of those involved, we often have complete breakdowns and statistics of their programme of mass murder. By 25 November 1941, Einsatzgruppe A had already executed 229,052 Jews; Einsatzgruppe B had killed 45,467 by 14 November 1941; Einsatzgruppe C 95,000 by the beginning of December of that year; and Einsatzgruppe D 92,000 by 8 April 1942. The speed at which these executions took place was frightening. For instance, in Kiev alone in two days in September 1941, reports showed that 33,771 persons were executed, mainly Jews. In fact, it is probable that by the end of 1942, as many as a million Jews had been killed. And this was just the beginning. The whole grisly process was about to be rationalized with the introduction of the gas chambers. Five extermination camps were set up for this specific purpose, as distinct from the other concentration camps which often functioned as labour industries for some eminent German firms.