Ukrainian collaborationism with the Axis powers

Collaboration with Nazi Germany

German-Ukrainian parade in Ivano-Frankivsk on 26 July 1941 during Operation Barbarossa

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

During the military occupation of modern-day Ukraine by Nazi Germany, the new territorial divisions of World War II included Distrikt Galizien and Reichskommissariat Ukraine covering both, the south-eastern territories of the Second Polish Republic and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic across former borders. Original reasons for collaboration included Ukrainian political aspirations for regaining independence, resurgent nationalism, but also widespread anger and resentment against the Russians over the genocide by famine engineered in Soviet Ukraine only a few years earlier. These sentiments were coupled with rampant racism towards other ethnic groups (such as Jews, Tatars, Roma people, and Poles) as well as the prevailing notions of anti-Semitism. However, the absence of Ukrainian autonomy under the Nazis, mistreatment by the occupier, and the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians as slave laborers, soon led to a dramatic change in the attitude of some 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]


At the onset of World War II, both the Soviet and the German aims were practically identical. Stalin and Hitler pursued the policy of territorial demands on their immediate neighbour, Poland.[3] The Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, revived Russian expansionist drive going back to the Seven Years' War, upheld by the tsarist negotiations of 1915-16.[3] Hitler pursued his own policy of Lebensraum in the East. The Soviet invasion of Poland brought together Ukrainians of the Soviet Ukraine and the Ukrainians of what was then Eastern Poland (Kresy), under the single Communist banner. The Soviet 'liberators' collectivized their farms and sent one million tons of grain to Germany in a virtual replay of the causes of the most recent famine known as Holodomor,[3] which Polish Ukrainians have never seen. In the territories of Poland invaded by Nazi Germany, the size of Ukrainian minority became negligible, gathered mostly around UCC (УЦК) formed in Kraków.[4]

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

Less than two years later, Germany attacked its own ally, the Soviet Union. Hitler's invasion known as Operation Barbarossa began on June 22, 1941, and by September, the occupied territory was divided between two brand new German administrative units, the District of Galicia of the Nazi General Government and the Reichskommissariat Ukraine stretching all the way to Donbas by 1943.[3] Ukrainians who chose to resist and fight German occupation forces joined the Red Army or the irregulars. However, especially in the District 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 orchestrated famine, the Holodomor,[5] and in 1937 several thousand members of 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.”[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]


The German Operation Barbarossa of 1941 brought together native Ukrainians of the Soviet Ukraine, and the prewar territories of Poland annexed by the Soviet Union as well. To the north-east, they fell under the German administrative control of Reichskommissariat Ukraine; and to the south-west, under the Nazi General Government. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) volunteered to assist the Wehrmacht.[3] In total, the Germans enlisted 250,000 native Ukrainians for duty in five separate formations including the Nationalist Military Detachments (VVN), the Brotherhoods of Ukrainian Nationalists (DUN), the Galician Division of the Waffen SS, the Ukrainian Liberation Army (UVV), and the Ukrainian National Army (Ukrainische Nationalarmee, UNA).[3][9] By the end of 1942, in Reichskommissariat Ukraine alone, the SS employed 238,000 Ukrainians and only 15,000 Germans at a ratio of 1 to 16.[10]

Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ukraine: the map

The atrocities against the Jewish population during the Holocaust in Ukraine started within a few days of the beginning of the Nazi occupation. There are indications that the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, formed on 20 August 1941,[11] was used in the round-up of Jews for the Babi Yar massacre,[12][13] and in other massacres in cities and towns of modern-day Ukraine, such as Stepan,[14] Lviv, Lutsk, and Zhytomyr.[15] On 1 September 1941, Nazi-sponsored 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."[16]

Reinforced through religious prejudice, anti-Semitism had turned violent in the first days of the German attack on the Soviet positions in eastern Poland. Some Ukrainians derived nationalist resentment from the belief that the Jews had worked for Polish landlords.[17] Also, the murders of prisoners by the Soviet secret police retreating eastward, were blamed on the Jews. Antisemitic canard of Jewish Bolshevism provided justification for the revenge killings by the ultra-nationalist Ukrainian militias which accompanied German Einsatzgruppen moving east.[17] In Boryslav (prewar Borysław, Poland, with population 41,500), the SS commander gave an enraged crowd – who had seen bodies of men murdered by NKVD and laid out in the town square – 24 hours to act as they wished against the Polish Jews; they were forced to clean the dead bodies, to dance, and then killed by beating with axes, pipes, etc. The same type of mass murders took place in Brzezany. During Lviv pogroms, some 7,000 Jews were murdered by Ukrainian nationalists led by People's Militia.[17][18][19] As late as 1945, Ukrainian militants were still rounding up and murdering Jews.[20]

While some of the collaborators were civilians, others were given choice of enlisting for paramilitary service beginning in September 1941 from the Soviet POW camps, due to ongoing close relations with the Ukrainian Hilfsverwaltung.[21] In total, over 5,000 native Ukrainian soldiers of the Red Army signed up for training with the SS at a special Trawniki training camp, to assist with the Final Solution.[22] Another 1,000 of them defected during field operations.[22] Trawniki men took major part in the Nazi plan to exterminate European Jews during Operation Reinhard. They served at all extermination camps, and played an important role in the annihilation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (see the Stroop Report) and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising among other ghetto insurgencies.[23] Ukrainian natives were offered choice unavailable to Russian soldiers dying of starvation and exposure in the POW camps for the Red Army.[24] The men who were dispatched to death camps and Jewish ghettos as guards were never fully trusted, and always overlooked by Volksdeutsche.[25] Occasionally, along with the prisoners they were guarding, they would kill their commanders in the process of attempting to defect.[26][27]

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."[28]

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.[29] On March 22, 194, all the inhabitants of the village Khatyn in Belarus were burnt alive by the Nazis, with participation of the 118th Schutzmannschaft battalion.[30][31]

Ukrainian volunteers in the German armed forces

SS Division "Galizien"

The volunteers of the SS-Freiwilligen-Schützen-Division «Galizien» marching in front of the Lviv University (1943).

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.[32] On 27 July 1944 the Galizien division was formed into the Waffen SS as 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (gal. Nr. 1).[33]

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.[34] Also, at least some of them were victims of compulsory conscription, since Germany had now suffered defeats and lost manpower on the eastern front.[35] 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.[36] However other authors, including Michael Melnyk,[35] and Michael O. Logusz,[37] 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.[33][38] 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

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 2 3 4 5 6 Alfred J. Rieber (2003). "Civil Wars in the Soviet Union" (PDF). 4/1. Project Muse: 133, 145–147. Slavica Publishers.
  4. Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). "1. Soviet terror". Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918-1947. McFarland. pp. 11–12. ISBN 0786429135.
  5. Helen Fawkes, "Legacy of famine divides Ukraine." BBC News, Kiev: 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.
  6. 1 2 John A. Armstrong, Collaborationism in World War II: The Integral Nationalist Variant in Eastern Europe, The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 40, No. 3 (Sep., 1968), p. 409.
  7. Ivan Katchanovski, Ph.D. (2010), Terrorists or National Heroes? Politics of the OUN and the UPA in Ukraine. PDF file, direct download.
  8. Katchanovski 2010, page 9.
  9. Motyka, Grzegorz (February 2001). "Dywizja SS 'Galizien'" [SS Division 'Galicia']. Pamięć i Sprawiedliwość (in Polish). Biuletyn IPN. 1. Archived from the original on 3 January 2003.
  10. Jeffrey Burds (2013). Holocaust in Rovno: The Massacre at Sosenki Forest, November 1941. Springer. pp. 24–25. ISBN 1137388404.
  11. Jürgen Matthäus. Jewish Responses to Persecution: 1941–1942. AltaMira Press. p. 524. ISBN 0759122598.
  12. Spector, Shmuel (1990). Israel Gutman, editor in Chief, ed. "Extracts from the Babi Yar article". Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, MacMillan Publishing Company. Archived from the original on 30 December 2012. The implementation of the decision to kill all the Jews of Kiev was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a. This unit consisted of SD men (Sicherheitsdienst; Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; Sipo); 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.
  13. "It took nerves of steel: Statement of Truck-Driver Hofer Describing the Murder of Jews at Babi Yar". The Einsatzgruppen Archives. 1997. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. 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.
  14. Ganuz, I.; Peri, J. (28 May 2006). "The Generations of Stepan: The History of Stepan and Its Jewish Population". Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  15. "The Holocaust Timeline: 1941 - July 25 Pogrom in Lvov/June 30 Germany occupies Lvov; 4,000 Jews killed by July 3/June 30 Einsatzkommando 4a and local Ukrainians kill 300 Jews in Lutsk/September 19 Zhitomir Ghetto liquidated; 10,000 killed". Retrieved 26 May 2016.
  16. "The Holocaust September 1, 1941: Ukraine". NAAF On-line Holocaust Project. Archived from the original on 24 January 2012.
  17. 1 2 3 Richard J. Evans (2009). The Third Reich at War: 1939-1945. London: Penguin Books. pp. 203–223. ISBN 1101022302.
  18. Jakob Weiss, Lemberg Mosaic, p. 173. ISBN 0983109117.
  19. Lucy S. Dawidowicz (1975), The War Against the Jews 1933-1945, Bantam Books Inc., New York, p. 171.
  20. The Holocaust Chronicle, A History in Words and Pictures, Edited by David J. Hogan, Publications International Ltd, Lincolnwood, Illinois, p.592
  21. Markus Eikel (2013). "The local administration under German occupation in central and eastern Ukraine, 1941–1944". The Holocaust in Ukraine: New Sources and Perspectives (PDF). Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 110–122 in PDF. Ukraine differs from other parts of the Nazi-occupied Soviet Union, whereas the local administrators have formed the Hilfsverwaltung in support of extermination policies in 1941 and 1942, and in providing assistance for the deportations to camps in Germany, mainly in 1942 and 1943.
  22. 1 2 David Bankir, ed. (2006). Police Auxiliaries for Operation Reinhard by Peter R. Black. Secret Intelligence and the Holocaust. Enigma Books. pp. 331–348. ISBN 192963160X via Google Books.
  23. Yitzhak Arad (1987). Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Indiana University Press. p. 21. ISBN 0253342937.
  24. North, Jonathan (12 June 2006). "Soviet Prisoners of War: Forgotten Nazi Victims of World War II". Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. From the very beginning, German military planners expected large numbers of prisoners. Four months before the opening of the campaign, the Wehrmacht calculated that it would capture at least 2 to 3 million prisoners — 1 million in the first six weeks.[...] Statistics show that out of 5.7 million Soviet soldiers captured between 1941 and 1945, more than 3.5 million died in captivity.
  25. Gregory Procknow (2011). Recruiting and Training Genocidal Soldiers. Francis & Bernard Publishing. p. 35. ISBN 0986837407.
  26. Himka, John-Paul (1998). "Ukrainian Collaboration in the Extermination of the Jews During World War II: Sorting out the Long-Term and Conjunctural Factors". In Jonathan Frankel. Studies in Contemporary Jewry: Volume XIII: The Fate of the European Jews, 1939-1945: Continuity or Contingency?. XIII. Oxford University Press. pp. 170–190. ISBN 978-0-19-511931-2. Archived from the original on January 6, 2012.
  27. "Belzec: Stepping Stone to Genocide, Chapter 4 – cont.". JewishGen, Inc. February 13, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2016.
  28. Holocaust Victims Honored in Babi Yar (Ukraine Christian News, May 3, 2006) Accessed January 14, 2006
  29. Gerlach, C. «Kalkulierte Morde» Hamburger Edition, Hamburg, 1999
  30. 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.
  31. В.И. Адамушко "Хатынь. Трагедия и память НАРБ 2009 ISBN 978-985-6372-62-2
  32. K.G. Klietmann Die Waffen SS; eine Dokumentation Osnabruck Der Freiwillige, 1965 p.194
  33. 1 2 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
  34. Williamson, G: The SS: Hitler's Instrument of Terror
  35. 1 2 Melnyk, Michael. To Battle: The Formation and History of the 14. Gallician SS Volunteer Division. Helion and Company Ltd.
  36. 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.
  37. Logusz, Michael. Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th grenadier Division 1943-1945. Schiffer Publishing.
  38. Tessin, Georg / Kannapin, Norbert. Waffen-SS und Ordnungspolizei im Kriegseinsatz 1939-1945.ISBN 3-7648-2471-9 p.52.


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