The Holocaust in Ukraine took place in Reichskommissariat Ukraine during the occupation of the Soviet Ukraine by Nazi Germany in World War II. Between 1941 and 1944 more than a million Jews living in Ukrainian SSR were murdered as part of Generalplan Ost and the Final Solution extermination policies.
According to Yale historian Timothy D. Snyder, "the Holocaust is integrally and organically connected to the Vernichtungskrieg, to the war in 1941, and is organically and integrally connected to the attempt to conquer Ukraine."
|The Holocaust in Ukraine|
SS paramilitaries murdering Jewish civilians, including a mother and child, in 1942, at Ivanhorod, Ukraine.
|Date||22 June 1941 to 1944|
|Incident type||Imprisonment, mass shootings, concentration camps, ghettos, forced labor, starvation, torture, mass kidnapping|
|Perpetrators||Erich Koch, Friedrich Jeckeln, Otto Ohlendorf, Paul Blobel and many others.|
Various local Nazi collaborators, including the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists
|Organizations||Einsatzgruppen, Ordnungspolizei, and others|
|Victims||More than a million Jews|
|Memorials||At various points in country|
One of Hitler's ambitions at the start of the war was to exterminate, expel, or enslave most or all Slavs from their native lands so as to make living space for German settlers. This plan of genocide was to be carried into effect gradually over a period of 25–30 years.
According to historian William W. Hagen, "Generalplan Ost . . . forecast the diminution of the targeted east European peoples' populations by the following measures: Poles – 85 percent; Belarusians – 75 percent; Ukrainians – 65 percent; Czechs – 50 percent. ... The Russian people, once subjugated in war, would join the four Slavic-speaking nations whose fate Generalplan Ost foreshadowed."
Total civilian losses during the war and German occupation in Ukraine are estimated at four million, including up to a million Jews who were murdered by the Einsatzgruppen, the Order Police battalions, and local Nazi collaborators. Einsatzgruppe C (Otto Rasch) was assigned to north and central Ukraine, and Einsatzgruppe D (Otto Ohlendorf) to Moldavia, south Ukraine, the Crimea, and, during 1942, the north Caucasus. According to Ohlendorf's testimony at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, "the Einsatzgruppen had the mission to protect the rear of the troops by killing the Jews, Romani, Communist functionaries, active Communists, uncooperative slavs, and all persons who would endanger the security." In practice, their victims were nearly all Jewish civilians (not a single Einsatzgruppe member was killed in action during these operations). The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells the story of one survivor of the Einsatzgruppen in Piryatin, Ukraine, when they killed 1,600 Jews on April 6, 1942, the second day of Passover:
I saw them do the killing. At 5:00 p.m. they gave the command, "Fill in the pits." Screams and groans were coming from the pits. Suddenly I saw my neighbor Ruderman rise from under the soil … His eyes were bloody and he was screaming: "Finish me off!" … A murdered woman lay at my feet. A boy of five years crawled out from under her body and began to scream desperately. "Mommy!" That was all I saw, since I fell unconscious.
The most notorious massacre of Jews in Ukraine was at the Babi Yar ravine outside Kiev, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on September 29–30, 1941. (An amalgamation of 100,000 to 150,000 Ukrainian and other Soviet citizens were also killed in the following weeks). The mass killing of Jews in Kiev was decided on by the military governor Major-General Friedrich Eberhardt, the Police Commander for Army Group South (SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln) and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. It was carried out by a mixture of SS, SD and Security Police, assisted by the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. On the Monday, the Jews of Kiev gathered by the cemetery, expecting to be loaded onto trains. The crowd was large enough that most of the men, women, and children could not have known what was happening until it was too late: by the time they heard the machine-gun fire, there was no chance to escape. All were driven down a corridor of soldiers, in groups of ten, and then shot. A truck driver described the scene:
[O]ne after the other, they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes, and overgarments and also underwear … Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide and a good 15 meters deep … When they reached the bottom of the ravine they were seized by members of the Schutzmannschaft and made to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot … The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a submachine gun … I saw these marksmen stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after the other … The marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him.
The National Geographic reported:
A number of Ukrainians had collaborated: According to German historian Dieter Pohl, around 100,000 joined police units that provided key assistance to the Nazis. Many others staffed the local bureaucracies or lent a helping hand during mass shootings of Jews. Ukrainians, such as the infamous Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, were also among the guards who manned the German Nazi death camps.
According to The Simon Wiesenthal Center (in January 2011) "Ukraine has, to the best of our knowledge, never conducted a single investigation of a local Nazi war criminal, let alone prosecuted a Holocaust perpetrator."
According to the Israeli Holocaust historian Yitzhak Arad, "In January 1942 a company of Tatar volunteers was established in Simferopol under the command of Einsatzgruppe 11. This company participated in anti-Jewish manhunts and murder actions in the rural regions."
According to Timothy Snyder, "Something else to remember: the majority, probably the vast majority of people who collaborated with the German occupation were not politically motivated. They were collaborating with an occupation that was there, and which is a German historical responsibility."
Until the fall of the Soviet Union, it was believed that about 900,000 Jews were murdered as part of the Holocaust in Ukraine. This is the estimate found in such respected works as The Destruction of the European Jews by Raul Hillberg. In the late 1990s, access to Soviet archives increased the estimates of the prewar population of Jews and as a result, the estimates of the death toll have been increasing. In the 1990s, Dieter Pohl estimated 1.2 million Jews murdered, and more recent estimates have been up to 1.6 million. Some of those Jews added to the death toll attempted to find refuge in the forest, but were killed later on by Home Army, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or other partisan groups during the German retreat. According to American historian Wendy Lower, "there were many perpetrators, albeit with different political agendas, who killed Jews and suppressed this history".
Ukraine rates the 4th in the number of people recognized as "Righteous Among the Nations" for saving Jews during the Holocaust, with the total of 2,515 individuals recognized as of 1 January 2015.
The 5th SS Panzer Division "Wiking" (German: 5. SS-Panzerdivision „Wiking“) was a Panzer division among the thirty eight Waffen-SS divisions of Nazi Germany. It was recruited from foreign volunteers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, the Netherlands and Belgium under the command of German officers. During the course of World War II, the division served on the Eastern Front. It surrendered in May 1945 to the American forces in Austria.Einsatzgruppen reports
The Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Reports (OSRs), or ERM for the German: Die Ereignismeldung UdSSR (plural: Ereignismeldungen), were dispatches of the Nazi death squads (Einsatzgruppen), which documented the progress of the Holocaust behind the German-Soviet frontier in the course of Operation Barbarossa, during World War II. The extant reports were sent between June 1941 and April 1942 to the Chief of the Security Police and the SD (German: Chef des Sicherheitspolizei und SD) in Berlin, from the occupied eastern territories including modern-day Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, and the Baltic Countries. During the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials the originals were grouped according to year and month and catalogued using a consecutive numbering system, as listed in the below table. The original photostats are held at the National Archives in Washington D.C..Extraordinary State Commission
The Extraordinary State Commission was a Soviet government agency formed by the Council of People's Commissars on 2 November 1942, by a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. It was tasked with investigating World War II crimes against the Soviet Union and collecting documentation which would confirm material losses caused by Nazi Germany. Some of the reports prepared by the Commission grossly exaggerated Nazi crimes for propaganda purposes, and are now considered erroneous, or outright fabrications.The Extraordinary State Commission was tasked with compensating the state for damages suffered by the Soviet Union because of the war. This specific aim of the agency is usually referred to by historians as the work of the Trophy Commission which led the trophy brigades behind the frontline. The plunder of artwork was directed by Igor Grabar of the Bureau of Experts. The commission became instrumental in the removal of industrial installations, materials, and valuables from all Soviet-occupied territories during the Vistula–Oder Offensive of the Red Army including Hungary, Romania, Finland and Poland (within its prewar borders), and later, from the Soviet Zone of Germany. The commission's Arts Committee headed by Andrei Konstantinov was in charge of the registration and Soviet distribution of trophy artworks beginning June 1945. The transports included valuables stolen by Nazi Germany from as far as Latvia and Italy, appropriated by the Soviets.Hegewald (colony)
Hegewald was a short-lived German colony during World War II, situated near Zhytomyr in Reichskommissariat Ukraine. It was repopulated in late 1942 and early 1943 by the ethnically German settlers classified as Volksdeutsche; transferred from occupied territories of Poland, Croatia, Bessarabia, and the Soviet Union to an area earmarked for the projected Germanization of the Ukrainian lands. The plans were prepared months in advance by the SS, RKFDV and VoMi, but major problems with supplies occurred right from the region's initial establishment. Heinrich Himmler's original plans to recruit settlers from Scandinavia and the Netherlands were unsuccessful.Hermann Friedrich Graebe
Herman Friedrich Graebe or Gräbe, (June 19, 1900 – April 17, 1986) was a German manager and engineer in charge of a German building firm in Ukraine, who witnessed mass executions of the Jews of Dubno on October 5, 1942 by Nazis. Following the war he wrote a famous and horrifying testimony.
Graebe gave the following eyewitness account:
My foreman and I went directly to the pits. Nobody bothered us. Now I heard rifle shots in quick succession from behind one of the earth mounds. The people who had got off the trucks - men, women and children of all ages - had to undress upon the order of an SS man who carried a riding or dog whip. They had to put down their clothes in fixed places, sorted according to shoes, top clothing and undergarments. I saw heaps of shoes of about 800 to 1000 pairs, great piles of under-linen and clothing. Without screaming or weeping these people undressed, stood around in family groups, kissed each other, said farewells, and waited for a sign from another SS man, who stood near the pit, also with a whip in his hand. During the fifteen minutes I stood near, I heard no complaint or plea for mercy. I watched a family of about eight persons, a man and a woman both of about fifty, with their children of about twenty to twenty-four, and two grown-up daughters about twenty-eight or twenty-nine. An old woman with snow white hair was holding a one-year-old child in her arms and singing to it and tickling it. The child was cooing with delight. The parents were looking on with tears in their eyes. The father was holding the hand of a boy about ten years old and speaking to him softly; the boy was fighting his tears. The father pointed to the sky, stroked his head and seemed to explain something to him. At that moment the SS man at the pit started shouting something to his comrade. The latter counted off about twenty persons and instructed them to go behind the earth mound. Among them was the family I have just mentioned. I well remember a girl, slim with black hair, who, as she passed me, pointed to herself and said, "twenty-three years old." I walked around the mound and found myself confronted by a tremendous grave. People were closely wedged together and lying on top of each other so that only their heads were visible. Nearly all had blood running over their shoulders from their heads. Some of the people shot were still moving. Some were lifting their arms and turning their heads to show that they were still alive. The pit was nearly two-thirds full. I estimated that it already contained about a thousand people. I looked for the man who did the shooting. He was an SS man, who sat at the edge of the narrow end of the pit, his feet dangling into the pit. He had a tommy-gun on his knees and was smoking a cigarette. The people, completely naked, went down some steps which were cut in the clay wall of the pit and clambered over the heads of the people lying there to the place to which the SS man directed them. They lay down in front of the dead or wounded people; some caressed those who were still alive and spoke to them in a low voice. Then I heard a series of shots. I looked into the pit and saw that the bodies were twitching or the heads lying already motionless on top of the bodies that lay beneath them. Blood was running from their necks. The next batch was approaching already. They went down into the pit, lined themselves up against the previous victims and were shot.
He later provided vital testimony in the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the Subsequent Nuremberg Trials, invoking bitter persecution from many of his countrymen. To escape the hostility, Graebe moved his family to San Francisco in 1948, where he lived until his death in 1986. Hermann Graebe was honoured as a 'Righteous Among the Nations' by Yad Vashem. Another witness of the mass executions of October 1942 in Dubno was the German officer Axel von dem Bussche who, traumatised by what he had seen, in 1943 joined the German resistance around Claus von Stauffenberg and unsuccessfully tried to kill Adolf Hitler in a suicide attack in November 1943.Ivanhorod Einsatzgruppen photograph
The Ivanhorod Einsatzgruppen photograph is an image of the Holocaust, showing a soldier aiming a rifle at a woman who is trying to shield a child with her body. It depicts the murder of Jews by an Einsatzgruppen death squad near Ivanhorod, Ukraine in 1942. The photograph was mailed, intercepted by the Polish resistance in Warsaw, and kept by Jerzy Tomaszewski. In the 1960s, it was alleged that the image was a Communist forgery, but that claim was debunked. Since then, the photograph has been frequently used in books, museums, and exhibitions relating to the Holocaust. Photograph historian Janina Struk describes it as "a symbol of the barbarity of the Nazi regime and their industrial scale murder of 6 million European Jews."Mizoch Ghetto
The Mizoch (Mizocz) Ghetto (German: Misotsch; Cyrillic: Мизоч; Yiddish: מיזאָטש) was a World War II ghetto set up in the town of Mizoch, Western Ukraine by Nazi Germany for the forcible segregation and mistreatment of Jews.Monistritch (Hasidic dynasty)
Rabbi Mordchai Rosen was head dean, and grand rabbi of the village of Monistrich, known as Monastyrysche in Ukrainian, a town presently in Cherkasy Oblast (province) of Ukraine. He perished during the Holocaust in World War II and was survived by his sons R. Nachman and R. Froim.
The biography of this rabbi can be found in many Hebrew religious books, among them "Ner Nachman".Order Police battalions
The Order Police battalions were militarised formations of the German Order Police (uniformed police) during the Nazi era. During World War II, they were subordinated to the SS and deployed in German-occupied areas, specifically the Army Group Rear Areas and territories under German civilian administration. Alongside detachments from the Einsatzgruppen and the Waffen-SS, these units perpetrated mass murder of the Jewish population and were responsible for large-scale crimes against humanity targeting civilian populations.Pechora concentration camp
Pechora (also Pechera or Pecioara; Russian: Печера or Печора) was a concentration camp operated by Romania during World War II in the village of Pechora, now in Ukraine.
The concentration camp was established on the gated grounds of what had been a private estate of the Polish noble Potocki family on the banks of the Southern Bug river, which was converted into a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients after the Russian revolution.The camp was located in the Romanian zone of occupation of Ukraine. Beginning in November 1941, Jews from the surrounding regions, including Tulchyn, Bratslav, Shpikov, Tostyanets, as well as more distant regions, were brought to Pechora to perish in the enclosed grounds. At the camp, prisoners were murdered not through systematic extermination by gas, but rather through starvation, thirst, and exposure to the elements.
No photos of the camp in operation are currently available, though survivor testimonies are.Although estimates vary, it is believed that as many as 35,000 prisoners were killed at the camp. By the time the camp was liberated by the Red Army on March 17, 1944, no more that 300-400 people were left alive. A mass grave is located at the nearby Jewish cemetery.Today, the grounds of the former estate are known as "Pechera Park" and are open to visitors, while the main administrative building on the grounds operates as a hospital. There are relatively few reminders of its sinister role during the war. A few memorial plaques have been erected on the grounds, while a more extensive monument and additional memorial stones stand at the site of the mass graves at the Jewish cemetery.Police Battalion 303
The Police Battalion 303 (Polizeibattalion 303) was a formation of the German Order Police (uniformed police) during the Nazi era. During Operation Barbarossa, it was subordinated to the SS and deployed in German-occupied areas, specifically the Army Group Centre Rear Area, of the Soviet Union, as part of Police Regiment South. Alongside detachments from the Einsatzgruppen of the SD and the 1st SS Infantry Brigade of the Waffen-SS, it perpetrated mass murder in the Holocaust and was responsible for large-scale crimes against humanity targeting civilian populations.Police Battalion 320
The Police Battalion 320 (Polizeibattalion 320) was a formation of the German Order Police (uniformed police) during the Nazi era. During Operation Barbarossa, it was subordinated to the SS and deployed in German-occupied areas, specifically the Army Group South Rear Area, of the Soviet Union, as part of Police Regiment Special Purpose (later the 11th SS Police Regiment). Alongside detachments from the Einsatzgruppen of the SD, it perpetrated mass murder in the Holocaust and was responsible for large-scale crimes against humanity targeting civilian populations.Police Battalion 45
The Police Battalion 45 (Polizeibattalion 45) was a formation of the German Order Police (uniformed police) during the Nazi era. During Operation Barbarossa, it was subordinated to the SS and deployed in German-occupied areas, specifically the Army Group Centre Rear Area, of the Soviet Union, as part of Police Regiment South. Alongside detachments from the Einsatzgruppen of the SD and the 1st SS Infantry Brigade of the Waffen-SS, it perpetrated mass murder in the Holocaust and was responsible for large-scale crimes against humanity targeting civilian populations.Priest's Grotto
Priest's Grotto (also known as Ozerna or Blue Lakes Ukrainian: Озерна, meaning: "lake") is a cave in western Ukraine near the village of Strilkivtsi (Ukrainian: Стрілківці), located within the Borshchiv Raion (District) of the Ternopil Oblast (Province).
Priest's Grotto is part of the extensive gypsum giant cave system, and is one of the longest caves in the world with over 140490 m (2017) of explored passages. It is about 450 kilometers (280 mi) driving distance southwest of Kiev, and about 5.5 kilometers (3.4 mi) south of the district seat of Borshchiv. In World War II it was used as a refuge by Jewish refugees from the Nazi occupation during the Holocaust.Pripyat swamps (punitive operation)
"Pripyat swamps" (German: "Pripiatsümpfe"), also "Pripyat march" was the codename of the punitive operation conducted by German forces in July and August 1941. The operation was aimed at the mass murder of the local Jewish population from the territories of nine raions of Byelorussian SSR and three raions of Ukrainian SSR in the region of the Pripyat swamps and Pripyat River.
The operation is considered to be the first planned mass extermination operation conducted by Nazi Germany. In the course of the operation, at least 13,788 people were killed in Phase One and 3,500 Jewish men were killed in Phase Two. The villages of Dvarets, Khochan', Azyarany, Starazhowtsy, Kremna, were completely destroyed by burning and Turaw was partially destroyed. The principal means of execution employed was mass shootings, after the local populace had been rounded up. Other methods were also tried, including driving people into the swamp and drowning them.Severity Order
The Severity Order or Reichenau Order was the name given to an order promulgated within the German Sixth Army on the Eastern Front during World War II by Generalfeldmarschall Walther von Reichenau on 10 October 1941.Sonderaktion 1005
The Sonderaktion 1005 (English: Special Action 1005), also called Aktion 1005, or Enterdungsaktion (English: Exhumation Action) began in May 1942 during World War II to hide any evidence that people had been murdered by Germany in Aktion Reinhard in German-occupied Poland. The operation, which was conducted in strict secrecy from 1942–1944, used prisoners to exhume mass graves and burn the bodies. These work groups were officially called Leichenkommandos ("corpse units") and were all part of Sonderkommando 1005; inmates were often put in chains in order to prevent escape.
In May 1943, the operation moved into occupied territories in Eastern and Central Europe to destroy evidence of the Final Solution. Sonderaktion 1005 was used to conceal the evidence of massacres committed by SS-Einsatzgruppen Nazi death squads that had massacred millions of people including 1.3 million Jews according to Historian Raul Hilberg, as well as Roma and local civilians. The Aktion was overseen by selected squads from the Sicherheitsdienst and Ordnungspolizei.Ukrainian Auxiliary Police
The Ukrainische Hilfspolizei or the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police (Ukrainian: Українська допоміжна поліція, Ukrains'ka dopomizhna politsiia) was the official title of the local police formation set up by Nazi Germany during World War II in Reichskommissariat Ukraine; shortly after the German conquest of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union, Germany's former ally in the invasion of Poland.The Ukrainian Auxiliary Police was created by Heinrich Himmler in mid-August 1941 and put under the control of German Ordnungspolizei in General Government territory. The actual Reichskommissariat Ukraine was formed officially on 20 August 1941. The uniformed force was composed in large part of the former members of the Ukrainian People's Militia created by OUN in June. There were two categories of German-controlled Ukrainian armed organisations. The first comprised mobile police units most often called Schutzmannschaft, or Schuma, organized on the battalion level and which engaged in the murder of Jews and in security warfare in most areas of Ukraine. It was subordinated directly to the German Commander of the Order Police for the area.The second category was the local police force (approximately, a constabulary), called simply the Ukrainian Police (UP) by the German administration, which the SS raised most successfully in the District of Galicia (formed 1 August 1941) extending south-east from the General Government. Notably, the District of Galicia was a separate administrative unit from the actual Reichskommissariat Ukraine. They were not connected with each other politically.The UP formations appeared as well further east in German occupied Soviet Ukraine in significant towns and cities such as Kyiv. The urban based forces were subordinated to the city's German Commander of State protection police (Schutzpolizei or Schupo); the rural police posts were subordinated to the area German Commander of Gendarmerie. The Schupo and Gendarmerie structures were themselves subordinated to the area Commander of Order Police.Volksliste
The Deutsche Volksliste (German People's List), a Nazi Party institution, aimed to classify inhabitants of Nazi-occupied territories (1939-1945) into categories of desirability according to criteria systematised by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. The institution originated in occupied western Poland (occupied 1939-1945). Similar schemes subsequently developed in Occupied France (1940-1944) and in the Reichskommissariat Ukraine (1941-1944).
Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) topped the list as a category. They comprised people without German citizenship but of German ancestry living outside Germany (unlike German expatriates). Though Volksdeutsche did not hold German citizenship, the strengthening and development of ethnic German communities throughout east-central Europe formed an integral part of the Nazi vision for the creation of Greater Germany (Großdeutschland). In some areas, such as Romania, Croatia, and Yugoslavia/Serbia, ethnic Germans were legally recognised in legislation as privileged groups.
The Holocaust in Ukraine
|Nazi occupation and organizations|
|Ghettos, camps and prisons|
|Resistance and survivors|
|Planning, methods, |
documents and evidence
|Concealment and denial|
|Investigations and trials|
|Righteous Among the Nations|
The Holocaust in Europe
|States with limited|