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|Press Release||August 15, 1996|
During the German occupation of Ukraine in World War II (1941-44) about 2.3 million Ukrainians were taken to Germany to work as slave laborers. These people were called Ostarbeiter, which is German for "East Workers", and many of them perished in Germany because the German authorities ordered that "they should be worked to death". Others who were working in German factories were killed in Allied bombing raids.
The story of the Ostarbeiters, who were mostly from the territory of Reichskomissariat Ukraine (eastern Ukraine) is not known. Information about these people, how they were chosen, how they lived and worked and how they perished or survived is largely unknown. Germany is now paying compensation to some survivors.
Eyewitness accounts of the Ukrainian Ostarbeiter experience are virtually non-existent although there were 2,244,000 of them from Ukraine according to historian Yuri Kondufor. A total of 3,000,000 Ostarbeiters were taken to Germany so Ukrainians constituted about 75% of the entire total. Ukraine, according to some sources, lost about 10 million people in World War II which was the greatest loss of any country in the war.
It is known that some Ostarbeiters survived the war and emigrated to the United States and Canada. Only two Ostarbeiters have so far been located and interviewed for the audio and video archives of the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Center in Toronto. Compared to the tens of thousands of Jews who survived the holocaust and have been interviewed or published books, the Ukrainian community has failed to record a major aspect in the history of Ukraine and the world.
"What was the experience of the Ostarbeiters from Ukraine in World War II?"
"If you know of any Ostarbeiters who would like to share their story and become a part of history we would like to talk to them", said UCRDC Managing Director Andrew Gregorovich in an interview recently."
"We are producing a documentary film Ukraine in World War II and want to include interviews with Ostarbeiters and the role they played in World War II."
Any Ostarbeiters who would like to be interviewed, any eyewitnesses of the Ostarbeiter experience, or anyone who has any information about them please contact the Ukrainian Canadian Research & Documentation Centre, 620 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2H4 Telephone: (416) 966-1819, Fax: (416) 966-1820.
Illustration: Ost badge worn by Ostarbeiter from Ukraine in dark blue and white colors. Photo by Andrew Gregorovich from exhibit in the National Museum of World War II in Kiev.
Copyright © 1996-1997 Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre
620 Spadina Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 2H4
Telephone: (416) 966-1819, Fax: (416) 966-1820.
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