The German war on the civilian population in Ukraine was ruthless. The entire world heard about the total destruction of the Czech village of Lidice and the killing of all the men in its population of 400 on June 10, 1942. The French village of Oradour-sur-Glane razed on June 10, 1944 is also well known.
But the world never heard about the Ukrainian village of Kortelisy which the Germans burned to the ground on September 23, 1942 and killed all its 2,892 population of men, women and children. There were about 459 villages in Ukraine completely destroyed with all or part of their population by the German Army with 97 in Volhynia Province, 32 in Zhitomir province, 21 in Chernihiv province, 17 in Kiev province and elsewhere. There were at least 27 Ukrainian villages in which every man, woman and child was killed and the village completely destroyed by the Germans. (Ukrainska RSR u Velykyi Vitchyznianiy Viyni, vol.3, p. 150).
At least 160 Nazi concentration camps, some holding tens of thousands of prisoners, were established in Ukraine. Many Ukrainians were also sent to Auschwitz and other death camps in Poland. The janowska (Yanivska) Camp in Lviv was especially notorious because the Commandant, SS officer Gustav Wilhaus, used to sit on his balcony and with his automatic rifle use the inmates in the yard as target practice, even shooting children. The camp also had an orchestra and played a tune titled "The Tango of Death" specially composed for it. The orchestra was executed when the Germans closed the camp during their retreat. (Wytwycky, p. 59)
According to the official records of Germany there were 4,192,000 German war dead. If Germany itself, according to World Book Encyclopedia, lost only 2,196,000 military dead and 1,858,000 missing or a total of 4,054,000 why were Ukraine's losses so huge? There are several possible explanations. It is known that the Germans intentionally starved Ukrainian cities; that Ukrainian prisoners of war in concentration camps were starved to death; that disease was rampant and was not top be treated on Hitler's orders; and that because about 2,000,000 houses and apartments were burned at least 10,000,000 Ukrainians were left homeless in the war exposing them to freezing in the winter.
Wilhelm Keitel gave an order to the German Army in the East: "for the killing of a single German soldier we should retaliate by the execution of 50-100 persons" (Kamenetsky, Secret Nazi Plans, p. 166). The death penalty was applied to Ukrainian hostages: up to 200 innocent Ukrainians were executed for one German attacked by guerillas. In spite of this a total of 460,000 German soldiers and officers were killed by partisans in Ukraine during the War.
Major-General Eberhardt, the German Commandant of Kiev, on November 2, 1941 announced that: "Cases of arson and sabotage are becoming more frequent in Kiev and oblige me to take firm action. For this reason 300 Kiev citizens have been shot today." This seemed to do no good because Eberhardt on November 29, 1941 again announced: "400 men have been executed in the city [of Kiev]. This should serve as a warning to the population."
"UKRAINIANS! Whoever hides a red army soldier ... WILL BE SHOT" says a German 1941 proclomation in Ukrainian and German.
The death penalty was applied by the Germans to any Ukrainian who gave aid or merely information or directions to the UPA or Ukrainian guerillas. If you owned a pigeon the penalty was death. The penalty was death for anyone who did not report or aided a Jew to escape, and many Ukrainians were executed for helping Jews. Death was the penalty for listening to a Soviet radio program or reading anti-German leaflets. For example, on March 28, 1943 three women in Kherson, Maria and Vera Alexandrovska and Klavdia Tselhelnyk were executed because they had "read an anti-German leaflet, said they agreed with its contents and passed it on." (History Teaches a Lesson). It is obvious that early in the war Germany had a policy of annihilation of Ukrainians because it planned to establish a German colonial population in the Lebensraum of Ukraine.
The USSR also sacrificed countless Ukrainian lives in its "cannon fodder" military procedures. Soldiers were marched across minefields by foot to clear them by their deaths. When the USSR retreated in June 1941 it executed over 19,000 political prisoners in Lviv and other west Ukrainian cities. Stalin was not interested in preserving Ukrainian lives. But does all this account for Ukraine's population loss of 7.5 to 11 million? Unfortunately the Government of Ukraine since independence in 1991 has not released any official figures for Ukraine's population loss in World War II.
One astounding theory is that Stalin used the war as a pretext to destroy Ukrainians and other Soviet citizens. This theory was proposed by an Englishman of Russian origin, Nikolai Tolstoy, in his book Stalin's Secret War. Nikita Khrushchev in his secret speech to the 20th Congress said Stalin wanted to exile all the Ukrainians to Siberia so this theory is not completely far-fetched. In June 1944 a Soviet decree, signed by Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Lavrenti Beria, recommended that all Ukrainians be resettled in Siberia. One expert on Soviet history suggested that Stalin destroyed up to one million people of the USSR every year during the war so the statistic of 20 million total lost probably includes Stalin's victims.
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Copyright © 1995 Andrew Gregorovich
Copyright © 1995 Andrew GregorovichReprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 92, Spring 1995