HOLOCAUST BYSTANDERS - THE UKRAINIANS.
by Alexander Kimel
The Einsatzgrouppen wiped out the Jews in the Ukraine in a short period of time. The help of the local population in identifying, catching and killing the Jews was so extensive that the "resettlement" to the Death Camps was superfluous. At the beginning of the extermination process the Germans had difficulties in shooting children the Ukrainian militiamen volunteered to help them. They did the job with such bloodthirstiness that the Germans put together a few battalions of volunteers, whose main purpose was killing of the Jews. The Russian POW camps were toured and volunteers signed up. They were mostly Ukrainians and Lithuanians. Soon the Ukrainians guards with their outstanding cruelty and brutality wrote the most "glorious" pages of their history. The Ukrainians played a major role in all phases of the Final Solution: they helped in liquidation of the ghettos, guarded the death trains shooting all jumpers, work at the unloading of the death trains, and provided all the terror necessary for herding the victims into the gas chambers, operated the diesel engines. All this ghastly work was done with enthusiasm and unbelievable cruelty: Ivan the Terrible from Treblinka is holding a world record of cruelty.
The Ukrainian were a fiercely independent people, mostly runaway feudal serves that settled the steppes at the river Dnieper. Ukrainians were never a free people, always under the Polish or Russian yoke, strongly nationalistic. The persecutions and harsh living conditions made them hard and cruel. The famous Ukrainian Cossacks, were famous for their raping and plundering the Jewish people, during the World War I.
Deeply religious people, Greek orthodox, the Ukrainian were known for their anti-Semitism and cruelty towards the Jews. The centuries of oppression developed a high national frustration level reflected even in their literature. The famous Ukrainian poet Taras Shewczenko wrote in his poem called "Testament":
" When I die, bury me in the steppes of the Ukraine, overlooking the River, so I can hear the roar of the Dnieper and see the fertile fields. And only when the Dnieper will overflow with the blood of our enemies, then I will leave everything and fly to God to pray, until this time I don't know God."
In the 17th century Poland experienced an upheaval, the uprising of the Ukrainian serfs under the leadership of Bogdan Chmielnicki. The Ukrainian peasants, enslaved and exploited by the Polish Gentry, staged a bloody uprising, fighting the Poles but killing the Jews. Many of the border towns were besieged, and the Jewish population massacred. The Jews were made to be the scapegoats and were the major victims of violent brutality. " Killing was accompanied by barbarous tortures; the victims were flayed alive, split asunder, clubbed to death, roasted on coals, or scalded with boiling water. Even infants at the breast were not spared. The most terrible cruelty was shown towards the Jews. They were destined to utter annihilation and the slightest pity shown towards them was looked upon as treason. The Cossacks who danced on them while drinking whiskey took scrolls of the Law out of the synagogues. After this Jews were laid upon them and butchered without mercy. Thousands of Jewish infants were thrown into wells or buried alive. Contemporary Jewish chroniclers paint a vivid picture of the brutality and sufferings of this period. Victims of massacres were purposely allowed to live longer in order to torture them; hands and feet were cut off; children were split asunder fish like and roasted on a fire; bellies of women were split open and live cats sewed up in them while they were alive."
On September 22, 1941, a German Lieutenant Bingel witnessed a Massacre of Jews in the Ukrainian town of Vinnitsa. After witnessing the massacre some of his men suffered a complete nervous breakdown. In the massacre about six thousand Jews were murdered. Those were the survivors of the previous killings that took place a few days earlier in which about 24,000 Jews were executed. The lieutenant Bingels describes:
In the morning at 10.15, wild shooting and terrible human cries reached our ears. At first. I failed to grasp what was taking place, but when I approached the window from which I had a broad view over the of the town park, the following spectacle unfolded before my eyes and those of my men who, alerted by the tumult, had meanwhile gathered in my room.
Ukrainian militia on horseback, armed with pistols, rifles and long, straight cavalry swords, were riding wildly inside and around the town park. As far as we could make out, they were driving people along their horses - men, women, and children. A shower of bullet was than fired at this human mass. Those not hit outright were struck down with swords. Like ghostly apparition, this horde of Ukrainians, let loose and commanded by S.S. officers, trampled savagely over human bodies, ruthlessly killing innocent children, mothers, and old people whose only crime was that they had escaped a great mass murder, so as eventually to be shot or beaten to death like wild animals.
In the town of Rohatyn the Ukrainians asked and received permission from the German Authorities to conduct a local pogrom. Hundreds of Ukrainians converged on the city from the villages armed with sticks and knives and provided with sacks for the pillage. The mob started to catch Jew, and beat them, and lead them towards the synagogue, where they had to pass in front of two row of Ukrainians, beating them mercilessly. At five o'clock, the beating stopped, and the bleeding people were released, some of them received serious injuries, requiring hospitalization.
During the WWII the forests of the Ukraine was teeming with Ukrainian partisans in a big variety: Petlurowcy, Banderowcy, UPA (Ukrainian Partisan Army), Bulbowcy, etc. Their aim was to gain independence for the Ukraine, but they never fought with the Germans, avoided engagement with the Russians, but they great achievement was the killing of the Jewish survivors hiding in the forest.
The various Ukrainian partisans, were killing Jews caught in the forest, with one exception- doctors and pharmacists, needed for their health care. The Ukrainian resistance flourished even after the Germans withdrew, they were fighting the Russians. There were some cases where Jewish doctors were caught by the Russians, convicted for subversive activities and given long prison sentences. In one case the Ukrainian Partisan made an special effort to save a Jewish family, but in the prevailing atmosphere of hatred, they failed.
In the town of Podhajce, a special detachment of Ukrainians Partisans rescued Dr. Neuman and his family from the ghetto. In 1920 the Ukrainian nationalist established a short lived Ukrainian Republic, under the leadership of Hetman Petlura, and Dr. Neuman, being a avid Ukrainian nationalist, served as a finance minister in his government. Dr. Neuman and his family were hid in the Ukrainian village of Rudniki, under the protection of the Petlura partisans. After a few months, another band of Ukrainian partisans killed them outright. In retaliation the Petlura band killed them.
The Ukrainians played an extensive role in the Final Solution. The Ukrainian Guards were known for inhumanity and cruelty. Chiel Rajchman, a survivor of Treblinka, testified during his deportation proceedings against the infamous Ivan the Terrible.
On a hot day the Ukrainian helpers feel very good. They work with their whips from right to left, in all directions. Nikolai and Ivan who work as machinists at the motor from which the gas goes into the chambers, which also serves that lights Treblinka, they feel very good and happy on such hot day.
Ivan is about 25 years old, looks like a strong big boss. He is pleased when he has an opportunity to expend on the workers his energies. From time to time he gets the urge to take a sharp knife, stop a worker who is running by, and cut off his ear. The blood spurts out, the worker is screaming, but he has to keep running with the stretcher ( a stretcher-type device to carry corpses). Ivan waits patiently until the worker runs back. He tells him to put down the carrier, tells him to get undressed, to go over the pit where he shoots him.
Ivan came once over to the well where I and another dentist named Finkelstein were washing the teeth extracted from the corpses, with a tool used for boring holes in wood. He told Finkelstein to lie down and drilled the metal in his anus . This was just a joke. The unfortunate man didn't even scream out loud, he only groaned. Ivan laughed and kept yelling, "Lie still or else I will shoot you."
Chiel Rajchman was asked if he had seen Ivan at the gas chambers :
" Every day, whenever there were transports. They (Ivan and Nikolai) beat people. Ivan had - he had a weapon of destruction; he had a pipe, a sword, a whip, and he tortures the victims with this before they entered the gas chambers, especially the women, he cut pieces between their legs. I saw it with my very eyes."
Rajchman described an incident of cruelty by Ivan :
" I saw that he brought a Jewish man with a long beard and ear locks, naked. Ivan appeared behind the gas chambers, he pulled apart with his own hands the barbed wire in the fence and pushed the Jew's head inside ah beat him with his whip. The Jewish man screamed; he threw himself - it looked as if the barbed wire cut his throat, and he choked after a little while."
Helping the Jews.
One of the dangers is over simplification and creating stereotypes. It is true that Ukrainians contributed a lot manpower to the Nazi extermination machine. Those facts are well known, what is not know that on many individual Poles or Ukrainians helped Jews. A Holocaust Survivor recalls:
"One story that affected me personally is the help received from an old Ukrainian peasant, a real gentlemen. My father used his services many times as a messenger or he provided transportation with his horse and baggy. On the eve of the Judenrein in the ghetto, my sister sent an urgent letter through our Ukrainian friend, asking our father to come to take her out from the ghetto. My father went immediately, arrived at night and smuggled himself into the ghetto. It was Friday night, and he decided to sleep for the last time in his bed. The same night the action began. My father and my sister survived the first day in the bunker, on the second night my father took my sister and escaped from the burning ghetto. They run to our Ukrainian friend, who sheltered them, later dressed my sister as an Ukrainian peasant girl; my father was dressed like an old beggar, and brought them to the forest. My joy on seeing them is difficult to describe. It is true that we paid him for the services, but compared to the risk of life he ran, the payment was less than a token. It is sad but today I don't even remember his name or the name of his village"