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12.11.2014

Bandera, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and the Jews

A scandal has broken out in Israel involving the renowned journalist at Channel 9, Darya Nenakhova. In her spare time, Darya went to support the Ukrainian army at the campaign “Eat a dumpling – clothe a soldier”. And that would all be fine, but she turned up in a T-shirt with a picture of Stepan Bandera, the leader and ideologist of Ukrainian nationalism and the organization of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

The Russian community has divided into two camps. One calls to burn the Banderist Nenakhova on a bonfire, and the other believes that Darya has every right to wear what she wants.

In this article I won’t examine Darya’s action. I will only try to open people’s eyes to the person of Stepan Bandera, the activity of the OUN UPA, and separate the truth from myths.

First of all, in talking about anti-Semitism in Ukraine, one should not the fact that pogroms were a mass phenomenon long before the creation of the OUN, and were not initiated by Ukrainians, but primarily by Russian ultra-right nationalist organizations, that were part of the so-called “Black Hundred”. Furthermore, other ethnic minorities of Ukraine were also behind the pogroms, for example Greeks. It was the Greeks who routed the Jews of Odessa because of trading rivalry. All of this took place against the background of the grave socio-economic crisis in the Russian Empire in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. The leadership of the Empire saw the Jews as an object for redirecting the anger of the people, and gave wide support to anti-Semitic ultra-right organizations, and the press was filled with anti-Semitic cartoons and articles.

This practice became especially widespread during the years of the Civil War.

The Bolsheviks were the only group to call the Jewish population to their ranks, counting on the fact that the Jews, who had been persecuted for many years, would become the most ardent fighters in the battle against the White imperial movement. And this paid off. Jews gladly joined the Bolsheviks, showing particular zeal and a lack of compromise toward the enemies. This was immediately reflected in White propaganda.



Anti-Semitic anti-Bolshevik cartoons from the Civil War

And this propaganda firmly settled in the minds of the local population of Ukraine. Both among the working class and among the intelligentsia. Bolsheviks and Jews were seen at the very least as close friends, and frequently as one and the same.

 

Nevertheless, at the First Great Council of Ukrainian nationalists, the decrees on the creation of the OUN were passed, which did not in any way single out the Jews as enemies. On the contrary, all peoples were guaranteed freedom of religious belief and cultural development. The complete text can be found at the link. ссылке.

 

This shows that Western Ukraine was practically not subjected to the propaganda of the White movement during the Civil War.

 

In the period from 1929 to 1939, a fierce battle was waged between the OUN and the NKVD, during which the leader of the OUN Yevgeny Konovalets was murdered in Rotterdam, and his deputy Andrei Melnik was appointed the new leader. Melnik made changes to internal policy during the second congress of the OUN in Rome, counting on Germany. *In describing further events, one should also note the Golodomor of 1932-1933, which was instigated by the Bolsheviks and took the lives of millions of Ukrainians.

 

Later a split took place in the ranks of the OUN, and the organization divided in two. The OUN (m) under the leadership of Andrei Melnik and the OUN(b) under the leadership of Stepan Bandera and Yaroslav Stetsko. In April 1941 a great congress of the OUN(b) was held in Krakow, where for the first time Ukrainian nationalists raised the theme of Jews and poles. It is this conference that Moscow and Polish historians like to refer to. I will give a direct quotation from the decree:

 

16. The OUN fights the activity of Polish groups that strive to renew the Polish occupation of Ukrainian lands. <…>

 

17. Jews in the USSR are the most faithful support of the ruling Bolshevik regime, and the frontline of Moscow imperialism in Ukraine. The anti-Jewish moods of the Ukrainian masses are used by the Moscow Bolshevik government to divert their attention from the real culprit of all troubles, and in times of crisis to channel them towards pogroms of the Jews.

 

The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists fights the Jews as the support of the Moscow Bolshevik regime, and at the same time notifies the masses that Moscow is their main enemy.

 

 

 

Full text of the decree Полныйтекстпостановления (http://histans.com/LiberUA/Book/oun41/9.pdf)

 

Based on this text, it becomes clear that Bandera and Stetsko did not have the goal of exterminating the Polish and Jewish people, but proclaimed a battle only against their representatives who had a hostile attitude towards Ukraine, emphasizing that Ukraine’s main enemy was Moscow, and that it was Moscow that was using anti-Jewish moods of Ukrainians, directing them towards pogroms against the Jews. It should also be noted that in the leadership positions of the NKVD in the 1920s-30s, Jews really did make up around 50%. So this decree was quite logical, and in keeping with the main idea of the OUN – the battle with the USSR.

 

Now let us move to the most interesting question, which is the topic of the most heated debates. The Lvov pogrom of 1941.

 

To start with, the Lvov pogrom took place according to an identical scenario as the pogroms in another 22 areas in occupied Ukraine. It began with the entry of the German troops and the flight of the Red Army. Immediately among the local population, Germans distributed leaflets in which Jews were portrayed as the leaders of Bolshevism. Then Germans found the corpses of murdered political prisoners in NKVD prisons, which was a command for the population to start pogroms. Thus the Germans, using the Ukrainian population, exterminated the Jews, while supposedly remaining clean themselves.


 

What took place in Lvov remains a subject of debate among historians. There is no reliable evidence that members of the OUN(b) were involved in the pogrom. The police were involved in the pogrom, which began to serve the Nazis. But they were mainly people who had served in the Soviet, and prior to this the Polish, police, and also ordinary local inhabitants. Members of the OUN UPA were not among these people and could not be among them. This is confirmed by the minutes of the Nuremberg trial.

 

At the end of 2007, the director of the Yad Vashem museum at that time, Yosef Tommy Lapid, invited a Ukrainian delegation in order to present them with supposedly indisputable documents showing the direct guilt of Roman Shukhevich and the “Nachtigal” battalion in the Lvov pogrom. The Ukrainian delegation, after visiting the museum and seeing the documents, announced that Lapid had not shown them anything new, and that all the documents he possessed were of doubtful authenticity. Lapid criticized their statement. But the fact remains that the international historical community does not accept these documents as an undisputed fact, and they are not available to the public. Stepan Bandera himself was arrested before the pogrom by the Germans and imprisoned in camp.

 

Swiftly realizing that they were being used, in October 1941 the UPA reviewed its attitude to Germany and switched from being an ally of Germany to being an enemy, subject to arrest and extermination. This is also proved by documents that were presented by the prosecution at the Nuremberg trial.

 

In 1943, in a document the OUP UPA stated its refusal to fight the Jews, and in 1944 put them in the same rank as brotherly peoples.

 

Now it should be noted that the UPA waged its battle against the USSR up until 1956, as an organization. In the USSR, the cult of victory was created, in which cases of the USSR’s cooperation with Germany before 1941 was intentionally hushed up. The Germans were portrayed as the enemies of everything Russian and Soviet, and all the national liberation movements in the USSR were considered to be the accomplices of the Nazis. The foundations for the division between one’s own people and aliens were laid. The propaganda department of the USSR completely discredited the idea of nationalism. It was then that the police who cooperate with Germany were dubbed with the negative label of “Banderists”

 

In summary, I draw the following conclusions:

 

- Anti-Semitism in Ukraine did exist, but is organizers and inspirers were initially Tsarist Russia, and then Nazi Germany.

 

- Jews really did work closely with the Bolsheviks, occupying leading positions, and really were involved in the Golodomor.

 

- Before 1941 the OUN did not single out the Jews in any way in its battle.

 

- In 1941 Jews were singled out. There were calls to fight them as accomplices of Bolshevism, and pogroms were stated to be inadvisable as they were a weapon for Moscow to redirect the anger of the masses away from itself.

 

- Stepan Bandera himself was under German arrest from 1941 to 1944, and was not involved in the creation of the UPA, but was a symbol of it.

 

- After liberation, in the first document passed by the OUN in 1944, it was decided to completely reject fighting against the Jews in any forms. Jews were placed on the same level as other nationalities, which were guaranteed freedom of culture and belief.

 

- All documents showing that members of the OUN UPA were involved in the genocide of the Jews were rejected by the Nuremberg trial, and later by the U.S. Congress at a session on Nazi crimes.

 

In the modern world, Bandera himself is a symbol of the battle against the Russian world. The use of symbols with his portrait cannot and must not be assessed as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.

 

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