Deportation of the Soviet people to the forced labour in Germany. Kiev, 1941.



The Nazi minister for the occupied eastern territories, Alfred Rosenberg, who remained under a strong influence of the advisers recruited among the Ukrainian renegades, thought about creation of a Ukrainian satellite state, similar to the Slovak State or so-called Independent State of Croatia. He expressed his ideas in May 1941 in the instructions to the commissar for the Ukraine. It soon occurred, though, that the Ukrainian renegades, rallied around Stefan Bandera, had no intention to remain loyal to Berlin due to conflict of interests. The day before the aggression on the Soviet Union - 21 June 1941 - the chief of Sipo and SD stated in the letter addressed to the Foreign Ministry and the genera staff, that he would not tolerate activities of the Ukrainian nationalist groups in their current form, since they were incompatible with German interests. Therefore, he announced that he would act accordingly. Meanwhile he ordered to postpone creation of the Ukrainian National Committee and forbade the key figures among the Ukrainian nationalists to travel to the occupied areas.

On the day of the aggression on the Soviet Union the head of the Ukrainian Central Committee in Cracow, Dr. Włodzimierz Kubijowicz, demanded a Ukrainian autonomy in the General Government. In the memoranda to Adolf Hitler he asked for permission to create Ukrainian armed bands. Stefan Bandera's faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Organizatsiya Ukrainskikh Natsionalistov - OUN-R), and the Ukrainian National Committee it had created in Cracow, also had declared full support and utmost will to collaborate with the Nazis against the Soviet union, but expressed discontent with "partial solutions of the Ukrainian question".

Despite of the objections from security police (Sipo) and security service (SD), OUN-R and several other organizations staged a unification congress in Cracow on 22 June 1941. It published a manifesto proclaiming creation of an independent Ukrainian state, and declared first steps towards creation of its administration. The text of the manifesto was approved by the Governor General Hans Frank. Few days later, on 30 June 1941, OUN-R supporters proclaimed independence of the Ukraine in Lvov. Nationalistic fighting squads entered the city together with the first Wehrmacht troops, and shortly occupied the radio-station. Soon afterwards was created the Ukrainian National Council with Dr. Kost Lewicki in van.

In the beginning of July, Frank's deputy Dr. Josef Bühler invited the leadership of the Ukrainian National Council and Bandera, whom he presented with demands to cease their activities, and activities of the institutions under their authority. Further events happened quickly, and to complete disappointment of Bandera's supporters, who had actively engaged in the invasion and war crimes along the German troops. They received the first blow on 11 July in Lvov, where the invaders disbanded Ukrainian fascists' authorities, and arrested Jarosław Stećko, whom Bandera, as well as Metropolitan Andrzej Szeptycki  blessed to be the prime minister of a Ukrainian government. Also were arrested Stećko's associates and members of the Ukrainian National Council in Cracow. In September, after Bandera and his associates refused to change their policy and renounce the declaration of 30 June, he and 80% of the OUN-R leadership were arrested and sent to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen. It took about two months to clear the occupied territories of discontented nationalists and their extermination. Only those were spared, who were willing to accept the role of the Nazi executioners. This was, in particular, the case of Maksym Borowiec (Taras Bulba), the butcher of the Polish population in Polesye - Gauleiter Erich Koch in person demanded his surrender.

After September 1941 also were arrested many OUN-R activists making their way eastward. This had created a situation convenient to the supporters of Andrzej Mielnik, who did not try to conceal their rejection of the unification congress and the Ukrainian National Council. They willingly contributed to the extermination of banderovites, and were the first among the Ukrainian renegades to reach just occupied Kiev. There they created an alternative Ukrainian National Council, which lasted two months - Koch had it disbanded on 17 November. Then came reprisals against Mielnik's supporters; they repeated in the beginning and at the end of 1944.

Reprisals against the Ukrainian nationalists did not come out of fear that they might be dangerous; the Germans had a perfect understanding that their influence did not spread east of river Zbruch. They were rather unwanted; their presence in the Ukraine complicated realization of the German perspective plans. Moreover, it was deemed impossible to tolerate Ukrainian nationalists' predicaments to make partnership with the German Nazis; it was against the Nazis' concept of their superior position as opposed to conquered "sub-humans". Also, in case of a multi-million nation nobody wanted to risk having, even temporarily, various self-administering bodies, as it was in tiny Baltic republics. Therefore, the way Bandera was treated shows a clear parallel with the case of the Polish renegade Władysław Studnicki. OUN-R had quickly made the way from favoured separatists to persecuted outcasts.

However, the Ukrainian fascists had already gone too far, in their collaboration with the German Nazis, to admit the failure and change their policy. They overestimated their forces and waited for a convenient moment to become a "third power". While waiting for that moment, they assumed the tactics of "limited collaboration", both on the front and in the rears. Legionnaires from Battalions Nachtigall and Rolland, due to reprisals that fell of the banderovite leaders, protested, and when they were pulled out of the front, they signed contracts to serve as mercenaries in the 201st Police Division, formed for pacificatory actions in Byelorussia. When their contracts expired, ranks and files were dismissed, and officers - except of Roman Szuchiewicz - were arrested.

Apart from Mielnik and Bandera, among the emigrants also tried to play a significant role a former petlurovite Alexander Sevryuk, who in 1918 took part in peace talks in Brest, and Peter Kozhevnikov, a member of Rosenberg's staff. The latter was also an active Gestapo agent, and probably pre-war Polish intelligence informer too; in 1942 he ended in a concentration camp, where he died. Sevryuk died in a railway crash at the end of 1941.

At the end of 1941 Koch warned of Ukrainian nationalists, who in Germany, General Government, and Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia numbered 100 thousand, in this approx. 60 thousand professionals. Their influx to the Ukraine, according to Koch, had to be limited to minimal necessary amount, which would be strictly controlled. Politicians and cultural activists had to be excluded completely.

To emphasize political goals of the Third Reich in the East, on 1 August 1941 occupied Galicia, as a former part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, was incorporated to the General Government, while Odessa was given to the Romanians, which was another disappointment to the Ukrainian nationalists. Rosenberg had decided that the University of Lvov would not be re-opened, and the city would be turned German (Lemberg).

According to Hans Lammers from the Ministry for Occupied Eastern Territories (RMbO), Hitler had sealed the fate of the Ukraine on 29 September 1941, when he spoke about a protectorate. But even that chimeric protectorate occurred too much, and Hitler did not come back to that idea; he even forbade releasing POW's of Ukrainian nationality from captivity.

Aspirations of the Ukrainian nationalists had got some support only from the Finnish authorities, who, despite of German objections, were willing to create military units comprised of POW's of Ukrainian nationality. In August 1941 Marshal Carl Gustav Mannerheim suggested to the German ambassador in Helsinki to create a puppet Ukrainian state under the leadership of Pavel Skoropadskiy. Those suggestions were not taken seriously though, and the idea of hiring the Ukrainians for the Finnish military soon faded out due to lack of volunteers.

As the German armies progressed into the Soviet Union, German authorities - Economical Inspection (WiIn Süd) and the VII Division of the Army Group South (HGr Süd) - were taking over administration of the Ukraine; the latter also managed the issues of propaganda through its own cells. Civil administration was gradually taking the administration over, and on 20 August there was created the Reich's Commissariat Ukraine (Reichskommissariat Ukraine - RKU). Its borders did not match the borders of the Ukrainian SSR. Out of 533 thousand sq.km only 339 sq.km, populated with 17 million inhabitants, went to its making. In the north, to the RKU were incorporated some Byelorussian territories and the province of Bryansk (RFSSR). After planned creation of the Reich's Commissariat Caucasus, RKU had to be enlarged to 600 thousand sq.km. In the summer of 1942 there were also plans to create a Reich's Commissariat Volga-Don; for general commissars there were earmarked acting Gauleiter Heinrich Siekmeier (Rostov), SA-Obergruppenführer Heinrich Bennecke (Stalingrad), SS-Gruppenführer Jacob Sporrenberg (Saratov), Gauleiter Gustav Simon (Voronezh), and SS-Brigadeführer Heinz Jost (Kalmuckia). Provinces of Chernigov, Sumy and Kharkov, as well as Donbass, remained under the military administration. On the other hand RKU formally got Crimea under its administration, although in fact it remained under the military administration too.

Originally for the RKU's seat was designated Kiev, which was taken on 19 September, after a stubborn defence of the Soviet forces around the city, but Hitler protested against it, and eventually the RKU's seat was established in a small provincial town - Rovno.

Rosenberg proposed Arno Schikedanz for the Reich's commissar of the Ukraine, but Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring succeeded in promoting his own candidate, Erich Koch, Gauleiter of East Prussia, whom RMbO foresaw for another post. Göring counted on Koch's organizational skills in exploiting natural riches of the Ukraine, especially agriculture. After all, it was Koch, who was the first Gauleiter to liquidate unemployment in his province; he also developed exemplary pig farming in East Prussia. Hence, he enjoyed support of economical departments, Walther Funk (Imperial Bank) and Herbert Backe (Ministry for Food and Agriculture), as a representative of the "most ordinary, animal form of dictatorship". Koch himself, as he accepted the appointment, admitted with pride that he was a "brutal dog", and deemed that quality a sufficient credential for his new office. Since September 1942 he was also the Reich's Commissioner for Strengthening of Germandom plenipotentiary in the Ukraine.

The RKU staff was composed to meet the criteria of colonial treatment of the conquered population. In particular it may be said about A. Fiedler, responsible for the forced labour affairs, Paul Dargel, head of the cultural affairs, Helmut Körner, in control of the Ukrainian agriculture, and Waldemar Magunia, the general commissar in Kiev. The latter two came from the General Government with a load of experience: Körner was in charge of the agriculture there, and Magunia was the chief of the civilian administration in the District of Bialystok. Also the heads of key departments and five out of six general commissars originated from East Prussia; similar was the composition of the lower administration. So, it was an experienced staff. Dargel, who controlled political issues, while among the Germans, did not hide his far-fetching plans: he declared the design to exterminate the Ukrainians and turn the Ukraine into the German agricultural colony.

The RKU apparatus numbered 800 employees; after the declaration of total war it was reduced to 550. The administrative apparatus for agriculture was the biggest one. It included various farm administrators, inspectors, commissioners and agronomists. In the mid-1942 there were 7,000 commandants for agriculture and their deputies alone. Each of them controlled 10 to 15 thousand ha of land, shared among 8 to 12 agricultural co-operatives. Some of those commandants were recruited among the Germans living in the USSR.

In March 1942 the RMbO created the Central Emission Bank of the Ukraine, and introduced its own currency - karbovanets - exchanged at fixed rate 10:1 against the German mark and 1:1 against the Soviet rouble. Economical exploitation of the occupied territories was leased out to 13 German corporations.

In the beginning of 1943 the occupation apparatus was re-organized; separate city commissariats were merged with district commissariats. Earlier, on 16 November 1942, there was created the first German settlement in Zhitomir (Hegewald); the other one was planned in Molochansk, in Zaporozhye province. Simultaneously, the RKU had created the branch for German settlements within its political department.

Civilian administration in the Ukraine had been introduced gradually: on 1 September, 26 October, 15 November 1941, and 1 September 1942 as the German army proceeded eastwards. The RKU eventually was composed of six general commissariats, 114 district commissariats, and 433 counties. To the posts of the General Commissars were appointed: in Volhynia and Podolia - SA-Obergruppenführer Heinrich Schöne, former police chief in Konigsberg; in Zhitomir - acting Gauleiter Ernst Leyser, and in Kiev - the aforementioned Magunia. The latter was offered to the former German ambassador in the USSR, Friedrich Werner von der Schulenburg, but he declined the offer. In Nikolayev the General Commissar became the NSKK-Obergruppenführer Ewald Oppermann; in Dnepropetrovsk - Nikolaus Selzner, and in Crimea - Gauleiter Alfred Frauenfeld. The latter was a devout and fanatic Nazi, earlier attached to the German troops operating in the north, but unpopular among his colleagues - Koch, for example, used to call him Auch Gauleiter ("also Gauleiter"). Frauenfeld was planning to settle 36 thousand Germans in Crimea, and build there in the mountains the seat of the Reich's District Gotenland. Since September 1942 Crimea was under partial civil administration; the army retained there a lot of authority due to Crimea's military importance. Although in the USSR Crimea (23,000 sq.km, 662,000 inhabitants) was not a part of the Ukraine - it constituted two separate administrative entities, - it was subordinated to Koch, but with some measure of autonomy. It came mainly out of the plans of German colonization. There were also plans of appointing an Islamic mufti for the head of administration, but the Wehrmacht opposed them. It was not until October 1943, when the Soviet authorities allowed creation of the central muftiate in Tashkent, that this opposition whittled out, but not without troubles.

In 1943 Koch unsuccessfully attempted to disband the General Commissariat Crimea; Frauenfeld on the other hand kept sending messages full of criticism of his policy to Berlin.

Kiev, the capital city of the Ukraine, remained under Magunia's administration, controlled by the military commandant of the city, first Gen. Kurt Eberhard, then Martin von Romer. Kiev police was trained in Hamburg. The German-appointed mayor Vladimir Bagaziy was executed (or committed suicide, according to some sources) in October 1942.

Also worth noticing are differences in tactics applied in the Ukraine. Rosenberg insisted that most profitable exploitation would be assured by softer treatment - unlike Koch's brutal ruthlessness. Similar was the stance of the SS. One of "detailed reports" (Ereignismeldungen UdSSR) issued by Sipo and SD talks about possibility of organic linking of the Ukraine with the German national interest (die Ukraine führungsmässig im deutschem Sinne zu lenken). However, doing so would require more police and administration staff, which was not available.

Another method, fitting the German strategy, was introduction of a transitional period, called combined economy (based on state and private ownership); particular hopes there were put in attracting Ukrainian peasantry by creating undefined illusions about their future. In this respect the Germans analyzed the experience of their occupation of the Ukraine in 1918, and criticized old controversies between Berlin and Vienna, collaboration with the Jews, and lack of broader propaganda among the local population. According to the reports of SiPo and SD, some factors within SS, in face of collapse of the "lightning war" were inclined to soften the occupation régime, make propaganda more flexible, and allow for limited activities of self-government, cultural organizations and the Orthodox Church.

According to some German historians, principles of Koch's policy were simple: Germans are masters, Ukrainians are their slaves; Germans have the right to exploit the East; intelligentsia and other elements deemed dangerous to the Nazi system must be exterminated. The Reich's Commissar did not want to take into account any considerations or obstacles. What he wanted was only a "tough course" (harte Führung), colonial methods of administration, and total discrimination. The occupation system had to put the end to any hopes for survival, in national plane as well as individual, and strangle in the embryo the will to resist the invaders. That system had to be based on three elements: economical exploitation, terror, and destruction of everything that counted for the national and social organization of life in the individuals' minds. To Koch it was a colonial system designed to "pump out" resources, and provide labour force and 3 million tons of wheat for Germany each year. The Russians and the Ukrainians had to be exterminated to the utmost to make the land available for German colonization as soon as possible. In case of resistance he ordered to burn villages indiscriminately.

For propaganda support for the German occupation there were established 6 German and 189 Ukrainian newspapers printed in total of 500,000 copies. Also there were established so-called Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church, with the archbishop of Lutsk, Polikarp Sikorskiy, an active petlurovite, at helm, and Ukrainian Autonomous Orthodox Church, with archbishop Alexei Gromadskiy. Both those organizations took active part in the system of the Nazi occupation and propaganda. Whereas no Catholic or Uniate clergy was allowed to the Ukraine.

In the beginning of 1942 Koch challenged Rosenberg as he tried to position himself as an independent and sole Führer's and Reich's representative in the Ukraine, and reserve for himself the exclusive right to represent German interests, which would render the role of the RMbO rather illusory. In September 1942, when the arguments over the competences in the policy of Germanization of the Ukraine were almost over due to Koch's appointment to the plenipotentiary RKFDV, he tried to curb the jurisdiction of the police, for example through banning police forces from voluntary imposing fines in money and food products on the populace aiding the partisans. Then the HSSPF, SS-Gruppenführer, Hans-Adolf Prützmann referred the issue to the RFSS, who rejected the RKU initiative, though suggested settling the problem. Yet, Koch showed a far-going resolution in that matter, as he tried not to allow further consolidation of the position of SS.

In the spring of 1943 the occupation apparatus had been defunct more and more, perhaps with the exception of the Crimea, where brutal pacifications helped to exercise control. In March the RKU administration was able to contact general commissariats in Nikolayev, Dnepropetrovsk and Melitopol only by telegraph. In June only the road Zhitomir - Vinnitsa was available to the traffic without escort; in the same area as many as 2,500 men were killed in fights with the partisans, and 2,000 were missing. In Volhynia and Podolia the regular German administration ceased to exist down to the county level. The 12-thousand-strong auxiliary police ceased to exist as well: half of its manpower defected to the partisans, and the rest turned over to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). General commissars demanded building of a system of fortified police and army outposts, just like in the General Government. Strikes, sabotage and absenteeism were rampaging; most of the village elders and clerical staff in the administration were working for the partisans. Partisan raids throughout the country deepened the chaos in the occupation administration. Forests and villages in their vicinity were under control of the Soviet partisans; also renegades, like the banderovites from the UPA, found there refuge. In that situation the head of the Gestapo, SS- Heinrich Müller, in June 1943 undertook in Sachsenhausen negotiations with Bandera in order to find a common ground for collaboration, but without result.

In the summer of 1943 the occupation system was already falling apart under the victories on the front and the full-scale partisan warfare. At the end of 1943 in the Ukraine were operating 29 partisan groupings and 83 partisan groups rallying 44 thousand men and women commanded by local partisan staffs, and the Ukrainian Partisan Headquarters in Moscow. To their aid came a wide-spread underground movement, whose membership is estimated between 600 thousand and 1 million men and women. RKU controlled no more than 30% of its territory, in this no more than 16% of the arable land. Partisans controlled the whole Polesye and big part of Volhynia; in many places under the German civil administration they forced local collaborationists to resign from their offices under the threat of death penalty. The state of siége was introduced in some cities, like Kovel, Kamen-Kashirskiy or Luboml. Even in Podolia, where in November 1943 the Germans had concentrated about 50 thousand troops, partisans exercised a considerable ease of operation. According to the RKU documents, partisan warfare caused decrease in supplies of meat by 60% of the planned quantity, and dairy products by 40%. Also decreased, although to a lesser degree, supplies of grains. While between July 1941 and March 1944 from all the Soviet territories under the German occupation (without Galicia) as much as 9.2 million tons of grains were obtained for the German needs, Ukrainian share in that was 7 million tons.

The Red Army started liberation of the Ukraine under the RKU administration in September 1943; some areas under the military administration were liberated earlier. Göring, as the plenipotentiary for realization of the VJPl, on 7 September issued the order making army commanders responsible for transferring all the stocks of food, livestock, raw materials, machineries and rolling stock beyond the Dnieper. The zone within 20 to 40 kilometres east of the Dnieper was to be turned into a desert ("scorched land"). General Otto Stapf was appointed plenipotentiary for evacuation of the Donbass. Also in September, SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler issued to the SS and SD a secret order, which ordained full and strict co-operation with the Wehrmacht in the course of the total destruction of the Ukraine and extermination of its population during the retreat. To the execution of that large genocidal action there were allocated dozens of thousands of trucks and lorries, as well as several thousand of trains, and yet it was not completed due to fast progress of the Soviet offensive. Nevertheless it delayed the crossing of the Dnieper and created troubles during its realization.

In the winter of 1944, at the time of the grandiose offensive of the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, which led to the liberation of Rovno and Lutsk, and encirclement, with substantial aid of the partisan forces, of the German grouping of the 8th Army near Korsun-Shevchenkovskiy, there took place the meeting between Wilhelm Kinkelin, representing SS-Obergruppenführer Gottlieb Berger, a liaison official for the occupied eastern territories, and Paul Dargel from Koch's staff, regarding recruitment of the Slavs for the German armed forces. It is worth to quote bigger excerpts from the minutes of that meeting in order to present the mentality of the Nazi officials. What is characteristic, Dargel had stuck to Hitler's argumentation, while the SS officer had represented a fantastic belief into the Slavs' willingness to fight in name of the German Reich and fascism. To Kinkelin's argument that the losses on the East front should induce the Germans to such a policy, which would attract Slavic people to fight on the German side, sparing this way German blood, Dargel answered:

There are moments in History, when one can't substitute own blood with foreign blood; such is the present moment. Eastern peoples may contribute their work. History has proved way too often that the Slavs are unreliable and eventually will turn against us the arms we'll give them. Wasn't it so with the Poles at the end of the Great War?

To which Kinkelin replied:

It's not an appropriate example, because there's hatred between the Poles and the Germans, there are old scores. That's not the case of the Ukrainians. Secondly, the Poles attacked us then not as the Slavs, but as opponents of the defeated in the Great War. We'll see in this war too that not only the Poles, but all the peoples of the occupied countries will turn against us, if the fortune of war turns away from us. If we hadn't lost the war then, the Poles wouldn't have dared to turn the arms at us. Here we're afraid of thousands, and in the Reich there are millions foreign workers. Soldiers and workers will be our allies only if they're treated properly. (...)

It should be considered that the Eastern peoples are not facing the "you or me" extermination like in case of the Poles, but the perspective of incorporating them into a bigger whole under our leadership for struggle with the colossal Soviet power. [Dallin A. (1958).]

Meanwhile the reality was such that in result of the defeats on the front and in the rears the invaders had lost trust even in Mielnik. In the beginning of 1944 most of the leaders of OUN-R, including Mielnik, were arrested and sent to the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen.

On the other hand, in the Western Ukraine, which was was incorporated into the General Government as the District of Galicia, governed first by Karl Lasch, and then by SS-Brigadeführer (later SS-Gruppenführer) Otto Wächter, the German occupation policy was very flexible. After extermination of the Jews the Ukrainians made more than 30% of the local populace. While in the rest of the occupied Soviet territories the Ukrainians were treated with extreme contempt, like sub-humans of the worst category, in GG contrary - they were granted a privileged position in name of the principle "divide and conquer". While in the pre-1939 areas of the Soviet Ukraine local renegades got quickly disappointed with the occupation régime, in the Western Ukraine they remained faithful to the Nazism beyond the bitter end. When they partly turned away from the Germans at the final stage of the war, their intentions were not recognized promptly. Many Soviet and Polish partisans expected that they would join the war of liberation. Instead, they attacked the partisans.

The GG authorities watched closely every change in the stance of the nationalist renegades. In particular, they assigned one of the intelligence officers in Lvov, SS-Sturmbannführer Walter Schenck, to analyze the situation in the occupied Ukrainian territories. In July 1943 Schenck delivered to Cracow his memo (Die ukrainische Frage), in which he did not try do conceal concerns about possible loss of the German control over the Ukrainian renegades, just as it happened in the past to the Austrians and Poles. He also evaluated Koch's policy of fostering Ukrainian nationalism in Volhynia to counter-balance the influence of the Polish administration, and recommended similar policy for Galicia as the proper way of handling ethnic tensions for German interests. He saw the main obstacle in realization of that policy in brutal occupation régime in Volhynia, and recommended addressing some of the nationalist postulates, like for example merging Volhynia with the District of Galicia. It is not impossible that such a detailed elaboration of the "divide and conquer" policy was worked out under the influence, or may be even direct supervision of Otto Wächter.

In view of the military defeats in the spring of 1944 the Wehrmacht, GG and Ukrainian nationalist organizations initiated the draft of the Ukrainians for the anti-air defence and SS sentry services. In June, Kubijowicz and Nestor Holejko came forward with the proposal of conscription of the Ukrainians of the age from 20 to 40 for nationalist formations, not as reinforcements for German units. That proposal was rejected. In the summer of 1944 the the Germans and banderovites adjusted their positions, but it was already too late.

Human losses of the Ukraine are estimated for 4.5 to 5.2 million people, in this 1.5 million in the Western Ukraine. Most of them - approx. 3.5 million - were civilian casualties; there were 250 places of mass extermination. Also more than 2 million people were sent to the forced labour in Germany.