‘Academic’ Article Co-Authored by Alexander Gogun (University of Potsdam), Posted on the Nationalist Website ‘OUN-UPA’, Obfuscates the Ukrainian Holocaust, Denying OUN and UPA Anti-Jewish Violence


by Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe

Aleksander Gogun, a historian at Potsdam University and at Humboldt University
of Berlin
, and Aleksander Vovk, are the joint authors of an article, originally published in 2005, that obfuscates the Holocaust and denies the anti-Jewish violence of the Ukrainian nationalists. The article, in Russian, Evrei v bor’be za nezavisimuiu Ukrainu  (Jews in the Struggle for an Independent Ukraine), presented in academic format, continues to appear on the nationalist website titled OUN-UPA at http://oun-upa.org.ua.

The article, posted at http://lib.oun-upa.org.ua/gogun/pub07.html,  gives the impression  that Jews served and fought willingly and enthusiastically in the UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Ukraїns’ka Povstans’ka Armiia) for an independent Ukrainian state. From the very outset of their article the authors claim that there were no pogroms in Ukraine in 1941, that Ukrainian nationalists never had a negative attitude toward the Jews and that Ukrainians who served in the German police during World War II did not participate in the Holocaust. The authors call all these things “stereotypes of Soviet propaganda” and imply that they never existed or happened.

The authors do not deny that the UPA was shaped by the ultranationalist, fascist and antisemitic OUN-B (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists under the leadership of Stepan Bandera, Orhanizatsia Ukraїns’kykh Natsionalistsiv). But first, they do not explain how the OUN-B violently took control over the actual UPA by force in early 1943, and unleashed a campaign of terror in which many of the leaders of the original UPA were killed; and second, they diminish the OUN-B’s antisemitism, do not mention its fascist nature and its collaboration with Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1941 and again in 1944 and 1945. Instead they claim that the OUN-B abandoned antisemitism altogether in 1942. The best evidence for this claim, according to Gogun and Vovk, is a resolution passed at a OUN-B conference in April 1942: “Despite [our] negative attitude toward Jews as a tool of Russian Bolshevik imperialism we do not think it expedient at the present moment in the international situation to take part in anti-Jewish actions in order to avoid becoming a blind tool in alien hands and turning the attention of the masses away from the main enemies.”[1]

Although the authors do not to specify when exactly in 1942, at which conference, under which circumstances and for which reasons the OUN-B passed that resolution they claim that since the moment of passing it the OUN-B changed their attitude toward Jews, ceased to be antisemitic and concentrated on the fight against the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Poland. The fact that the OUN-B and UPA in 1944 resumed their collaboration with Nazi Germany or that its attitude towards Jews might have something in common with its attitude to Poles, of whom they killed between 70,000 and 100,000 in 1943 and 1944, or Ukrainian and Russian civilians, of whom they murdered over 20,000, does not attract Gogun’s and Vovk’s attention.[2]

With this in mind the authors ignore that following the attack of Nazi Germany on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the OUN-B, together with Germans and in several places also without them, organized pogroms in western Ukraine as a result of which about 20,000 Jews were killed. The initiators of many but not all pogroms made use of the bodies of Ukrainian, Polish and Jewish prisoners murdered by the NKVD after 22 June and of the powerful stereotype of “Judeo-Bolshevism”. For example in L’viv, where the
biggest pogrom occurred, the NKVD left about 3,000 bodies in the basements of three prisons. During the L’viv pogrom about 4,000 Jews were murdered between 30 June and 2 July. The role of the OUN-B, and, in particular of the OUN-B militiamen was significant. The OUN-B militia was loyal to the OUN-B government, proclaimed on 30 June in L’viv by Iaroslav Stets’ko who in his autobiography written shortly after the pogrom and the proclamation claimed: “I support the destruction of the Jews and the expedience of bringing German methods of exterminating the Jews to Ukraine”. On the one hand the OUN-B activists and militiamen incited Ukrainians and to a less extent Poles to committing violence together with Germans. On the other, they seized Jews on the streets or stormed their apartments. They brought them to the prison yards where German soldiers, OUN-B activists and random pogromists forced them to carry out the bodies from the prison basements. At the same time they beat the Jews severely, frequently to death with cudgels, crowbars and other objects.[3]

As far as Gogun and Vovk are concerned, none of this ever happened. And, as already mentioned, the best evidence for their argument is the fact that Soviet propaganda frequently took note of those pogroms. No less problematic is how the authors address the question of Jews in the UPA. They introduce a few documented cases of Jewish physicians in the UPA but do not ask how Jewish physicians, nurses and other Jewish personnel got into the UPA, whether they were threatened or forced and in particular whether they survived working for the UPA. Toward the end of the article Gogun and Vovk refer to only one document [4] about two Jewish physicians who were killed by the UPA partisans but then in conclusion they claim: “However, we can ascertain the fact of the participation of Jews in the Ukrainian national liberation movement of the Ukrainian nation in the 1940s.”

Although the authors worked with the Litopys UPA, a monumental edition of UPA
documents, in which they found information about these Jews in the UPA, they do not
bother to mention any document which hints at anti-Jewish violence. With this in mind they omit for example the order of the SB (Intelligence Service, Sluzhba Bezpeky of the OUN-B, an organ which monitored the UPA), that reads: “All non-professional Jews [serving in the UPA] should be secretly eliminated so that neither [other] Jews nor our people will know. The rumor should be spread that they went over to the Bolsheviks”.[5] Similarly they omit the research of such Holocaust historians as Philip Friedman, who had back in the 1950s studied this question and commented on it:

“Ukrainian sources speak of a considerable number of Jewish physicians, dentists, and hospital attendants who served in the ranks of the UPA. The question is: Why did only a small number of them remain alive? The Bandera groups also utilized other Jewish skilled workers. According to Lew Shankowsky, practically every UPA group had a Jewish physician or pharmacist, as well as Jewish tailors, shoemakers, barbers, and the like. Again the question arises: What happened to these hundreds of thousands of Jewish professionals and skilled workers? Betty Eisenstein states that in the spring of 1943 the Bandera groups began to imitate the German tactics of “selection”. Only the skilled workers were left alive, and they were concentrated in special camps, where they worked at their trades or on the farms. One such camp, established in April 1943 near Poryck, Volhynia, contained more than 100 Jews. A second camp, which had some 400 Jews, was located in Kudrynki, nearly 20 miles from Tuczyn, Volhynia. Einsenstein reports that at the reproach of the Soviet army the Bandera groups liquidated the Jews of the camps.”[6]

Moreover Gogun and Vovk do not consider worthy of mention the number of documented cases of Jews, who survived the UPA, of whom we know. And there are indeed not more than five.[7]

The fate of other Jewish physicians, who “participated in the Ukrainian national liberation movement” can be derived from the above mentioned SB’s order, survivor testimonies and from Wehrmacht documents. In one of them we read:  “The UPA has successfully taken up pursuit of the Jewish gangsters and up to now shot almost 100.”[8]

What the authors of the new article consider important and treat as even more important than the original archival documents is an after-war publication by Mykola Lebed’, the prominent OUN-B member who was head of the OUN-B between 1941 and 1943. Lebed’ escaped from western Ukraine in late 1944 to Germany and later to Rome. Immediately after the war in 1946 he wrote and published his book The Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Simultaneously he was seeking contact with Western intelligence services, in particular the CIA and MI6.[9]  Lebed’s motivation to whitewash his own history and the history of the OUN and UPA is more than obvious in connection with his own postwar situation and the war crimes which the OUN and UPA had committed during World War II and in which he was involved; but not for Gogun and Vovk. All the authors have to say about Lebed’s publication, which they introduce as an important piece evidence for the existence of the Jews in the UPA, is: “Maybe, Lebed’ embellished a little the Ukrainian-Jewish cooperation with a propagandist goal but the participation of the Jews in the UPA is a definite historical fact.”[10]

Gogun’s and Vovk’s article appeared in 2005 in the Kiev-Moscow journal Korni.
Then it appeared on the already mentioned ultranationalist website OUN-UPA (http://oun-upa.org.ua/) on which it still remains.[11] Other publications by Gogun can be found on the OUN-UPA website including  his entire monograph Between Hitler and Stalin. The Ukrainian Partisans (Mezhdu Hitlerom i Stalinom. Ukrainskoie Povstantsi).[12] Alongside Gogun’s work the OUN-UPA website presents several publications of such OUN-B activists and historians as Petro Mirchuk, perhaps the most important Cold War whitewasher of the OUN-UPA history, or Volodymyr Viatrovych, the best known radical right Ukrainian historian and author of The Attitude of the OUN to Jews (Stavlennia OUN do Evreїv) in which he arrives at precisely the same conclusions as Lebed’ and Mirchuk.[13]

The OUN-UPA website gives an impression of being the actual website of the OUN, so much so that its authors found it pertinent to add a disclaimer that “this is not the official website” of the OUN and that it only provides “historical materials” about the organization. However, even so, the website is linked to the Waffen-SS Division Galizien website (www.galiciadivision.org.ua) and a number of other no less authentic websites.

[1] For the text of the resolution, see “Nepovnyi tekst postanov II-oї Konferentsiї” in TsDAHOU (Tsentral‘nyi derzhavnyi arkhiv hromads‘kykh biednan‘ Ukrainy) f. 57, op. 4, spr. 346, ark. 14. On taking control of the UPA and killing the leaders of the original UPA, see “Do chleniv provodu Orhanizatsiї Ukraїns’kykh Natsionalistiv pid provodom Stepana Bandery”, f. 57, op. 4, spr. 338, ark. 428-433. See also Grzegorz Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 1942-1960. Działalność Organizacji Ukraińskich Nacjonalistów i Ukraińskiej Powstańczej Armii (Warszawa: Rytm, 2006), 118-121.

[2] For the collaboration of the UPA with Nazi Germany in 1944, see Motyka, Ukraińska
partyzantka 1942-1960
, 229-237. For the ethnic cleansing against Poles in Volhynia and eastern Galicia, and the numbers of Polish, Ukrainian and Russian civilians murdered by the OUN-UPA, see Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 1942-1960, 410-412, 649-650. The Soviets, during their brutal campaign against the OUN-UPA killed 153,000, arrested 134,000 and deported 203,000 members of the OUN-UPA, members of their families and random western Ukrainian civilians, cf. Motyka, Ukraińska partyzantka 1942-1960, 649-650. For the brutal conflict between the Soviets and the OUN-UPA, and the terror conducted by the Soviets and the OUN-UPA against the civilian population, see Jeffrey Burds, “AGENTURA: Soviet Informants’ Networks & the Ukrainian Underground in Galicia, 1944–48” in East European Politics and Societies 11/1 (1997), 89-130; Katrin Boekh, Stalinismus in der Ukraine. Die Rekonstruktiondes sowjetischen Systems nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2007), 339-367; Alexander Statiev, The Soviet Counterinsurgency in western borderlands (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2010), 230-309.

[3] For a brief autobiography of Stets’ko, see “Mii zhyttiepys” in TsDAVOV (Tsentral´nyi derzhavnyi arkhiv vyshchykh orhaniv vlady ta upravlinnia Ukrainy) f. 3833, op. 3, spr. 7, 1-9, ark. 6; Karel C. Berkhoff and Marco Carynnyk, “The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and its Attitude toward Germans and Jews: Iaroslav Stets’ko’s 1941 Zhyttiepys” in Harvard Ukrainian Studies 23, 3/4 (1999): 149-184. On the pogrom in L’viv and other pogroms in western Ukraine, see Christoph Mick, Kriegserfahrungen in einer multiethnischen Stadt: Lemberg 1914-1947 (Wiesbaden Harrassowitz, 2010), 467-477; Christoph Mick, “Incompatible Experiences: Poles Ukrainians and Jews in Lviv under Soviet and Jewish Occupation, 1939-1944” in Journal of Contemporary History 46, no. 2 (2011): 346-349; Bruder, “Den ukrainischen Staat”, 145-150; Ivan Hymka (John-Paul Himka), “Dostovirnist’ svidchennia: reliatsia Ruzi Vagner pro L’vivskyi pohrom vlitku 1941” in Holokost i suchasnist’  2, 4 (2008): 43-79; John-Paul Himka, The Lviv Pogrom of 1941. Paper for ASN Convention, April 2011: http://ualberta.academia.edu/JohnPaulHimka/Papers/536442/Lviv_Pogrom_of_1941 _ASN_April_2011_, (accessed 14 August 2011); Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe, “The ‘Ukrainian National Revolution’ of Summer 1941” in Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 12, no.1 (2011): 83-114, here 101-104;  Dieter Pohl, Nationalsozialistische Judenverfolgung in Ostgalizien 1941-1944. Organisation und Durchführung eines staatlichen Massenverbrechens (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1997), 46, 57-65. On the pogrom and the denying of pogroms and the anti-Jewish violence starting during World War II itself, see Marco Carynnyk, “Foes of our rebirth: Ukrainian nationalist discussions about Jews, 1929-1947” in Nationalities Papers 39, 3 (2011): 315-352, here 328-346.

[4] Eliayahu Yones, Die Straße nach Lemberg. Zwangsarbeit und Widerstand in Ostgalizien 1941-1944, ed. Susanne Heim (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999), 111-112.

[5] Document, no. 44: “Dovidka YShPR pro poselennia vyshkolu kadriv UPA, aktyvizatsiu diial’nosti zahoniv ukraїns’kykh povstantsiv proty partyzaniv i poliakiv” in Litopys UPA, vol. 4, ed. P. Sokhan (Kyiv: Afisha, 2002), 126. See also Statiev, The Soviet Counterinsurgency, 85.

[6] Philip Friedman, “Ukrainian-Jewish Relations During the Nazi Occupation” in YIVO Annual of Jewish Social Science, v. 12, (1958-1959): 189.

[7] Volodymyr Viatrovych counted names of four Jewish physicians:  Samuel’ Noiman, Antin Kol’man, Varm Shai, Abraham Shtertser, and the nurse Stella Krentsbakh, cf.  Volodymyr Viatrovych, Stavlennia OUN do Evreїv. Formuvannia pozytsiї na tli katastrofy (L’viv: MS, 2006), 78-81. However the memoir of Stella Krentsbakh is a falsification, which takes the number down to four. On the falsification of Krentsbakh’s memoir, see Taras Kurylo and John-Paul Himka, “Iak OUN stavylasia do ievreiv? Rozdumy nad knyzhkoiu Volodymyra V”iatrovycha” in Ukraїna Moderna 2, no. 13 (2008): 260.

[8] Frank Golczewski, “Shades of Grey: Reflections on Jewish-Ukrainian and German-Ukrainian Relations in Galicia” in The Shoah in Ukraine. History, Testimony, Memorialization, ed. Ray Brandon and Wendy Lower (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008), 143. For survivor testimonies, see Bruder, Den Ukrainischen Staat, 219.

[9] Richard Breitman and Norman J. W. Goda, Hitler’s Shadow, Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War (Washington: National Archives, 2010), 86. Available also online: http://www.archives.gov/iwg/reports/hitlers-shadow.pdf (accessed 14 August 2011).

[10] Mykola Lebed, Ukraїns’ka Povstans’ka Armiia: її heneza, rist i diї u vyzvol’niї borotbi ukraїns’koho narodu za ukraїns’ku samostiїnu sobornu derzhavu (N.p: Publishing house of the UHVR, 1946). The authors of the article worked with a republication of Lebed’s book from 1993.

[11] Korni, № 25 (January-March 2005), 133-141.

[12] Aleksander Gogun, Mezhdu Gitlerom i Stalinym: ukrainskie povstantsy (Sankt-Peterburg: Neva, 2004).

[13] Viatrovych, Stavlennia OUN do Evreїv. For a review, see Kurylo and Himka, “Iak OUN stavylasia do ievreїv?”,  252-265.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. I would like to thank John-Paul Himka, Dovid Katz and Per Anders Rudling for their assistance while I was preparing this article.

Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, who completed his MA at the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), is currently completing his dissertation, Stepan Bandera: Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Fascist (1909-2009) at the University of Hamburg. He lives in Berlin and works at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies in a project on antisemitism at European universities in the interwar period.

Editor’s note: This debate was continued on DefendingHistory.com by Alexander Gogun; Dovid Katz; Alexander Gogun. There is further discussion on the ‘Memory at War forum’ on Facebook.

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