O P I N I O N
by Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe (Berlin)
On 8 June 2011, the internet journal Maidan announced that “on 30 July  at 11 AM exactly a flash mob will read the Act of Renewal of the Ukrainian State simultaneously in seven places in Kiev”. The “flash mob” in Kiev will be commemorating the 70th anniversary of the proclamation of the Ukrainian state by the leading OUN-B politician Iaroslav Stets’ko, who in the evening of 30 June 1941 read out the “Act of Proclamation of a Ukrainian State” during a meeting in the hall of the Prosvita Society in the market place in L’viv, the center of western Ukraine.
The Act was proclaimed by Stets’ko, who tried to act as representative of the national will, and not by Stepan Bandera, the providnyk (leader) of the fascist OUN-B, which in 1940 split from the no-less-fascist OUN under the leadership of Andrii Melnyk. After the attack of Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, the Germans confined Bandera in Cracow, and did not allow him to come to L’viv. During the meeting in the Prosvita hall on 30 June, after greeting Bandera, Stets’ko read the formal statement of the Act:
“In accordance with the will of the Ukrainian people, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists under the leadership of Stepan Bandera declares the reestablishment of the Ukrainian state, for which entire generations of the best sons of Ukraine have sacrificed themselves.”
The declaration stated that the independent Ukrainian authority would guarantee order to the Ukrainian people; second, that the Ukrainian state body emerging in western Ukraine would later be subordinated to the authority in Kiev; and third, that the Ukrainian state would closely cooperate with the
“National Socialist Great Germany that under the leadership of Adolf Hitler is creating a new order in Europe and the world, and helping the Ukrainian nation liberate itself from Muscovite occupation.”
The gathering concluded with salutes addressed to Stepan Bandera, Adolf Hitler, and Metropolitan Andrei Sheptyts’kyi and the singing of the national anthem, Shche ne vmerla Ukraina.
Proclamation of the State was Only One Part of the “Ukrainian National Revolution”
For that proclamation, which had not been cleared with the elite of Nazi Germany, Stets’ko, Bandera and a few other leading OUN-B members were brought to Berlin where they were held as political prisoners until September 1944. That was when they began anew their collaboration with the Nazis. Yet even without Bandera and Stets’ko the “Ukrainian National Revolution”, of which the proclamation of the state was only one part, continued for several weeks.
The OUN-B has been preparing the “Ukrainian National Revolution” in the General Government from the middle of 1940 in collaboration with the Abwehr. During this period, the OUN-B applied a range of fascist rituals. One of them was the fascist salute of raising the right arm “slightly to the right, slightly above the peak of the head” while calling “Glory to Ukraine!” (Slava Ukraїni!) to which the response was “Glory to the Heroes!”(Heroiam Slava!).
The “Ukrainian National Revolution” had two principal and intertwined aims.
First was the proclamation of the state after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war.
The second was to carry out terror against the “enemies of the Ukrainian nation” to whom the OUN-B counted first of all: Jews, Poles, Russians, Soviets and non-nationalist Ukrainians.
The OUN-B state was to be cleaned of all of them before and after the implementation of the fascist dictatorship. Leaders of OUN-B wanted their state to become part of the “New Europe” under the aegis of National Socialists, just as in the Slovakian fascist state that had been proclaimed by the Hlinka Party in March 1939 and the Ustasha in April 1941 — but did not happen in the case of the Lithuanian state proclaimed by the Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) on 23 June 1941.
A few hours before the proclamation of the OUN-B state by Stets’ko on the evening of 30 June 1941 a pogrom broke out in L’viv. The pogrom was partly incited by discovery of the bodies of about 3000 prisoners killed by the NKVD and left in L’viv prisons, and partly by the Germans and OUN-B activists who propagandistically exploited these corpses.
The OUN-B militiamen seized Jews on the streets or stormed their apartments. They brought the seized Jews 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. Kurt Lewin, a survivor of this pogrom, who was forced to work in the Brygidki prison, was especially afraid of “an elegantly dressed man in a beautiful embroidered shirt [frequently worn by Ukrainian patriots]” who “beat [Jews] with an ironclad cane. Over time he beat only against the heads. With each hit he wrenched off strips of skin. He put some people’s eyes out, wrenched off ears. When the cane broke, he immediately grabbed a large charred piece of wood and smashed my neighbor’s skull. The skull broke and the brains splattered in all directions, also over my face and clothes” (Kurt Lewin, Przeżyłem. Saga Świętego Jura w roku 1946, Zeszyty Literackie, Warsaw 2006, pp 58-59).
Both OUN-B and the Nazis made use of the powerful stereotype of “Judeo-Bolshevism”. They blamed the Jews of L’viv for the NKVD murders. The pogrom continued until the evening of 2 July. Perhaps 4000 Jews were killed in L’viv by the local forces of the OUN-B, pogromists and German soldiers during this short period of time. L’viv was full of posters celebrating the OUN-B, Adolf Hitler, Stepan Bandera, the “Great German Army”, and the war against “Jewish Communists”. There were many corpses of the murdered Jews in the prison yards and on the streets, in addition to the stench coming from the prison basements filled with the by-then decomposing bodies of Poles, Ukrainians and Jews who had been murdered by the NKVD prior to the Soviet retreat in the face of the German invasion.
During the pogrom Stets’ko was busy writing letters in German, the lingua franca of the new fascist Europe, to Mussolini, Hitler, Franko and Pavelić sending them all warm greetings from the revolutionary L’viv and asking them to recognize his fascist state.
During the first days and weeks of July pogroms took place also in several other localities in western Ukraine. The two largest occurred on 2 and 3 July in Zlochiv and from 4 to 6 July in Ternopil. Like the pogrom in L’viv they were prepared and stimulated by German troops and the OUN-B activists of whom in particular the OUN-B militiamen with (and sometimes without) yellow-and-blue armlets were especially active and brutal. In several localities the pogroms got underway without the intervention of the Germans. In some localities there were no prisons in which the NKVD had left bodies of murdered prisoners.
Altogether perhaps 20,000 Jews were killed during the pogroms in western Ukraine in July 1941. Another several thousand were shot by Einsatzkommandos.
In every village, town and city in which the pogroms took places, the OUN-B activists organized a political gathering at which they announced the Act of 30 July and explained OUN-B’s plans regarding their state as well as the attitude to non-Ukrainians and Ukrainians who did not agree with the politics of the OUN-B. Altogether the OUN-B activists familiarized Ukrainians with the Act of 30 June and their politics in 213 districts across Ukraine — 187 in western Ukraine and 26 in eastern Ukraine.
Unsuccessful Interaction with Berlin
Bandera and Stets’ko were still under house arrest in Berlin during this period. The “revolutionary masses”, stimulated by the OUN-B, collected several hundred “plenipotentiary letters” with several thousand signatures which they wanted to send to Hitler in order to convince him to send their providnyk and their premier back to Ukraine and to accept their fascist Ukrainian state.
Hitler, who regulated the future of Ukraine according to “Generalplan Ost” and not the desires of the OUN-B, did not allow Bandera and Stets’ko to return to Ukraine during or after the “Ukrainian National Revolution”.
It was left to other Ukrainian organizations and individuals to implement the actual collaboration with the Nazis during the occupation of Ukraine. Bandera and Stets’ko were kept as political prisoners in Berlin and Sachsenhausen until September 1944 when they began anew collaboration with the Nazis. They never returned to Ukraine. Remaining in exile after World War II, the OUN-B celebrated the Act of 30 June 1941 each year, together with several thousand Ukrainians who left Ukraine together with the Nazis in 1944.
Stets’ko titled himself the “last premier of a free Ukrainian state” when he met President Ronald Reagan at the White House in 1983.
During numerous celebrations of the Act of 30 June, the Ukrainian diaspora never once mentioned the pogroms co-organized and co-conducted by the OUN-B.
And it will happen again on 30 June 2011 in seven places in Kiev and in several hundred Ukrainian cities, towns and villages.
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.