Lviv pogroms (1941)
Woman chased by men and youth armed with clubs, Medova Street in Lviv, 1941
|Date||June 1941- July 1941|
|Location||Lviv, Occupied Poland (Nazi German Distrikt Galizien)|
|Participants||Germans, Local crowds, Ukrainian nationalists|
|Deaths||In excess of 6,000 Jews |
The Lviv pogroms were the consecutive massacres (pogroms) of Jews in June and July 1941, during the Holocaust, in the city of Lwów, at the time part of occupied Poland, now Lviv, Ukraine. The massacres were perpetrated by German commandos, Ukrainian nationalists and local crowds from 30 June to 2 July, and from 25 to 29 July, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union.
Historian Peter Longerich and the Holocaust Encyclopedia estimate that the first pogrom cost at least 4,000 lives. It was followed by the additional 2,500 to 3,000 arrests and executions in subsequent Einsatzgruppe killings, and culminated in the so-called "Petlura Days" massacre of more than 2,000 Jews, all killed in a one-month span.
Prior to the joint Soviet-German invasion of Poland in 1939, the city of Lviv had the third-largest Jewish population in the interwar Second Polish Republic, which swelled further to over 200,000 Jews as the refugees fled east from the Nazis. Right after the invasion, on 28 September 1939, the USSR and Germany signed a frontier treaty assigning about 200,000 km² of land inhabited by 13.5 million people of all nationalities to the Soviet Union. Lviv was then annexed to the Soviet Union. Of the estimated total of 20,000–30,000 former citizens of Poland executed by the Soviet NKVD as "enemies of the people," nearly 9,000 were murdered in the newly-acquired western Ukraine. Sovietization policies in Polish lands – cordoned off from the rest of the USSR – included confiscation of property and mass deportations of the hundreds of thousands of Polish citizens to Siberia. On Sunday, 22 June 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet Union.
Immediately after the German army entered Lwów, the prison gates were opened and the scale of the NKVD prisoner massacres carried out by the Soviets revealed. An OUN member estimated 10,000 dead victims at Brygidki, although the numbers were later adjusted by the German investigation down to 7,000 in total. The report drafted by Judge Möller singled out the Jews as responsible for the Soviet atrocities in accordance with the Nazi theory of Judeo-Bolshevism. The Einsatzgruppe C with the participation of Ukrainian National Militia, and the OUN leaders, organized the first pogrom, chiefly in revenge for the combined killings at Lviv's three prisons including Brygidki, Łąckiego and Zamarstynowska Street prisons. The German report stated that the majority of the Soviet murder victims were Ukrainian. Although a significant number of Jewish prisoners had also been among the victims of the NKVD massacres (including intellectuals and political activists), the Polish Jews were targeted collectively. An ad hoc Ukrainian People's Militia – which would soon be reorganized by Himmler as the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police – was assembled to spearhead the first pogrom. In the presence of the newly arrived German forces, the infuriated and irrational crowd took the violent actions against the Jewish population of the city. The German propaganda made newsreels that purported to implicate Soviet Jews in the killing of Ukrainians, and the German Foreign Office relayed them to Switzerland.
Historians have since established that the David Lee Preston collection of photographs once believed to show the victims of NKVD killings, is in fact showing the victims of a subsequent pogrom. Jakob Weiss in his Lemberg Mosaic wrote that initially the Ukrainian militia acted independently – with the blessings of the SS – but later were limited to joint operations (Aktions) with German units or otherwise functioned directly under Nazi command. The Ukrainian militia received assistance from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, unorganized ethnic nationalists, as well as from ordinary crowd and even underage youth. At least two members of the OUN-B, Ivan Kovalyshyn and Mykhaylo Pecharsʹkyy, have been identified by Prof. John Paul Himka from several photographs of the pogrom. Holocaust scholar and survivor, Filip Friedman from Lviv, uncovered an official Report of the Reich Security Main Office which documented the massacre as follows: "During the first hours after the departure of the Bolsheviks [i.e. the Soviet Army], the Ukrainian population took praiseworthy action against the Jews... About 7,000 Jews were seized and shot by the [Ukrainian] police in retribution for inhuman acts of cruelty [at Brygidki and the other prisons]..." (dated 16 July 1941).
Killings by Einsatzgruppe
Almost immediately after the first pogrom, in the beginning of July 1941 the Einsatzgruppe C attached to the Army Group South in the invasion of Poland under the command of SS-Brigadeführer Otto Rasch made some 2,500 to 3,000 arrests in Lviv based on lists drawn by OUN, and gathered the detainees in the municipal stadium located next to their own headquarters. Among the prisoners kept overnight and beaten were non-Jewish Poles and scores of people accused of anti-Nazi reputation. The following day, under the supervision of Otto Rasch, the captives were trucked away in groups to a remote killing site (see Janowska concentration camp). The shootings were carried out by Einsatzkommandos 5 and 6 until dawn. Those, still alive at the end of the day were released, although their numbers can only be approximated. A new list of targets delivered by OUN with the aid of Ukrainian students singled out university professors. The academics were arrested along with families and guests on 3–4 July 1941 by the Germans assisted by the Ukrainian guides, split in two groups and massacred at the Wuleckie Hills nearby. Among the 40 victims at least two academics were of Jewish background, Dr. Stanisław (Salomon) Ruff, and Prof. Henryk Hilarowicz (son of Józef Nusbaum, famous zoologist who converted to Catholicism in 1907).
The SS executioners left Lviv several days later according to deposition of Brigadeführer Erwin Schulz, to conduct similar actions in Berdychiv and Zhytomyr. The all-Ukrainian Nachtigall Battalion – which entered Lviv along with them on 30 June 1941 – also left the city on 7 July, in the direction of Vinnytsia. The participation of the Nachtigall regiment in the 3–7 July massacres is presently disputed by Ukraine in spite of numerous eye-witness testimonies, because their uniforms looked similar.
A second pogrom took place in the last days of July 1941 and was labeled "Petlura Days" (Aktion Petliura) after the assassinated Ukrainian leader Symon Petliura. The killings were organized with German encouragement, but the pogrom also had ominous undertones of religious bigotry with Andrey Sheptytsky's awareness, and with Ukrainian militants from outside the city joining the fray with farm tools. Sheptytsky became disillusioned with Nazi Germany only in mid-1942 after his National Council was banned, with thousands of Ukrainians sent to slave labour. In the morning of 25 July 1941 the Ukrainian auxiliary police began arresting Jews in their homes, while the civilians participated in acts of violence against them in the streets. Captured Jews were dragged to the Jewish cemetery and to the Łąckiego Street prison, where they were fatally shot out of the public eye. Ukrainian police circulated in groups of five and consulted prepared lists from OUN. Some 2,000 people were murdered in approximately three days. Thousands of other Jews were injured out in the open.
According to historian of the Holocaust Richard Breitman 5,000 Jews died as a result of these pogroms. In addition, some 3,000 mostly Jews were executed in the municipal stadium by the Germans. The German propaganda passed off all victims of the NKVD killings in Lviv as Ukrainians even though the lists of prisoners left behind by the Soviets had about one-third of distinctly Polish and Jewish names in them. Over the next two years both German and pro-Nazi Ukrainian press including Ukrains'ki shchodenni visti, Krakivs'ki visti and others, went on to describe horrific acts of chekist torture (real or imagined) with the number of Ukrainian casualties multiplied out of thin air, wrote Professor John-Paul Himka.
The Lwów Ghetto was established in November 1941 on the orders of SS-Gruppenführer Fritz Katzmann, the Higher SS and Police Leader (SSPF) of Lemberg and one of the most prolific mass murderers in the SS. At its peak, the Ghetto held some 120,000 Jews, most of whom were deported to the Belzec extermination camp or killed locally during the next two years. Following the 1941 pogroms and Einsatzgruppe killings, harsh conditions in the Lwów Ghetto, and deportations to the Nazi concentration camps, including Belzec and the Janowska concentration camp located on the outskirts of the city, resulted in the almost complete annihilation of the Jewish population locally. When the Soviet forces reached and took over Lviv on 21 July 1944, only 823 Jews found their way back to the Jewish Provisional Committee in Lviv by Dr. David Sobol.
The nature of the Lviv pogroms and their identifiable perpetrators remain controversial. Documents released in 2008 by the Ukrainian Security Services indicated that the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists may have been involved to a lesser degree than originally thought. However, this collection of documents titled "For the Beginning: Book of Facts" (Do pochatku knyha faktiv) has been recognized by historians including John-Paul Himka, Per Anders Rudling, Marco Carynnyk, and Franziska Bruder, as an attempt at manipulating World War II history.
- History of the Jews in Poland
- History of the Jews in Ukraine
- Jedwabne pogrom
- Kaunas pogrom
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