Project commemorating the killing of Jews reveals tensions between Soviet and modern Ukrainian historical narrative. One day during the Nazi occupation of western Ukraine in the second world war, a young Jewish woman slipped out of the ghetto in the town of Rava Ruska to buy some butter in the market. On her way, she was spotted by a German officer, who ordered her stripped naked, made the seller smear her body in butter, and then had her beaten to death with sticks. This story was one of thousands relayed to a team of researchers led by Patrick Desbois, a French Catholic priest who has spent years investigating one of the most under-researched parts of the Holocaust. Killings in western Ukraine were not carried out using the industrialised methods of Auschwitz and other death camps. Instead Jews were rounded up and shot, one by one. Sometimes they were kicked or beaten to death. No records were kept, so keeping track of numbers and locations is difficult. Now, for the first time, monuments have been erected in Rava Ruska and four other towns in west Ukraine to properly commemorate the killings. In four sites around Rava Ruska, around 15,000 Jews were killed in total, Desbois said at the opening ceremony. Until four years ago, villagers would regularly turn up bones when planting vegetables or simply walking in the woods outside the town. “Every crime was different. Jews were killed for their belongings, they were killed for fun, they were killed to rape the girls, they were killed out of anger, boredom, drunkenness,” said Desbois. “When we came here, it was this silent taboo topic. Young people knew nothing about it, and the old people had never spoken about it. But it soon became clear they really wanted to talk.”
The killing of Jews in Ukraine is a neglected chapter of the Holocaust, as the murders have been inconvenient truths in both the Soviet and the modern Ukrainian narratives, Jewish leaders say. According to the Soviet narrative, the Holocaust had no special place in the conflict because the war is commemorated as the overwhelming suffering of the whole Soviet people, rather than any specific ethnic group. In the new western Ukrainian nationalist narrative, putting too much focus on the crimes against Jews obscures the thwarted Ukrainian struggle for independence against both Nazi and Soviet forces as the main tragedy of the war. A new set of controversial history laws, which insist Ukrainian nationalist movements should be recognised as “independence fighters”, has led some to worry that Holocaust memory could again be pushed to one side. There are around 1,000 sites where Jews were shot en masse in world war two in Ukraine, estimated Mikhail Tyaglyy of the Ukrainian Centre for Holocaust Studies, of which approximately only half are marked with any kind of memorial. “Over 25 years of independence, our state has never come up with a proper policy on the Holocaust, either because they were simply not interested or because it did not fit in with their particular ideological bent,” said Tyaglyy. “The young generation of Ukrainians, partly thanks to Maidan [protests] and the new interest in Ukrainian nationalism, have no idea that the history of Ukrainian nationalist movement is difficult and complicated and not just about heroism.” On the same day as the opening in Rava Ruska, another monument was opened in the village of Bakhiv, at a spot where around 8,000 Jews were shot. During the ceremony, two locals, including one local official, shouted out in protest at the inscription, which blamed the Nazis and their “subservient local forces” for the killings. Of course it was a cruel battle and a lot of bad things that happened on all sides. Let’s objectively investigate them. Yuri Shukhevych. The inscription was chosen after months of haggling over the exact wording with various groups. Some Ukrainian nationalist politicians were against any monuments being built at all, said Irina Vereshchuk, the former mayor of Rava Ruska, who supported the project. They thought it was “inappropriate” to have a monument particularly dedicated to Jews, she said. In these killings, the local Ukrainian police force was usually not tasked with the actual shooting, but were frequently involved in the process of rounding up Jews and aiding the German occupiers in other ways. However, the role of locals in the crimes of the Nazis, as well as the massacres of Polish civilians by Ukrainian nationalists, remains a controversial topic in Ukraine. Yuri Shukhevych, the son of one of the main Ukrainian nationalist leaders, spent three decades in Soviet camps due to his family’s political affiliations. Now, aged 82, he is an MP and the author of the new history laws. Asked whether he was comfortable with the Holocaust monument erected in Rava Ruska which blamed locals as well as Germans, Shukhevych deflected the question. “Of course it was a cruel battle and there were a lot of bad things that happened on all sides. Let’s objectively investigate them. But people like to say that our nationalists did things but the Polish didn’t. And what about the Jewish police, the Judenrat, which selected and sorted the Jews? I saw it with my own eyes. But the Jews don’t like to talk about that.”
siehe auch: How Ukraine’s New Memory Commissar Is Controlling the Nation’s Past. Volodymyr Viatrovych was the driving force behind new laws that restrict free speech and regulate how history is written. Since the Maidan uprising and the subsequent attacks on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory by Russia and Russian-backed rebels, there has been intense debate on how to interpret not only Ukraine’s dramatic present, but also its complex and difficult past. Against the background of military and diplomatic struggles, the representation of Ukraine’s history is also embattled, especially the period of World War II. Russian elites have labeled anything and everything they do not like about past and present Ukraine as “fascist.” Partly this is a reflex due to the memory of right-wing Ukrainian nationalism during the first half of the twentieth century; partly this is the result of a failure to find any better way to express anger at Ukraine’s turn to the West. There has been no shortage of Western commentators attacking this crude propaganda. However, among representatives of Kiev’s new post-revolutionary elites, unbiased engagement with Ukraine’s past has also been a challenge. But while the West is pillorying Russian distortions, it is much less at ease criticizing Ukrainian ones: Few Western observers feel sympathy for Putin’s involvement in Ukraine (I myself have none). There are many, however, who seem to welcome any historical narrative ruffling Russia’s feathers or appearing “pro-Ukrainian” or “national” (in reality, quite often nationalist), as the nation is facing outside aggression and domestic crisis. Yet this form of “support” is a disservice—to Ukraine and also to the West’s public and decision-makers. It is alarming that some Western journalists, scholars, and policy-makers are embracing a nationalist version of Ukrainian history that resonates only with part of Ukrainian society and not at all with serious academic discourse in Europe and North America. Front and center in the efforts to produce a nationalist version of Ukrainian history is the former director of the country’s secret-police archives (SBU) and new director of the Institute of National Memory (or UINP) under the current government of President Petro Poroshenko: Volodymyr Viatrovych. Viatrovych (born 1977), from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, first stepped onto the national scene when he was put in charge of the archive section of the newly created Institute of National Memory in 2008 and then head of the SBU archives later that year. In these influential positions, he helped in the effort to “exonerate” a key World War II Ukrainian nationalist leader of any complicity in the Holocaust; presented the nationalist Ukrainian Insurgent Army as a democratic organization open to Jewish members; and focused heavily on Ukrainian victimization during the famine of the 1930s (while, interestingly, also blaming Jews as perpetrators).
anstelle eines Bildes: http://www.irekw.internetdsl.pl/zydzi_ukraina/1/holocaust06022009_082638.html – “This July 30, 1941 photo released by the Yad Vashem Photo Archive shows a woman being chased down the street by Ukrainians rioting during a pogrom in Lvov, Ukraine. For decades, the Holocaust was epitomized by barbed wire fences, gas chambers and death camps, a tragedy amply documented in history textbooks and reflected in solemn memorial sites around the world. The extermination of over 2 million Eastern European Jews by guns in the middle of quiet villages and towns across Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, has been underresearched and the victims have largely been forgotten. Many of their remains still lie unidentified and unmarked.”