Marko R. Stech (Toronto)
The prelude to the Second World War was Adolf Hitler’s dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, initiated by the Munich Agreement of September 1938. The Ukrainian-inhabited province of Czechoslovakia, Subcarpathian Ruthenia (known also as Carpatho-Ukraine), became autonomous in October 1938 and proclaimed independence in March 1939. However, soon after that, when Hitler did away completely with the Czechoslovak state, he awarded Carpatho-Ukraine to Hungary, which occupied the area and repressed its Ukrainian movement. Thereafter, representatives of Stalin and Hitler began exploratory talks that culminated in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939 which led directly to the outbreak of the Second World War.
As a result of this pact, in September 1939 Poland was invided by Nazi Germany from the west and, soon after, by the Soviet Union from the east. Many Ukrainian political activists in Soviet-occupied Galicia fled the oppressive Soviet rule, and Cracow, in the German sector of former Poland, became an important center of Ukrainian emigre life.
Nationalists in Western Ukraine were originally enthusiastic about the Germans, considering them the lesser evil when compared to the Soviet Union. Following the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, members of the expeditionaty groups of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist (Bandera faction) proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state in Lviv hoping thereby to place before the Germans a fait accompli. However, in July, the Germans responded by arresting Stepan Bandera, Yaroslav Stetsko, and many other prominent nationalists, and by initiating the rule of terror in Ukraine. In particular, the Jewish population of Ukraine was singled out by the Nazis for total extermination…
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MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP PACT. The popular name of the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939 by the foreign ministers of the USSR (Viacheslav Molotov) and Nazi Germany (Joachim von Ribbentrop). The pact was signed immediately after the agreement of 19 August, which granted the USSR 180 million marks for the purchase of German goods. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was one of the most important diplomatic acts in Soviet history. Its formal section, consisting of seven articles, was made public. It specified that the signatories would refrain from aggression against each other, remain neutral in case of war with other states, exchange information, and resolve disputes peacefully. The pact was to remain in force for 10 years. A secret protocol of four articles which was appended to the formal part divided Poland between Germany and the USSR along the Sian River-Buh River-Narev River (roughly following the Curzon Line) and thereby handed over most of the Polish-ruled Ukrainian and Belarusian territory to the USSR and assigned Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Bessarabia to the Soviet sphere of influence and Lithuania to the German sphere. This pact led directly to the Second World War. On 1 September Germany attacked Poland, and on 3 September Britain and France declared war. The USSR invaded Poland from the east on 17 September and occupied the territory assigned to it in the secret protocol…
Molotov Ribbentrop pact (signing)
SECOND WORLD WAR. A secret codicil of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact provided for the division of Eastern Europe between Germany and the Soviet Union. The first step in the division, and also the start of the Second World War, was the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939, following which Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. Soon thereafter, on 17 September, the Soviet Union occupied Galicia, western Volhynia, and Polisia, areas that had been under Polish rule since the end of the First World War. In June 1940 the Soviets incorporated northern Bukovyna and northern and southern Bessarabia, formerly held by Romania, into the Ukrainian SSR. Nazi-Soviet collaboration ended with the German invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941. The Germans took Lviv in June, Kyiv in September, and Kharkiv in October. Ukrainian Galicia was incorporated as a separate administrative district into the Generalgouvernement (the name that the Germans gave to the bulk of the territory of the former Polish state). Northern Bukovyna and Bessarabia were reincorporated by Germany’s ally Romania. Romania also occupied Transnistria, the territory between the Dnister River and the Boh River, including the port of Odesa. Most of the rest of Ukraine became the Reichskommissariat Ukraine, except for the easternmost parts of Ukraine, which were under direct military occupation, and the Crimea, which was under a separate jurisdiction…
Soviet and German soldiers after invasion of Poland in 1939
GENARALGOUVERNEMENT. Political administrative entity comprising the central part of Poland occupied by Nazi Germany in 1939-45 but not incorporated directly into the Third Reich. The capital of the Generalgouvernement was Cracow. It was created by Adolf Hitler’s declaration of 12 October 1939 and was essentially a German colony with a totalitarian regime and only minimal rights for the local population. The Nazis persecuted the inhabitants and deported hundreds of thousands of people to work as forced laborers (Ostarbeiter) in Germany. The Generalgouvernement included the borderlands of Western Ukraine–Podlachia and the Lemko region, Kholm region, and part of the Sian region; covering some 16,000 sq km, these territories had 1.2 million inhabitants of whom 525,000 were Ukrainians and 170,000 were Ukrainian-speaking Roman Catholics (latynnyky). After Germany invaded the USSR, Galicia (the voivodeships of Lviv, Stanyslaviv, and Ternopil) was annexed to the Generalgouvernement on 1 August 1941, increasing its territory to 145,000 sq km and its population to 18 million. Ukrainian territories in the expanded Generalgouvernement covered 63,000 sq km with a population of over 7 million, of which the total number of Ukrainians was nearly 4 million, excluding 500,000 latynnyky…
LEGION OF UKRAINIAN NATIONALISTS. A short-lived Ukrainian military formation in the German army during the Second World War. The unit was formed initially in Austria of former soldiers of the Carpathian Sich, who in June 1939 had been released from Hungarian internment. At the end of August 1939 it consisted of two understrength infantry battalions. On 24 September it crossed the former Czech-Polish border and started to advance through the Lemko region, but the Germans quickly intervened and demobilized it. In April 1941 the military department of the OUN (Bandera faction) recruited two battalions with the approval of German military (Wehrmacht) circles: the northern battalion, Spezialgruppe Nachtigall, and the southern battalion, Spezialgruppe Roland. With the outbreak of the German-Soviet War, Nachtigall marched alongside the German army through Radymno, Lviv, and Ternopil. In July 1941 it was sent into front-line combat in the vicinity of Proskuriv (Khmelnytskyi) and, later, Vinnytsia. During the latter part of August, Nachtigall was taken out of the combat zone and transported to Cracow, where it was disarmed and returned to Neuhammer for internment. Roland marched through Romania and Moldavia and entered Ukraine on 25 July. In August, before it could see any action, it too was disarmed and recalled to Austria…
Nachtigall soldiers in Lviv 30 June 1941
OUN EXPEDITIONARY GROUPS. Secret groups of organizers and propagandists formed by both the Bandera faction and Melnyk faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists from among their members in German-occupied Galicia, Romanian-occupied Bukovyna, and Central and Western Europe. They went into Soviet Ukraine after the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June 1941 to organize local sovereign Ukrainian administrations that took power after the Bolshevik authorities had fled and before the Germans had established control. Plans to send in such groups were developed in early 1941, before the German invasion of the USSR, and were contingent upon a quick German victory. The OUN(B) formed and trained three expeditionary groups in the Sian region and the Lemko region. A month after the German invasion began, those groups had reached (mostly by bicycle and wagon) as far east as the cities of Vinnytsia, Berdychiv, Zhytomyr, and Kryvyi Rih. They organized Ukrainian national activity on the local level, recruited new members, and spread integral-nationalist propaganda and news of the Proclamation of Ukrainian statehood, 1941, made in Lviv on 30 June. In early September 1941 the Gestapo conducted mass arrests of the groups’ members. Some were executed, and the remainder were sent to concentration camps. The OUN(M) expeditionary groups also suffered German repressions and the majority of them were executed…
Teliha, Samchuk and OUN expeditionary group members, Lviv 1941
PROCLAMATION OF UKRAINIAN STATEHOD, 1941. In the wake of Germany’s attack on the USSR on 22 June 1941, several members of the OUN (Bandera faction) set out to proclaim a Ukrainian state in Lviv. They put into motion a bold plan to force the German government to commit itself to an independent Ukraine. It was their hope the Germans would take what they perceived to be a rational course of action and ally themselves with the ‘enslaved’ nations of the USSR; alternately, a proclamation of statehood could provide a rallying point for national resistance in the event that Germany should turn against the interests of the Ukrainian people. Stepan Bandera’s lieutenant, Yaroslav Stetsko, entered Lviv on the same day as the Germans, 30 June 1941, and began the task of state-building. A group of 50 to 200 Lviv residents came to a hastily arranged evening meeting to hear what the OUN ’emigres’ from Cracow had to report, only to witness Stetsko proclaim the Independence ‘Act of 30 June.’ A govenrment organized by Stetsko was effectively paralyzed when he was quietly ushered to Berlin for ‘discussions’ on 12 July 1941, although public perception did not immediately recognize the significance of the move. Shrewdly, the Germans did not begin their mass arrests of OUN(B) members until mid-September, by which time most of Ukraine had been easily occupied. During his brief tenure 29-year-old Stetsko controlled no significant forces and was unable to bring in outside (non-OUN[B]) expertise to his administration…
A copy of the Proclamation of Ukrainian statehood 1941 (‘Akt 30-oho chervnia’)
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