A Slaughter of Jews in Ukraine

Who perpetrated the Lviv pogrom of July 1941?


The day after the proclamation of Ukrainian nationalist leader Yaroslav Stetsko’s state of Ukraine, on July 1, 1941, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) pasted posters around Lviv with Mykola Mikhnovsky’s slogan, “Ukraine for Ukrainians,” printed in white letters against a red background. On the same day in Lviv and in many other localities of Galicia and Volhynia, another poster appeared, authored by Ivan Klymiv sometime earlier; it instructed Ukrainians: “People! Know! Moscow, Poland, the Hungarians, the Jews are your enemies! Destroy them!” These posters issued a clear signal as to what non-Ukrainians in Lviv could expect. And under the conditions of Nazi occupation, the only non-Ukrainians who could be targeted with impunity were Jews.

But much more incendiary than any posters of the new nationalist state was the discovery of the hundreds of prisoners murdered in Lviv by the NKVD in the last days of Soviet rule. Emotions ran high—rage, outrage, grief. Some people went inside the prisons to look for missing relatives. Famously, Roman Shukhevych discovered his brother Yurii’s body in a mass grave in the NKVD prison on Lontsky Street. When the corpses were exhumed and laid out in courtyards so that the public could search for relatives among the victims, a strong stench of rotting flesh permeated areas near the prisons. Photographs from the time show people with kerchiefs over their mouths and noses to blunt the stomach-churning smell. Isolated incidents of anti-Jewish violence escalated into the Lviv pogrom of July 1, 1941.

The word “pogrom” has a number of meanings. The term originated with the incidents of anti-Jewish violence that erupted in cities on Ukrainian territories within the Russian Empire in the early 1880s. These pogroms included much looting of Jewish businesses, beatings and rapes of Jews, and some murders. The pogroms of 1903-06 on the same territories were similar. But the pogroms in Ukraine of the civil war period, largely perpetrated by soldiers, were marked by great numbers of murders. Pogroms initiated by the Nazis, as when they seized Vienna in March 1938 and throughout the Reich in November 1938 (the November pogrom, often called Kristallnacht), primarily involved the destruction of Jewish property, the humiliation of Jews, and assaults, although there were also some murders.

The Lviv pogrom of 1941 combined many features of the preceding pogroms: There were beatings, sexual assaults and humiliations, murders by the urban crowd, shooting by soldiers, and ritual humiliations; Jewish apartments were robbed, but not their businesses, if we can speak of the businesses nationalized by the Soviets as in some sense still Jewish.

The main stages of the pogrom were three prisons in Lviv where bodies of the NKVD victims were exhumed, although anti-Jewish violence and humiliations also occurred in other areas of the city, particularly in the central town square (rynok), but also near the opera house and near the seat of the Greek Catholic metropolitan’s residence, St. George’s hill. Two of the prisons were close to largely Jewish neighborhoods: the Brygidky prison and the prison on Zamarstyniv street. As numerous Jewish survivors’ accounts make clear, members of the Ukrainian National Militia entered nearby apartment buildings and rounded up Jews, men and women, and took them to the prisons. The other prison, the NKVD prison on Lontsky Street (now a museum) was closer to the center of the city, outside the Jewish neighborhood. For this prison Jews were rounded up off the street by militiamen and volunteers from the urban crowd. They were marched with their hands up, sometimes on all fours, to the prison.

How did the pogrom start? It grew out of a general policy of the Wehrmacht to force Jews to do repairs and cleanup after war-related damage. German troops made Jews repair streets in Lviv that had been damaged by bombardment. Not infrequently, the impressment into labor was accompanied by physical harm or even death. On June 30, 1941, Czeslawa Budynska, her sister, and a neighbor girl were put to cleaning up battle sites in the city. The women were beaten and pushed as they carried out their tasks. Men were also drafted to the work, but according to Budynska, they were drowned later in the day.

When the Germans entered Lviv, they discovered many hundreds of corpses in the prisons, heaped up or hastily buried in mass graves. Someone had to exhume the bodies, and it was not surprising that the Germans assigned Jews to this task, a nasty one, since the bodies fell apart as they were retrieved and the stench was unbearable. Outside Lviv, too, Jews were routinely assigned to exhumation work in localities where NKVD victims were found. Thus Jews, whom both the Nazis and Ukrainian nationalists identified as carriers and beneficiaries of Bolshevism, were placed at the forefront of the NKVD crime, in a position that appeared to be punishment for their own criminal responsibility. Moreover, this was in a context in which Ukrainian public opinion was being influenced to regard the Jews as the main perpetrators of the refined tortures and mass killings that the numerous decomposing corpses indicated.

Impressing Jews into work at the prisons posed a problem: finding and assembling Jews. As Dieter Pohl correctly noted:

One should not underestimate the practical problems these SS men faced when they entered the Western Ukrainian towns. They did not know the population, the topography, and of course neither did they know the language. Thus, they were totally dependent on interpreters, local administrations or the militias that surfaced in June 1941.

In Lviv, it was the Ukrainian National Militia that rounded up the Jews and participated in the violence against them. There is a photo from the time showing a uniformed militiaman pulling the hair of a half-undressed woman at the gate to the prison on Zamarstyniv street. There is a film that shows a militiaman with his armband beating a Jew with a truncheon inside one of the Lviv prisons. Numerous survivor testimonies and memoirs describe the arrests and brutality of the militiamen. The militia rounded up many more Jews than could be put to use in the exhumation project. Jewish women were rounded up primarily for misogynist sport. The extra men just huddled in the courtyards of the prisons, trying to avoid additional assault.

Although the militia played a major role in the pogrom of July 1, it was not the only OUN contributor to the anti-Jewish violence on that day. Some part in the pogrom activities was also taken by a military unit in German service commanded by Shukhevych. This was the Nachtigall (“Nightengale”) battalion, one of two battalions of what the nationalists called the Legion of Ukrainian Nationalists, although contemporaries also called it the Ukrainian Bandera legion. The place of Nachtigall in the pogrom has been confused by a campaign launched in 1959-60 by the German Democratic Republic and the Soviet Union aimed at taking down the government of Konrad Adenauer in the Federal Republic of Germany. Because Adenauer’s Minister for Displaced Persons, Refugees, and Victims of War Theodor Oberländer had been a liaison with Nachtigall back in 1941, the East Germans and Soviets tried to blame the Lviv pogrom entirely on the nationalist unit. Many manufactured testimonies were collected to prove the case, and although the evidence was flimsy, Oberländer was forced to resign from Adenauer’s cabinet. In February 2008 the Security Service of Ukraine (the SBU) released a number of documents that showed how the KGB had concocted the evidence against Oberländer, leaving no doubt about the falsity of their accusations against Nachtigall.


July 8, 2023 | 8 Comments »

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8 Comments / 8 Comments

  1. @Reader

    I don’t get the logistics of it.

    It would be a matter of smuggling weapons across the border – obviously not tanks or rockets but small arms and explosives to bleed the occupying Russian forces – perhaps this is where your confusion lies. I don’t believe providing the Galicians with the means to mount an insurgency would be an insurmountable task, not at all.

    Also, I agree that Russia didn’t want any of this to occur, this is quite clear. That being said, I think including the Novorussia territories into the Russian Federation is easily not an uncomfortable move for either the Russians nor the majority of Ukrainians in these territories. The same will not likely be true of Transcarpathia, Galicia, etc.

    I do agree that Russia may be forced to do this in any event, but I do beleive that Putin would much prefer to settle this otherwise and has not been held back exclusively due to military concerns as is popularly believed.

    Perhaps you are correct about the Romania, Hungary and the others willing to suffer the consequences of acting against the ruling Atlanticists, but personally I would be surprised.

    A very sad situation, with not much chance of that changing anytime soon.

  2. @peloni

    Russia doesn’t want Ukraine or any of the other post-Soviet countries, it was Russia who let them all go in the 1990s in the first place, plus, if Russia were to retake Ukraine, it would be faced with the huge cost of rebuilding the infrastructure, the economy, etc.

    If it wanted to take Ukraine, it would have invaded it in 2014 and stopped that Maidan thing instead of trying for 8 years to negotiate those Minsk agreements and trying to get the West to agree that Ukraine should remain neutral while the Ukrainian military kept killing thousands of people in the “rebellious” Donbass.

    However, Russia may be forced to do it, the same way it had to take Crimea and to start that “special operation”.

    Russia will have a big burden if it takes Ukraine but it will have a much bigger problem if Ukraine continues on its warpath goaded on by the West.

    If Russia were to conquer Ukraine, how would Ukraine be able to

    still be receiving the benefits of US weaponry and US instruction on how to carryout such an insurgency with expertise


    I don’t get the logistics of it.

    In terms of certain countries accepting or not accepting chunks of the Western Ukraine that used to belong to them – Hungary is clearly counting on picking up the Hungarian-speaking areas if and when Ukraine falls apart, Poland has been DREAMING about grabbing those parts of Ukraine that it thinks rightfully belong to Poland, etc.

    Besides, if they won’t take it, Russia will keep it but I suspect that these countries would rather quit NATO and the EU than forgo getting some extra territory, and the Western Ukrainians would rather be citizens of these countries (like they used to be) than live in Russia.

    BTW, those countries (especially Poland) may rush to grab the territories even if they are not offered them if and when they see the opportunity.

  3. @Michael
    The Russians are not barbarians. They are simply reacting to an existential threat as any nation should. In fact, Russia is reacting with far less intensity than they US would have responded should Kennedy and Krushev not have come to agree to the secret deal which they struck to avoid war. The implication of the West to refuse any such similar negotiation with Russia prior to the war speaks clearly to the reality that if there were any party which should be titled as being barbarians, it would be the US and its well entrenched MIC supported war party. Perhaps you will address this topic, or perhaps you will continue to offer your scorn for the reality which failed to even attempt a Cuban Missile Crisis 2.0 solution. Either way, I would suggest that the implication is a fair one to make, and a clear one as well.

  4. @Reader
    I am not convinced it is necessarily a good idea that Russia seize all of Ukraine. In fact, it may be that the political considerations of doing so are as much responsible for Russia’s decision to not move significantly further west, albeit there are military obstacles as well as geopolitical considerations with which moving further West would face.

    Ignoring the other factors for a moment, however, should Russia seize Galicia and the rest of Western Ukriaine, how would they deal with the obvious insurrection which would be mounted against them while occupying a hostile territory, which would still be receiving the benefits of US weaponry and US instruction on how to carryout such an insurgency with expertise – something which is quite within the practiced ability of the US to do. Should the Atlanticist still hold sway over eastern Europe, which they will, they may be able to hold these members from accepting the territory which Russia would like to cede to them. Given the tight discipline with which the US and EU have demonstrated to have over the Eastern European nations under its control, this might not be an impossible task for them to complete – recall that for example, they have been so far able to gain Germany’s acceptance of its deindustrialization in pursuit of this war, something which was clearly against Germany’s own interests to do. If Russia seizes these the whole of Ukraine and is unable to offload the relative territories to their former owners, what then? Would Russia simply retreat, accepting the ridicule of West for their efforts of seizing the territory and unable to hold it? Or would they remain while being host to a US enforced local insurrection bleeding Russia physically and metaphorically?

    Next, add to this unpleasant possibility that the geopolitical implications of Russia ‘freeing’ Ukraine while facing the wrath of the local population would not benefit Russia. This would, in fact, not sit well with Russia’s partners, or at least not all of them. It would also motivate a greater interest in the West to ‘Remember the Alamo’ their way into WWIII.

    But more pertinent than all of this, remains the reality that Russia is not at war with Ukraine, nor even with the Galician ideologues of Ukraine. Rather this war has been a measured and incremental attack by the West on both Russia and Ukraine, which could not be resolved by the seizure of Western Ukraine, but instead, it does have the potential of greatly complicating Russia’s position.

    We will have to see what comes next, but the reality is that seizing all of Ukraine will likely not be seen to be the zero sum game which it appears.

  5. @peloni

    I agree with you 100%.

    I will add that the only way to prevent the final takeover and destruction of Ukraine by the Ukrainian nationalists is a complete and speedy takeover of Ukraine by Russia, making it Russian forever, jailing Zelensky, et al., and handing over the Western Ukraine (Galicia, etc. ) in pieces to Austria, Hungary, Romania, and (I am not sure about that one – Poland), so that it becomes again just as it used to be before the “Russian barbarians” added a lot of land to it, made a state (the Ukrainian Socialist Republic) out of it, forced every schoolchild in Ukraine to learn Ukrainian, and got kicked in the face for all their efforts.

  6. We are not living in 1941. We are living in 2023, a time in which Russian barbarians, whom both of you heartily support, are slaughtering innocent women and children and destroying livelihoods — all for pure, unadultered vanity.

    [1] Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
    [2] But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.
    [3] And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?
    [4] Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
    [5] But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
    [6] Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
    [7] To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
    [8] But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
    [9] Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
    [10] But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
    [11] For there is no respect of persons with God.

  7. @Alex
    The unvarnished truth in what you write is hard to challenge, and yet there will be an unkind epilogue which will result from this Jewish demagogue who has led his nation to the brink of complete destruction and very well past it.

    This epilogue will be seen to be as terrible as it is inevitable when all of the smoke and mirrors disappear, and a final tally of the likely hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers become realized and the millions of displaced persons becomes felt in a nation left with no economy, little to no sea access, and unexploded munitions scattered across its cities and farms. Nicolai Petro has written a book describing Ukraine as a modern telling of a Greek tragedy, and this becomes more realized with every passing day and every policy passed thru this Jewish puppet’s august position as president-til-the-war-ends. We do not need to guess where the antisemitic nature inherent in Ukraine will focus its hatred in the weening hours of having not only lost the war, but lost its most valuable land assets, its great sea ports, and likely most of its men disproportionately among most of its lost population. The remnant remaining will itself be disproportionately of that Galician element which had been placed in power by the US coup, and whose identity was first imposed upon the Ukrainian people following the Orange Revolution of 2004, and later once again reimposed following the Madian Revolution. So with the Nazi/Nationalists being all that remain in this well rumped state, the Jews still remaining in this Borderland-wasteland state will be once again seen to be the source of all their woes. This will be the moment when those Jews who rallied around the Galician-styled state, complete with its Jewish taskmaster dealing death to Ukraine and Ukrainians alike, will realize their great mistake in casting their support of the state, the regime or its current leader, all of whom they currently, and foolishly, defend and avow as being most righteous.

    Indeed, the most apparent element of this tragedy formerly known as Ukraine will be seen to be the tragedy which will befall our Jewish cousins in this failed mafia state which was deployed as a US proxy under the guise of the leadership of the Jewish automaton known as Zelensky. And as the Jews of Ukraine are once more treated to a rich Ukrainian embrace, Zelensky will be soaking up the sun in his Florida estate with piles of cash and cocaine at his beckoned call.

  8. Zelensky is one of the greatest Jews ever walking on this planet. God sent him here to retaliate against Ukrainians for killing hundreds of thousands of Jews. No one has killed more Ukrainians than Zelensky. He destroyed Ukraine, reduced it to rubble, cut its population by almost half, and continued killing its men at the rate the Ukrainians may not be able to reproduce.