Saturday 3 February 2018

Poles and Ukrainians murdering Jews

The Polish government, which generally gets an unfairly bad press from liberals, is very wrong to want to make it illegal to refer to the wartime German death camps in Poland as 'Polish death camps'. 

Here is very interesting information about Poles and Ukrainians killing Jews after the Germans invaded in 1939. I knew Ukrainians did so but had not known about the Polish killing spree. I did know of Poles murdering Jews after the end of the war on at least one occasion and about the war between Poles and Ukrainians that continued after Germany surrendered.

What is certain is that no historical writing or theory should be illegal except, because of their responsibility for massacring Jews during the war, holocaust denial in Germany and Austria. The world needs much more 
freedom of speech, not less.

I just finished rereading Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe's authoritative biography of Stepan Bandera. Bandera was a very charismatic Ukrainian nationalist who before 1939 was

imprisoned in Poland for political murders. 

After the Germans invaded Poland he was unable to be a war criminal, much though he wanted to be one, because he was under 'honourable arrest' in comfortable quarters in a German prison camp, until shortly before the Communists reconquered Ukraine. His supporters killed tens of thousands of Jews and Polish women and children, as well as Soviet soldiers and Communists.

He had wanted to collaborate with the Germans and the Germans would have been clever to have collaborated with Ukrainian nationalists and entered the country as liberators. This would have made their conquest of Ukraine easier even though, had the Germans won the war, they intended to starve to death millions of Ukrainians, making the rest slaves.

After 1945 Bandera collaborated with German officers, whom he had worked with in the war and who were now in the West German secret service, to aid the anti-Communist resistance in Ukraine, but all his agents in the USSR were turned by the KGB, which is why M16 and other secret services would have nothing to do with him. 

In the end Khrushchev had him murdered in West Germany. In Western Ukraine he is considered a hero. I saw statues of him there and many pictures and posters. 

He believed he was a providential national leader and he was a remarkable man, but circumstances, rather than character weaknesses, meant he never could have taken power in Ukraine except as a Nazi puppet. He had much more in common with Hitler than with Pilsudski or Antonescu. He can also be compared to a lot of Third World nationalists, including monsters like Idi Amin, Mugabe and Castro and possibly, to some extent, with more benign figures like Mandela or Ataturk.

Dr. Rossolinski-Liebe writes in exhaustive and exhausting detail about Ukrainians slaughtering Jews, Poles and Bolsheviks from 1939 onwards. He mentions antisemitism, racism, the desire to steal the victims' property and other reasons why Jews were killed, but does not go into the killers' motivation in very great depth.

In a footnote he says that by 1941, when Ukrainians began killing very large numbers of Jews, there were not a disproportionate number of Jews in senior positions in the NKVD but he says, in the same footnote, that in 1936 Jews at the top of the NKVD had outnumbered ethnic Russians. 

He points out that some people who had been killed by the NKVD were themselves Jewish. Ukrainians nevertheless no doubt often conflated Jews and Bolsheviks, as did many of the White Russians within and outside the borders of the USSR.

As for Poles, they had ruled the Western Ukrainians until 1939 and had been for centuries the landed class. Slaughtering them was a peasants' revolt. I'd imagine Ukrainians slaughtering Jews was partly for class reasons. Remember that the Romanian Peasants' Revolt of 1907, always considered the last peasants' revolt in Europe, was probably as much an anti-Jewish pogrom as a revolt against landowners. 

The Red Terror in Spain was a revolution that took place behind the Republican lines in the Spanish civil war and involved murdering landowners and priests - perhaps that was a peasants' revolt too.

Civilisation is, as conservatives know, a thin crust, in Europe as everywhere else.

The Banderists wanted to kill Jews and Poles for nationalist reasons, the Germans for reasons of biological racism and in order to empty the Ukrainian plain, to enable it to be the German equivalent of the Wild West (Hitler was an avid reader of Westerns). The Bolsheviks wanted to kill class enemies and anti-Communists.

Israeli historian Omer Bartov has written 
Anatomy of a Genocide about the bloodbath, involving former friends and neighbours, that took place in 1941 in the border town of Buchach or Buczacz, now in Ukraine but between the war in Poland, where his mother came from. 

This review by Jonathan Steinberg in The Spectator, makes the book sound very much worth reading and the town worth visiting. I hope to go this year.

Poland had defeated Lenin in the so-called 'Miracle of the Vistula' in 1920 and thus saved Europe from Communism - for 25 years. They also thereby took possession of much Russian territory where most of the inhabitants were Ukrainians. 

The Ukrainians failed to preserve their short lived state from the Communists and ended up, if they were lucky, ruled by Poland. If they were very unlucky indeed they were ruled by the Bolsheviks. 

In Poland Ukrainians, or at least Ukrainian nationalists, looked longingly to Nazi Germany as a possible saviour. Perhaps Ukrainians in the USSR who survived the communist artificial famine did so too.

After the defeat of Poland in 1939 the Red Army occupied Buczacz. According to Jonathan Steinberg's synopsis of Anatomy of a Genocide,

'...the Jews greeted them with enthusiasm, ‘rejoicing that Hitler had not come to the city’. Jewish communists took over city jobs, to the fury of the Poles.
The Soviets, according to Father Ludwik Rutyna, relied on Jews to identify whom to arrest:

"I saw how they threw their captives like cattle into the truck and sat on top of them with their rifles and took them away. These were teachers, people from the administration whom they unfortunately all later slowly murdered."
On 22 June 1941, the Germans attacked and caught the Russian forces unprepared. On the night of 4-5 July 1941 Ukrainians seized control in Buczacz and murdered any Russians, Jews or Poles they caught while the German soldiers introduced pit-killings.

The distinguished historian Timothy Snyder seems to have gone off his trolley lately and is writing that it is 'pretty much inevitable' that Donald Trump will try to impose a state of emergency and overthrow democracy in the USA. Please remember never to think historians, qua historians, have any insights whatsoever into politics. He is still a fine historian though, and has written very interestingly about the killings in this region in Bloodlands, a book I reviewed and summarised here. 

He was savaged by some historians on the the far left for comparing the crimes of the Nazis and Communists. (I am not making this up, as you will see if you read my article about his book).


  1. That is exceptionally well written Paul. There was a low intensity insurgency in Eastern Poland in the 1930s - a special formation the KOP - The Border Defence Corps was set up to deal. It only recruited ethnic Poles .

  2. The reaction of the establishment to those questioning the Holocaust is the same as medieval clergy reacting to heresy. Nothing should be off limits to normal academic enquiry. Yet this is the only topic which is. Holocaust revisionism should be legal everywhere including in Germany and Austria. Especially those countries.

    Jews do not care about freedom of speech so their attacks on Poland for "criminalising discussion" of history is grotesquely hypocritical. Poland should respond by demanding that Jews apologise for their role in Communism and the Stalinist oppression of Poland. It was the Jews who were delirious with joy when Red Army tanks rolled into Eastern Poland in 1939.

    1. Nothing should be off limits and people who claim millions of Jews were not murdered during the Second World War should be free to do so and free to have their arguments ripped part. There is no doubt that millions of Jewish non-combatants were murdered.

      Himmler made a speech on October 4, 1943 to SS officers in Poznań, of which a tape recording exists, in which he said:

      ‘I want to also mention a very difficult subject . . . before you, with complete candor. It should be discussed amongst us, yet nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public. Just as we did not hesitate on June 30 to carry out our duty as ordered, and stand comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them—about which we have never spoken, and never will speak. That was, thank God, a kind of tact natural to us, a foregone conclusion of that tact, that we have never conversed about it amongst ourselves, never spoken about it, everyone . . . shuddered, and everyone was clear that the next time, he would do the same thing again, if it were commanded and necessary.

      'I am talking about the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. It is one of those things that is easily said. [quickly] “The Jewish people is being exterminated,” every Party member will tell you “perfectly clear, it’s part of our plans, we’re eliminating the Jews, exterminating them, a small matter.” [less quickly] And then along they all come, all the 80 million upright Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. [mockingly] They say: all the others are swine, but here is a first-class Jew. [a few people laugh] And . . . [audience cough] [carefully] . . . none of them has seen it, has endured it. Most of you will know what it means when 100 bodies lie together, when 500 are there or when there are 1000. And . . . to have seen this through and—with the exception of human weakness—to have remained decent, has made us hard and is a page of glory never mentioned and never to be mentioned. Because we know how difficult things would be, if today in every city during the bomb attacks, the burdens of war and privations, we still had Jews as secret saboteurs, agitators and instigators. We would probably be at the same stage as 16/17, if the Jews still resided in the body of the German people.'

      Many British soldiers entered Dachau and other death camps. I spoke to a Jew who was in Auschwitz.

    2. You could of course argue that the tape recording of Himmler's Poznan speech is a forgery. I linked years ago to this harrowing interview with an elderly Auschwitz guard. I recommend it.

      What is shocking, I said, was how normal the old man makes Auschwitz sound. In other words how matter of fact he is as if to him and the other guards it was normal. This was an unwise thing of me to say, as my words have been twisted by a couple of readers who are either malign or very obtuse, who said I think Auschwitz was normal. Of course I think the opposite.

    3. Dachau was liberated by the Americans not by the British and no historian today would agree with you that Dachau was a death camp. The camps believed to have been extermination centres were Auschwitz, Treblinka, Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek and Chelmno. All were liberated by Soviet forces.

      I don't argue that the Himmler recording is a forgery and I certainly don't deny that very large numbers of Jews were murdered by the Nazis but there are reasons to be skeptical about Jakob W's testimony. He writes:

      "I mean, when one of the trains arrived, with 200 or 300 people, then they, if there were too many, had to wait outside."

      200 or 300 people seems a surprisingly small number of passengers and we know that the huge Birkenau gas chambers could cope with much larger numbers of people, about 1,200 to 2000 people at a time. With such small convoys why would there have been a backlog? This sounds a bit fishy.

      He also says,

      "The crematorium chimneys weren't very tall. Depending on the wind direction, it stunk badly. And starting in 1944, the crematoria weren't able to keep up. Next to them was a ditch, perhaps three or four meters across. A fire was burning in the trench day and night. Two men were always carrying straps that they used to pull them (Eds. note: the corpses) out of the gas chamber, removed the straps and threw them into the fire. If you were standing in the area, it was impossible to look away."

      Again, not saying he's lying but why would the Germans devise a cremation system that doesn't keep up with industrial scale gassings? And why would they have only two men on the job moving so many bodies? Such extreme inefficiency tends to go against everything we know about the Germans.

      Also he describes a 'fire of corpses' which "never went out day and night." Yet again, as with other eyewitness accounts he fails to mention the extremely dramatic and bright cherry-red skin discolouration that would have appeared on the corpses following death by cyanide gas because of blockage of oxygen transport. A pile of gassed corpses would have looked like a pile of lobsters. That image would stick in someone's mind forever and would be unforgettable yet none of the eyewitnesses describe this. I'm not saying that Auschwitz wasn't an extermination camp only that the eyewitness evidence we have seems very unreliable and contradictory.

    4. I made a mistake and had in mind that the British liberated Belsen.

      Yes the very great majority of murdered Jews were murdered on the Eastern front not in Germany.

      I am glad that you don't deny that very large numbers of Jews were murdered by Germans and do not think the tape recording of Himmler's speech at Poznen a forgery.

      It is a mistake some people make to think that most Jews killed in the war by Germans and others were gassed. Most were killed in other ways.

  3. Polish law You write about is not against statements "some Poles were collaborators" becouse some people of many nationalities in all German occupied countries were collaborators. It is about defamating Poles as a whole nation.

  4. >What is certain is that no historical writing or theory should be illegal except, because of their wartime crimes, holocaust denial in Germany and Austria.

    No. Either everything is granted criticism or nothing is. People should willingly debate the deniers and expose them as wrong once and for all if need be.

  5. Dr. Grzegorz Rossolinski-Liebe is very hostile to Ukrainian nationalism and it is obvious reading his life of Bandera that he is writing it to attack present-day nationalist points of view. Many other Western historians of Ukraine, including the very left-wing Tarik Amar, see nationalism as inherently malign, as most Western academics these days do. Anne Applebaum is not an academic and her pro-EU, pro-refugee, globalist, liberal views annoy me immensely, but she does not fall for this and writes in praise of reasonable and moderate nationalism here.

    Here is a view that is worth reading:

  6. Death Camps in Occupied Poland" would be more accurate - "Polish Death Camps" implies that the Polish government created them, when it was the National Socialist German government that did so. There were Poles who sided with the Germans - but very few of them. It was different in the Ukraine - but one must remember that many millions of Ukrainians had been murderd by the Marxists in the 1930s. and not all (certainly not all) Ukrainian nationalists were antisemitic. Hate can twist people - including Jews. I recently watched a television documentary about a group of Jews who plotted to kill millions of Germans (by poisoning the water supplies of major cities) in revenge for the Holocaust - had they actually done it (they did NOT) they would have killed vast numbers of innocent Gernmans after the war. Their suffering had sent them mad-with-hate - as they now admitted. Suffering does not give a person the right to inflict suffering on innocent people - only people driven mad by their suffering (the memory of murdered loved ones and so on) think it does. Hunting down SS men is one thing - poisoning innocent Germans is quite another. A Ukrainian who had seen loved ones deliberatly starved to death (the food confiscated from their farm - at gun point - and armed guards shooting any Ukrainian who tried to leave the Ukraine to find food in the 1930s) could be driven mad-with-hate in the same way. The irony was that "Stalin" himself hated Jews.

    1. "The irony was that "Stalin" himself hated Jews."

      False. The belief that Stalin was anti-Jewish is a favourite myth of the anti-Soviet Left and Russian Nationalists alike. Stalin never hurt anyone because they were Jewish. He enforced the ban on anti-semitism which was a capital crime. Stalin's move against the Jewish Trotskyites were purely about power and tactics. Stalin was a philosemite to the core. He said to a foreign Jewish journalist:

      "National and racial chauvinism is a vestige of the misanthropic customs characteristic of the period of cannibalism. Anti-semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism.
      Anti-semitism is of advantage to the exploiters as a lightning conductor that deflects the blows aimed by the working people at capitalism. Anti-semitism is dangerous for the working people as being a false path that leads them off the right road and lands them in the jungle. Hence Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable, sworn enemies of anti-semitism. In the U.S.S.R. anti-semitism is punishable with the utmost severity of the law as a phenomenon deeply hostile to the Soviet system. Under U.S.S.R. law active anti-semites are liable to the death penalty."

  7. Actually, the Bandera wing of OUN (OUN-B) distinguished itself from the Melnyk wing (OUN-M) because Bandera refused any collaboration with the Nazi's. Melnyk did not.

  8. Civilisation is a thin crust - well said.

  9. Not my coinage. "All civilization has from time to time become a thin crust over a volcano of revolution." - Havelock Ellis

  10. I'm a Pole. Why don't we call them just what they were? German Nazi Death Camps. Please don't forget that Poland lost 6mln citizens. 3 mln Poles (Catholics) and 3mln Jews were also Polish citizens!

    After reading the Washington Post article mentioned in the blog I have a strange feeling that Germany invaded Poland to protect all the Jews from oppression. Oh wait they were not Germans they were just Nazies. Seriously?


  11. Anonymous, just because you have a certain historical interpretation (which might be more accurate) doesn't make it ok to make illegal to allow other points of view. Supporting such absurd laws makes Poles look more like Nazis/Communists than anything else, to normal people in the world.

  12. From Hitler's writings, it appears that he wanted to rule Ukrainians like the English had done in India - to impose a sort of benevolent, civilizing, yet profitable rule over an inferior people. Never was there a hatred or belief that Ukrainians and Slavs should be exterminated, this is revisionism.

    1. 'The Hunger Plan (German: der Hungerplan; der Backe-Plan) was a plan developed by Nazi Germany during World War II to seize food from the Soviet Union and give it to German soldiers and civilians; the plan entailed the death by starvation of millions of "racially inferior" Slavs following Operation Barbarossa, the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union. The premise behind the Hunger Plan was that Germany was not self-sufficient in food supplies, and to sustain the war and keep up the domestic morale it needed to obtain the food from conquered lands at any cost. It was an engineered famine, planned and implemented as an act of policy. This plan was developed during the planning phase for the Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces) invasion and provided for diverting of the Ukrainian food stuffs away from central and northern Russia and redirecting them for the benefit of the invading army and the population in Germany. The plan resulted in the deaths of millions of people.[1] The plan as a means of mass murder was outlined in several documents, including one that became known as Göring's Green Folder, which quoted a number of "20 to 30 million" expected Russian deaths from "military actions and crises of food supply."'


  13. Thanks for the link and the info! (I was going by Hitler's earlier writings, but his social engineering views must have evolved in time).

  14. It is interesting, but very sad, to note that with the exception of a tiny group of educated persons interested in events in Eastern Europe during the period immediately before, during and after WWII, the British public is generally quite unaware of the tragedies described in this blog and the resulting comments. It is also sad that few events in history have resulted in so much manipulation of the facts. A fascinating blog, but I find it curious that amongst all the horrors discussed here, there is no mention of Stalin's deliberate policy of starving the Ukrainians in the 1930s, which also resulted in the deaths of millions of inhabitants of that benighted country.

  15. Very well-written. Your writing reveals a huge amount of knowledge about European history. I certainly learned a great deal. And I agree that civilization is a thin-crust that cannot be changed simply by restricting speech. Speaking of Poland, this article in FP recently came out that, whether or not you agree (I'm still deciding the same) you may find interesting:

  16. Interestingly I have just listened to J Peterson's personality talk on Hitler and USSR. We view the 2 forms of existentialism that ravaged the 20th century as different, whereas they seem to stem from the same mal: the loss of the overall structure that we use to interpret the world.
    It is profoundly sad that the debate is whether Nazis or Commies were worst or if there is one nation to blame and one nation to consider as slaughtered saints. In truth everyone is capable of become this kind of monster, as history abundantly demonstrates.
    The west is continuing this unstructured approach, even worse, there is the new cultural and value relativism. One only wonders what's in store for the 21st century.
    About restricting speech, I wonder if the Poles are happy or sad that they cannot be inferred as having been monsters. So from the Polish point of view this may come as a soulagement.
    The Poles and Eastern Europe in general, at least they try to recapture the Christian structure that was lost in the last century, and that may be of help going forward.

  17. I agree that the Poles are wonderful and a source of hope.