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Stepan Bandera - Hero or Nazi Sympathizer

On January 22, 2010 Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko honored Stepan Bandera by posthumously bestowing on him the state honor, "Hero of Ukraine."  The Soviet KGB assassinated Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist-in-exile, in 1959.  Many Ukrainians, including Ukrainian émigré groups in Canada, pressed Yushchenko to grant the honor, which, according to one statement, "would restore justice and truth about the Bandera and the...struggle for liberation that he headed."  To this day, many Ukrainians view Bandera as a martyred freedom fighter.

As an uncompromising leader of the militant, terrorist branch of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Bandera became a Nazi collaborator who lived with his deputies under German protection after World War II began.  In preparation for the attack on the USSR, the Nazis recruited Bandera's followers to act as Ukrainian-speaking policemen and to serve in two Ukrainian volunteer army battalions.  By working with the Nazis, Bandera hoped to free Ukraine from Soviet rule and establish his own government there.  An independent Ukraine, Bandera promised, would remain friendly to Germany.

Historian Karel Berkhoff, among others, has shown that Bandera, his deputies, and the Nazis shared a key obsession, namely the notion that the Jews in Ukraine were behind Communism and Stalinist imperialism and must be destroyed.  "The Jews of the Soviet Union," read a Banderist statement, "are the most loyal supporters of the Bolshevik Regime and the vanguard of Muscovite imperialism in the Ukraine."  When the Germans invaded the USSR in June 1941 and captured the East Galician capital of Lvov [Lviv in Ukrainian], Bandera's lieutenants issued a declaration of independence in his name.  They further promised to work closely with Hitler, then helped to launch a pogrom that killed four thousand Lvov Jews in a few days, using weapons ranging from guns to metal poles.  "We will lay your heads at Hitler's feet," a Banderist pamphlet proclaimed to Ukrainian Jews.

The Germans intended to keep Ukraine for themselves.  They arrested Bandera for his intransigence on the issue of independence, but released him in 1944 when it appeared that his popularity with Ukrainians might help stem the Soviet advance.  But whatever their disappointment with the Germans, the Banderists never disagreed with their Jewish policy in Ukraine, which eventually killed over 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews.

This is a truth that many in Ukraine, particularly in its western parts, deny.  In his book Erased (2007), Omer Bartov discusses the large bronze statue of Bandera that stands in a park in the east Galician town of Drohobych, most of whose 15,000 Jews were murdered.  The park stands on the site of the town's former Jewish ghetto, but there is not so much as a plaque in the park to memorialize the Jewish dead.  This and other examples like it make a condemnation of Yushchenko's step necessary.

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Lenin beheaded, Bandera erected - Ukraine returning to pre-WWII fascist era collaborating with the West,

But the rest of the story, much of which is revealed in CIA records released in 2007, reveals irony in Yushchenko's award.  After the war Bandera lived in Munich.  British intelligence used him to help run agents into Ukraine to gather intelligence and to help the Ukrainian underground against the Soviets.  The CIA used some of Bandera's former cronies for similar reasons, but never used Bandera himself, owing to Bandera's infatuation with his own legend.  "Bandera," said one CIA report from 1948, "is by nature a political intransigent of great personal ambition [who] has...opposed all political organizations in the emigration which favor a representative form of government in the Ukraine, as opposed to a mono-party, OUN/Bandera regime."

About the author: Norman J.W. Goda is Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Florida. His most recent book is Tales from Spandau: Nazi Criminals and the Cold War (2007), and is co-author of US Intelligence and the Nazis (2005).

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A well known historical fact about Nazi collaborator Pieter Menten in East Galicia. He was unmasked by journalist Hans Knoop and his trial in The Hague brought many facts about local pogroms and executions of the Jewish population. The Ukrainians in Lviv played a major role of collaboration with the Nazis. The defense attorney Van Heijningen was well known to me. There was major media coverage of Pieter Menten's trial in The Hague.

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Tue Feb 25th, 2014 at 09:59:24 AM EST

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