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[1]  Part 1 (June 24, 2011): Boris Orych and western Ukraine Jews

[2]  Part 2 (July 1, 2011): The killing grounds

[3]  Part 3 (July 8, 2011): Surviving The Holocaust In Lviv

[4]  Part 4 (July 15, 2011): Saving Jewish Heritage

[5]  Part 5 (July 22, 2011): Reconciliation?

Kyiv Post | 24Jun2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak

Ukraine’s vanquished Jews from World War II

Editor’s Note: On June 30, 1941, eight days after Germany declared war on the Soviet Union, Nazi troops marched into Lviv.

They occupied a city overcrowded by refugees and traumatized by two years of brutal Soviet rule, which began in September 1939 with the beginning of World War II.

While Ukrainians largely welcomed German troops in the hope that Hitler would support an independent Ukrainian state, it did not take long for many Lviv residents to realize Nazi rule was no better -- and often worse -- than Soviet.

The situation for the city’s Jews was particularly precarious. Within hours of entering Lviv, pogroms were unleashed against its Jewish community. Over the next two years, Germans, often with the aid of local citizens, systematically annihilated the city’s Jews.

By the time Germans quit Lviv in defeat on July 26, 1944, the Jewish community was decimated. To mark the 70-year anniversary of Germany’s June 22, 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, the Kyiv Post begins a five-part series chronicling the life, death and remembrance of Lviv’s Jewish community.

Undoubtedly, Jews throughout modern-day Ukraine suffered great losses in the Final Solution, Nazi Germany’s plan to eradicate Jews from Europe.

As residents of Halychyna, a historic territory that comprises today’s western Ukraine and eastern Poland, however, Jews there found themselves at the epicenter of the Holocaust.

What remains today are the echoes of a community that inhabited the region for over eight centuries and was the birthplace of many of the Western world’s leading religious, political and literary figures.

Part 1: Boris Orych and western Ukraine Jews

LVIV, Ukraine -- As advancing Nazi forces began bombing outlying areas of Lviv in September 1939, the headlines of local Jewish newspaper Chwila rang with hope: “Large losses for the German military on the Western front”; “Why Hitler will have to lose the present war; the Third Reich’s catastrophic economic and financial situation.”

[W.Z. It is my understanding that the German army never entered Lviv at this time and the Soviet army occupied Lviv on 17Sep1939. Thus it was the Soviet authorities that closed the Chwila newspapers.]

In the weeks before these articles on Sept. 10, [1939?] stories ran of life continuing despite the approaching storm: a series on Jewish history by renowned historian Majer Balaban, a drawing competition for a trip to a local resort and personal ads from a landlady looking for a lodger to a doctor offering help to the sick.

But this issue of Chwila turned out to be the last.

Lviv, then part of Poland, found itself at the conflux of two marauding armies -- Stalin’s Red Army from the east and the Nazis from the west. Both brought with them ideologies that proved devastating to the city’s population, most of all its Jews.

Under Soviet occupation, which lasted until June 1941, all of Lviv’s Yiddish organizations were liquidated and its leaders arrested. Much worse was to come. By the summer of 1944, Nazi efforts to eradicate Jews from Europe forever changed Lviv. [W.Z. What about Polish and Ukrainian organizations and leaders?]

A fuller picture of the life of western Ukrainian Jews started to be pieced together with the opening of archives following the collapse of the Soviet Union [in 1991].

Scholars, journalists and individuals like Boris Orych started combing through the city’s archives and libraries, read through the historian Balaban’s works, a plethora of Yiddish-, Polish-, German- and Ukrainian-language documents, as well as Chwila, which the Soviets had locked away and classified as top secret.

Even though more than 20 tons of archival documents had been removed from Lviv and hauled to Moscow after the war, little by little these individuals began to reconstruct the Jewish community’s past.

Orych, who died shortly after his 90th birthday earlier this year [2011], was considered a walking encyclopedia of Lviv’s Jewish history. For countless years, this spritely man could be seen, rain or shine, giving tours of Jewish Lviv.

Orych had thrust himself into archival research in 1991 just as he was turning 70. The task of reconstructing Lviv’s Jewish history was very personal to him, he told the Kyiv Post in one of his last interviews. [Date of interview and with whom?]

“People should not forget the past,” he said. Orych’s parents died in Auschwitz in 1943; keeping alive the memory of those Jews who had perished during World War II also meant keeping alive theirs. [W.Z. Had they been residents of Lviv? Where were they born? What about Boris Orych? When were they sent to Auschwitz?]

The Jewish past in Lviv stretches back to the city's beginnings.

Jews settled there shortly after the city was founded in the 13th century during the reign of King Danylo Halych.

They established two communities -- one within the city limits itself, and the other in the Krakiv suburb district. Both districts were given relative internal autonomy in 1360 by Polish King Casimir the Great, who had conquered Lviv 20 years previously.

Involved primarily in trade and handicrafts, the community flourished. The latter part of the 16th and first half of the 17th centuries was a “golden period” for Lviv’s Jews, Orych said. Its members achieved significant social status as financiers, doctors and teachers, while religious and cultural thought swiftly developed.

The outstanding monument of Jewish culture in Lviv was built during this period, in 1582: the Golden Rose Synagogue. Orych, who came to Lviv as a refugee in 1939 [from where?], remembers the Golden Rose’s beauty.

“I was struck by the magnificent ornamentation of the interior: the amazing beauty of the brass lighting, supported by deer horns, the sumptuous holy ark, the bimah on which a chair was placed for circumcision,” he wrote in 2005.

Three years after his visit, the synagogue was destroyed by a Nazi bomb. [In 1942? An aerial bomb? Under what circumstances?]

The period of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted from 1772-1918, proved to be more problematic as Jews fought for their civil rights and against assimilation. Lviv became a center for several religious movements, which were sometimes at odds with one another, Orych said. [The Jews obviously had far more civil rights than Ukrainians.]

One such movement, Hasidism, was popular in Lviv. Founded in the mid-18th century by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, who was born in Okopy in today’s Ternopil Oblast, Hasidism was characterized by religious zeal, spirit of prayer, joy and charity and gave many Jews hope in difficult economic times. Today, it is part of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism and pilgrims frequently make visits to sites where revered religious figures are buried.

Orych wrote extensively about those individuals who established Jewish religious schools in Lviv, as well as those who were proponents of Haskalah, or Jewish Enlightenment.

Haskalah, which grew among European Jews in the 18th and 19th centuries, advocated adopting values of enlightenment, pressed for better integration into European society, and increased education in secular studies.

In 1844, Lviv’s first progressive synagogue, the Temple, was established, as well as the city’s first secular Jewish school, which sat close to today’s Opera House.

By World War I, Lviv’s Jewish community had grown in strength and importance. Its Jewish quarters quickly developed, new synagogues were erected, schools, education and culture were on the rise.

But the community also suffered a period of terror -- pogroms which spread throughout Poland in 1918. Up to 150 Jewish residents were killed, hundreds were wounded and looting was carried out by Polish soldiers, citizens and criminals from Nov. 21-23 [1918] that year.

The newspaper Chwila was established in 1919 as a reaction to those events and to give the community a louder voice; other Jewish papers had previously been published in Lviv, but none carried its weight.

Devoted to political, social and cultural affairs, for two decades its contributors included some of the region’s most prominent Jewish figures.

Chwila’s demise in 1939 signaled the start of a new period of terror for Jews in Lviv. [??? Even though "Lviv’s Jewish population, which numbered 110,000 before the war, swells to 200,000?" as indicated below?]

TIMELINE: World War II in Lviv

Aug. 23, 1939 – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in which both powers pledge to remain neutral if either country were attacked by a third party. The treaty contained a secret protocol dividing Northern and Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence.

As part of the pact on:
- Sept. 1, 1939 -- Germany invades Poland
- Sept. 17, 1939 -- Soviet troops cross the [pre-war] Polish border [and occupy Western Ukraine].
- Sept. 22, 1939-June 30, 1941 -- Lviv falls under Soviet rule.

The period is marked by deportations and executions of all nationalities, particularly the elite and those opposed to Soviet rule. Lviv’s Jewish population, which numbered 110,000 before the war, swells to 200,000. [W.Z. If there were mass deportations of Poles and Ukrainians (and perhaps some Jewish "elite") by the Bolsheviks during this period -- creating fear and terror -- why would 90,000 Jews flock to Lviv? Where did they come from?]

June 22, 1941 -- Nazi Germany invades the Soviet Union at 3:15 a.m., violating the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

June 23-26, 1941 -- Nearly 7,000 inmates -- mostly Ukrainians and Poles, but also Jews -- are murdered at three area prisons, including infamous Brygidki. The event becomes a negative milestone in Ukrainian-Jewish relations. [W.Z. Do Jewish organizations mourn these deaths and publicize their names?]

June 30, 1941-July 26, 1944 -- Lviv is occupied by Hitler’s Germany. So-called Aktion Reinhard [Reinhardt?] -- the Nazi code name for operations to round up Jews to send to concentration and death camps -- begin immediately. Over the next two years, some 12 Aktion Reinhard occurred in Lviv, decimating the city’s Jewish population.

July 27, 1944 -- Lviv again falls under Soviet rule. [W.Z. Was there an influx of Jews back into Lviv at this time as occured in Kyiv, Kharkiv and other cities?]

May 7, 1945 -- Germany signs the document of unconditional surrender in Reims, France. All told, the Nazis imprisoned and exterminated an estimated 9 million people, 6 million of whom were Jews. [W.Z. Natalia Feduschak's genuflection to the Holocaust Industry.]

Kyiv Post | 30Jun2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak

Ukraine’s Vanquished Jews: ‘Their fate was clear to them’

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a five-part series that examines the Holocaust in western Ukraine that nearly wiped out the Jewish community during Nazi Germany’s occupation in World War II. This segment examines how the war crimes were carried out in and near Lviv.

VYNNYKY, Ukraine – In 1943, as a teenaged Bohdan Harata walked along a path on the outskirts of this small town near Lviv, he watched as a German prepared to shoot three Jews and send their bodies tumbling into the ravine below.

“He saw that he had only two bullets,” said Harata, now 79, raising a shaking hand to show where they had been standing. “Then he sent one of the Jews to fetch a bullet. The Jew went and then there were three of them. They stood there and waited. The Jew returned. The men didn’t run. Their fate was clear to them.”

[W.Z.  A strange story! One German, two bullets and three Jews died. No attempt to overwhelm the German and/or escape.]

The murder of these three Jewish men who had been working in a forced labor camp in the village was part of what has become known as the Holocaust by bullets -- the killing of Jews in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. [W.Z. This term was recently invented and is being popularized for political purposes to compliment "Holocaust by gas chambers" and to delegitimize Ukraine's independence. They should also invent the term "Holocaust by war, disease, hunger and overwork".]

While much attention has been paid to the gas chambers in death camps on the territory liberated by Allied forces, the killings on what became Soviet land have for decades been largely confined to silent memory.

But new investigations following the collapse of the Soviet Union have led many historians to reexamine Eastern Europe’s place in the Final Solution, the Nazis’ plan to eliminate Jews from Europe.

Between 1941 and 1943, more than 1.5 million Jews met their death by bullets in Ukraine. [W.Z. Did Ms. Feduschak do original research to establish this figure?   Petro Mirchuk estimates that about one million Jews in Ukraine died and another million were evacuated to the East from where they returned after the war.]

They were massacred by mobile killing units called the Einsatzgruppen, Waffen SS units and German police. Local residents who collaborated with the Nazis willingly or by coercion helped in the killing.

Today’s western Ukraine found itself at the epicenter of the Holocaust.

Home to some 570,000 Jews before the war, the region became a grisly theater for two types of murder -- death by bullet and extermination camps that served as the forerunners for the larger, more famous sites in modern-day Poland.

Some scholars think the foundation for the Holocaust in western Ukraine was set in the inter-war period after World War I. In particular, during 21 months -- from September 1939 to June 1941 -- when Moscow controlled the region, the tenuous peace between Ukrainians and Jews was finally shattered.

The groundwork was set for the violence that was to come later.

Jews in today’s western Ukraine had often faced anti-Semitism. In the early years of its existence, Dilo, which for nearly 60 years was the most influential regional Ukrainian newspaper, frequently published items derogatory toward Jews.

Halychanyn, a pro-Moscow newspaper published in Lviv from 1893 to 1913, was even more extreme: several reports on inter-ethnic economic disputes ran under the headline “Jewish vampires.”

Still, “Ukrainian anti-Jewish violence was rare in Galicia (Halychyna) throughout the 19th century and immediately after the First World War,” Frank Golczewski, professor of East European History at the University of Hamburg, wrote in the book “The Shoah in Ukraine.”

“By the start of the Second World War, however, this had changed -- for the worse,” Golczewski said.

A breaking point in the relationship between the Ukrainian and Jewish communities in Lviv Oblast came on May 25, 1926.

On the streets of Paris, Samuel Schwarzbart assassinated Symon Petliura, the national leader who had led Ukraine’s struggle for independence after the 1917 Russian Revolution. During his trial, Schwarzbart said he sought revenge for the Jewish pogroms that had occurred on Ukrainian territory during Petliura’s reign.

Between 35,000 to 50,000 Jews had died then; Schwarzbart lost up to 16 family members in the pogroms.

Petliura’s role in the pogroms continues to be debated today. Scholars generally recognize he did not show personal anti-Semitism. According to Ukrainian press reports from the time, he tried to stop anti-Jewish violence, but he was unable to control his military officers.

At the time of Petliura’s murder, however, Jewish organizations throughout Europe jumped to Schwarzbart’s defense. In Lviv, Dilo and Chwila, the city’s Polish-language Zionist newspaper, carried on a battle of the words.

Ukrainians became outraged after Schwarzbart was acquitted by a Parisian court; many believed he was a Soviet agent.

[W.Z. Symon Petliura was one of the best friends the Jews ever had in Ukraine. With his friend Vladimir Jabotinsky, he tried very hard to incorporate the Jewish ethnic group into the government of  Independent Ukraine. Examination of the still-secret Kremlin documents on Samuel Shwartzbart, would reveal that he was, indeed, a Bolshevik agent. Until Petliura is recognized in the Israeli Knesset as a positive force in Ukrainian-Jewish relations -- instead of being demonized -- there is little hope of a Ukrainian-Jewish rapprochment.]

By 1939, many Ukrainians had come to believe that Jews were associated with Communism. The press was often filled with references to “Judeo-Bolshevism,” pointing out that a number of leaders of the Russian Revolution -- such as Leon Trotsky, Lazar Kaganovich, and Grigory Zinoviev -- were Jews.

[W.Z. Indeed, most of the world believed that Bolshevism/Communism was a Jewish ideology -- including Winston Churchill, Henry Ford and countless other prominent persona. As the father of Yoram Sheftel related to him, in the early days of the Red Army the language of discourse amongst the officer core was Yiddish. Over the past 94 years, many Jews themselves have confirmed this. As a Jewish friend boasted to Paul Humeniuk in Montreal in the 1980's: "We created Communism and when the time comes we will demolish it".]

When the Red Army in 1939 took over Lviv, which was then part of Poland, ethnic tensions were heightened by Soviet policies of repressing all nationalities. Those who did not bow to Soviet rule, including Jews, were deported to Siberia, arrested or killed. [Although probably true, can Ms. Feduschak provide a list of Jews who were deported or killed by the Bolsheviks at this time?]

When German troops marched into Lviv on June 30, 1941, they were welcomed by many Ukrainians who saw them as liberators from the Soviets. [from the Bolshevik terror.]

It did not take long for terror to be unleashed on Lviv’s Jewish population, which had swelled to some 200,000 people, including refugees who had come from parts of Nazi-occupied Poland. The first killings of Jews began on the day Germans entered the city. [In her previous article, Ms. Feduschak indicates that over 90,000 Jews came to Lviv during the "friendly" interlude of Soviet occupation between 17Sep1939 and 22Jun1941.]

Before they quit the city, the Soviets, meanwhile, had murdered some 7,000 political prisoners held in three prisons. Using Soviet propaganda methods, the Germans blamed the massacre of the mostly Ukrainian and Polish prisoners on Jews, and thus helped incite a pogrom that killed some 4,000 Jews over four days.

Lviv’s Jewish ghetto was established in November 1941. Over the next two years, Jews were subjected to so-called “Aktion” operations that involved their mass assembly, deportation and murder, frequently with the help of local Ukrainians, archival documents in Lviv show. [Should not Ms. Feduschak elaborate on these "archival documents"?]

The height of the Aktion came between March and December 1942, when tens of thousands of Jews were rounded up and sent to Janowska -- a labor, transit and concentration camp located on the outskirts of Lviv.

Or the Germans sent Jews to Belzec, which was one of the first Nazi extermination camps. Located 47 miles northwest of Lviv, [in Poland and still] now in modern Poland , it was one of the most efficient death camps. Only two Jews are known to have survived it out of the 430,000 to 500,000 Jews estimated to have died there, including the majority of Lviv’s Jewish population. [Ms. Feduschak is simply repeating propaganda -- or has she done original research on Belzec?]

Lviv itself was declared “Judenrein” -- totally cleansed of Jews -- on Nov. 23, 1943. [By whom?]

Yet it is in places like Vynnyky where average Ukrainians came face-to-face and experienced the intimate nature of the Holocaust.

With a population of 5,000 in 1925, the town was comprised of 3,300 Poles, 2,150 Ukrainians, 350 Jews and 200 Germans.

Harata said he does not remember a Jewish ghetto being established in Vynnyky. Instead, all of the city’s women and children were deported, and a labor camp for men was established shortly after the Germans came.

[W.Z.  Did Ms. Feduschak interview Mr. Harata personally? If so, when and where? If not, who did?]

Harata said when prisoners had served their purpose, or were too sick to work anymore, they were led to the ravine not far from the center of town.

“The Jews went to death calmly,” he said, noting he had witnessed at least 10 executions during the war. “They dug their own graves and then stood at their edge. You did not see fear. They were a deeply religious people.”

Kyiv Post | 08Jul2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak

Ukraine’s Vanquished Jews: Story of how one family saved a Jewish girl

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a five-part series that examines the Holocaust in western Ukraine that nearly wiped out the Jewish community during Nazi Germany’s occupation in World War II. This segment, “Surviving The Holocaust in Lviv,” tells the story of how one Ukrainian family helped a ...

LVIV -- Genya Ruda was one of the few lucky ones. When Nazi occupiers created a ghetto for Jews in Lviv in 1942, the Petriv family bribed a guard to let the little girl out. Then they sheltered her for the rest of the war.

The rest of Ruda’s family perished, as did most of the estimated 220,000 Jews who were in Lviv during the war. [In the ealier article reproduced above the number quoted was 200,000.]
In 1995, the Petrivs were declared Righteous Among The Nations by Israel, an honor given to non-Jews who risked their lives or liberty to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. Some 2,272 persons from Ukraine have been granted this status, placing the country fourth on the list of savior nations, preceded by Poland, the Netherlands and France.

But the rarity of acts of selfless heroism like that of the Petrivs raises the question of whether enough was done to help Jews like Ruda.

Historically, the region that comprises today’s western Ukraine boasted a large Jewish population, while Lviv was home to the third-largest Jewish community in what was then pre-war Poland. By the war’s end, most of the region’s Jews were dead.

Many Jews assert that Ukrainians -- like other nationalities -- were largely passive observers or eager participants as their brethren were rounded up into ghettos by the Nazis and sent to labor and concentration camps. Ukrainians, and others, respond there is little they could have done to help; under Nazi rule, aiding Jews was a crime punishable by death.

Ruda’s story, however, reveals much of the complexity of the times, the lack of clear black and white.

Sitting in a café not from the Lviv ghetto where she was interned as a child, Ruda prefers to speak of positive moments rather than to pass moral judgment on the individuals who lived in the city at the time. [W.Z. How did Ms. Feduschak locate Genya Ruda and when did she interview her? Is Ruda the married name of Gisel Bogner? What name did she use before marriage?]

“There were many good people,” Ruda said.

The groundwork for her salvation by the Petriv family was laid long before she was born.

Ruda does not know exactly when that was, as all of her family’s documents were destroyed in the war. But she does know she was born in Zolochiv. [Sixty five kilometers east of Lviv, 55 km from Ternopil.] Her birth name was Gisel Bogner and her biological parents were named Mehel and Regina, from the family of Roth. Counting back the years, she figures she is 68. [Born in 1943?]

In 1922, Ruda’s aunt, her mother’s sister, met a 12-year-old girl named Kateryna at a market in Lviv. In those days, many villagers had traveled from the countryside to Lviv to escape the hunger that was sweeping the region and to look for work. Ruda’s aunt took pity on the girl, who by day’s end had still not found a job.

“She became a beloved member of the family,” said Ruda.

Kateryna took care of the aunt’s son, Manyk, married a man named Mykola Petriv, who was a baker and Hutsul, part of the ethnic group of highlanders who live in the Carpathian Mountains. She eventually gave birth to a daughter named Olha [Petriv].

Then the war began.

When the Germans began rounding up Jews into ghettos throughout the region, Ruda’s aunt in Lviv frantically tried to get Ruda’s mother, Regina, and her to the city. She dispatched Mykola to Zolochiv, but he arrived too late; Ruda and her mother were already incarcerated in the town’s ghetto.

Undeterred, Mykola made arrangements to get Ruda and her mother out. Coming to an agreement with a guard, he and Ruda’s father, Mehel, planned their escape. That gesture, however, proved to be Mehel’s parting gift to his family. As they were running away, a Ukrainian guard shot Ruda’s father dead.

Ruda’s escape is given an interesting twist by the fact that Kateryna’s husband Mykola, who played a pivotal role in her rescue, was a member of the guerilla Ukrainian Insurgent Army [UPA], which was the military wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN], an organization often accused of anti-Semitism.

[W.Z. OUN was an organization which promoted Ukrainian independence from Poland before WWII; resisted Soviet occupation between 17Sep1939 and 22Jun1941; declared the independence of Ukraine in Lviv on 30Jun1941 in the face of Hitler's opposition; started resisting German occupation when OUN members were arrested/executed by the Germans in the summer and fall of 1941; "officially" created UPA on 14Oct1942 to fight the German occupation and the disruptive anti-Ukrainian actions of the "Red" partisans sent from Moscow; UPA resisted the Soviet re-occupation after the Germans were driven from Ukraine in 1944; and continued resisting Soviet occupation after WWII ended until the mid-1950's. OUN encouraged Jews to support Ukraine's independence.]

Liberty in Lviv did not last long, after her presence was revealed by a neighbor.

“Within two weeks we were taken to the ghetto,” Ruda said.

At a ceremony on a cold January day commemorating Lviv’s victims of the Holocaust, Ruda recalled that Jews were allowed to only bring 20 kilograms of belongings into the ghetto. [W.Z. If Genya Ruda was born in 1943, she could not possibly remember this or other details of the Jewish ghetto in Zolochiv or Lviv.]

“The lines went all the way to the Opera House,” she said.

The conditions in the ghetto were horrendous. Crowded quarters, lack of sanitation, no medication, meant that illness and death spread fast.
Mykola and Kateryna brought food into the ghetto, until it became no longer possible. By then, Manyk had died and a decision was made that Ruda be saved. [Manyk was Genya Ruda's aunt's son. When was he born?]

Once again, Mykola bribed a guard, and one day, along with his friend, Andriy Matvienko, “they went to the ghetto and helped get me out,” Ruda said. [Does Genya Ruda remember this or was she told this at a later time?]

That is when the Petrivs began to shuffle from one apartment to another in Lviv to avoid detection that they were harboring a Jew. They secured fake documents for Ruda, but those were precarious at best; the deceased child in the documents had been older than Ruda.

Discovery was a constant fear. Once, when they were out for a walk, Ruda innocently asked Kateryna to “tie my bendel.” It was a request any child could have made, except that it occurred on a busy street and Ruda had used the Yiddish word for “shoelace.” Yiddish was the spoken language of Central and Eastern European Jews.

“After that, Kateryna didn’t allow me out on the streets again,” Ruda said.

From the time Mykola had taken Ruda from the ghetto, she recalled he rarely spent nights at home to avoid capture for his nationalistic activities by the authorities, be they Nazi or Soviet. [??? Perhaps Genya Ruda was born in 1933 and not 1943.]

Then, sometime in 1944, the decisive year when the Soviets took control of the city from the Nazis, the Petrivs made plans to leave Lviv.
“But Kateryna made a mistake,” Ruda said. “She told the [building] groundskeeper that we would be leaving at night and she could take what she wanted.”

That evening, Mykola was detained on the way to the apartment and shot [by whom?]. The Soviet [?] then showed up at her door and told Kateryna and the girls “that we could unpack our bags,” Ruda said.

About a year later, Kateryna was arrested as the wife of a Ukrainian nationalist. Olha and Ruda were left to survive on their own. As she was being hauled away, Kateryna uttered words Ruda will never forget. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save your mother,” Kateryna cried as Ruda and the woman’s daughter, Olha, looked on in horror. [Who was older, Kateryna Petriv or Genya Ruda?]

Kateryna was released several years later and returned to Lviv. She died in 1985. Olha, who became like a sister to Ruda, died in 2005.

Kyiv Post | 15Jul2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak

Ukraine’s Vanquished Jews: Daunting struggle to preserve Jewish heritage

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a five-part series that examines the Holocaust in western Ukraine that nearly wiped out its 500,000-member Jewish community during Nazi Germany’s occupation in World War II. This segment tells the story of one man’s race against time to find and preserve the ...

LVIV -- By the end of World War II, Lviv had not only seen its Jewish population nearly eliminated, but also suffered the destruction of much of its heritage, including the city’s two main synagogues.

Little effort was made during the Soviet period to preserve Jewish culture, leaving historians, politicians and activists now with a tough quandary -- how do you safeguard and promote a culture several decades after it was almost wiped out?

Meylakh Sheykhet, Ukraine’s representative in the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet Union, is a driving force in preserving western Ukraine’s decaying Jewish cultural heritage. He said his aim is to try to preserve as much of it as possible, however challenging that may be financially or practically.

“These things remind us of the extraordinarily beautiful culture that was in Halychyna,” said Sheykhet. “It was a glorious community life that definitely shows there was harmony between Ukrainians and Jews.”

For nearly two decades, often working with limited resources, Sheykhet has tirelessly traveled throughout western Ukraine to ensure Jewish cultural remnants are preserved. It has not been an easy job for the 58-year-old, who has lived in Lviv nearly his entire life.

Not only is Sheykhet racing against time, neglect and the elements, he is also fighting apathy from some segments of the Ukrainian population, which does not always recognize Jewish culture as part of its own.

For instance, since 2003 he has been at loggerheads with local officials in Sambir, a town south of Lviv, to remove three large Christian crosses erected in the Jewish part of the cemetery. Visits by international figures like former Canadian-Ukrainian parliamentarian Borys Wrzesnewskyj and Mark Freiman, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, have not changed local minds.

Before World War II, today’s western Ukraine boasted artifacts that reflected a culturally rich Jewish life. The landscape was dotted with cemeteries and synagogues, while towns and villages, often home to a population comprised largely of Jews, bore entire Jewish quarters with unique religious and residential structures.

By the end of the war, much of that heritage, including some of its most precious treasures, was deliberately destroyed or desecrated by the Nazis, and later the Soviets. Lviv lost two remarkable synagogues -- the ornate 16th century Golden Rose Synagogue and its surrounding religious complex, and the 19th century Temple Synagogue, a Baroque structure with a large dome.

In Lviv and Ternopil oblasts, once storied cemeteries which boasted headstones from the 14th century became overgrown with weeds. Others became trash dumps or favorite spots for children to play in or for livestock to graze.

Other necropolises, like those in Lviv, were destroyed all together. Headstones, many elaborately decorated and telling the stories of their owner’s lives, were torn out of the ground and used to pave city streets. Lviv’s ancient Jewish cemetery became the site of a local bazaar, Krakivsky Market, where stalls and booths were erected atop ground where some of Judaism’s most revered rabbis are buried.

Sheykhet’s efforts, however, have borne fruit on a small scale, although the success is decidedly mixed. He has ensured that a fence be placed around a Jewish graveyard in Brody to keep grazing livestock at bay, although the city’s synagogue, which only a few years ago could have been saved, now has a collapsed roof that puts in doubt its resurrection.

In Ternopil’s Pidhaitsi, he was also able to get a fence placed around the cemetery, even though he had heated discussions with local authorities over where one section actually ended. He still has been unable to raise money for a desperately-needed roof to cover Pidhaitsi’s synagogue, even though it is one of the region’s oldest remaining structures of Jewish heritage.

Sheykhet has researched on several continents old maps and archival documents to locate more information about Jewish places of interest, and has obtained aerial photos to find locations where Jews were shot during the war en masse -- such as in nearby Vynnyky -- in western Ukraine. Now he just needs local municipalities to acknowledge and honor those places.

Sheykhet also received a $32,000 grant from the U.S. government to fund archaeological research in 2010 at the Golden Rose Synagogue and it religious complex. Digs, however, have been suspended as he battles a developer in court who wants to build a hotel complex in the heart of Lviv’s old Jewish district.

The hotel structures would incorporate a one-time yeshiva -- a religious school for boys -- and closely border what remains of the Golden Rose.

Recently, however, Sheykhet scored a major victory when the government in Kyiv decreed that two priority locations in Lviv have religious and historic significance. The diktats noted that Krakivsky Market was sacred ground, opening the door to its possible relocation, although everyone recognizes the difficulties involved.

The other order involves Lviv’s Citadel, a 19th-century military fortress located in the middle of town that the Nazis used as a prisoner of war camp during World War II. [W.Z. How was the Citadel used by the Soviet authorities during their first occupation from 17Sep1939 to 22Jun1941 and their second occupation after the Germans were driven out from 1944 to 1991?]

“Jewish prisoners of war were separated from their countrymen and kept in particularly harsh conditions, stripped naked, confined in the basement, 30 men to a cell, and starved to death,” Sheykhet said. More than 144,000 inmates died of disease or were executed at the Citadel, some of them buried in mass graves in the fortress courtyard. [W.Z. What fraction of these were of Jewish origin?]

Jews and officers were executed at the Citadel’s main tower, which was known as the “Tower of Death,” Sheykhet said. The tower now houses a luxury hotel and restaurant.

Because the bazaar and the Citadel are now protected as part of Ukraine’s historical-cultural heritage, Sheykhet will have more room to maneuver to prevent further desecration of the cemetery at Krakivsky Market. The decrees may also finally halt plans on the part of Lviv’s municipal authorities to build a hotel complex, with a large conference center, on the Citadel.

On June 22, 2011, on the 70th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, authorities unveiled a large cross honoring the many nationalities that perished there during the war.

The journey in preserving Jewish memory has at times been a lonely one for Sheykhet, who is single. He has watched his friends, including his sister, emigrate over the years.

Still, Sheykhet said he has no plans to give up his fight. “Who else will do it?” he asked.

Kyiv Post | 22Jul2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak

Ukraine’s Vanquished Jews: Wounds still sore 70 years after Holocaust

Editor’s Note: This is the final article in a five-part series that examines the Holocaust in Ukraine that nearly wiped out its 500,000-member Jewish community during Nazi Germany’s occupation in World War II. This segment looks at steps under way to reconcile the Ukrainian and Jewish communities.

LVIV – Nearly 70 years after western Ukraine witnessed the decimation of its Jewish community, relations between Ukrainians and Jews often remain uneasy.

Although Germans initiated the Final Solution -- the Nazi plan to eliminate Jews in Europe -- many Jews have been particularly angry at Ukrainians for their role in the Holocaust, at times even more so than at Germans themselves.

The reason, some Holocaust survivors say, is because Jews did not expect Ukrainians, people they had lived with side-by-side for generations, to participate in terror against them. [W.Z. Neither did Ukrainians expect Jews to support and participate in terror against Ukrainians on behalf of the Soviet/Bolshevik regime before, during and after WWII.]

This is compounded, they say, by a failure of Ukrainians to examine their past in an unbiased way, even after the fall of the Soviet Union.
[This is compounded, ... , by a failure of Jews to examine their past in an unbiased way, even after the fall of the Soviet Union.]

“When an outside danger comes from far away, it’s not the same as your own neighbor,” said Shimon Redlich, a retired university professor who survived the Holocaust in Berezhany, Ternopil Oblast, with the help of Ukrainians. “Germans have historical memory. They have confronted the past, something that Ukraine couldn’t have done during the Soviet period.”

For that reason, full reconciliation between the two communities may still be some time away. A number of Ukrainian historians have argued that it is impossible to come to terms with the Ukrainian role in the Holocaust until the country confronts its Soviet past.

While the Nazi period was frequently shameful, Soviet rule was marked by repressions, arrests, deportations and the annihilation not only of the nation’s intelligentsia, but those who disagreed with the ruling system.

Seeds of reconciliation, however, are being planted by people who hope to promote understanding between the two communities. An important part of that process is for each side to hear the other, whether through publications, conferences or meetings.

There has recently been a boom in work dealing with the country’s multifarious past that once would have been unimaginable. Ukrainians are now hearing the Jewish side of the story.

Several autobiographies by individuals who survived the Holocaust in Ukraine have been translated into Ukrainian, as well as critical assessments of how the nation approaches its Jewish past, including works by Redlich and Omer Bartov, a Brown University professor and leading expert on genocide.

“If we are to understand historical events, we have to put them in historical context. We have to rid ourselves of the habit of telling [stories] from one perspective,” Bartov said.

Ukrainians are also being given the chance to learn more about how outsiders assess the Soviet past, helping them better understand how the Holocaust fits into their nation’s history.

Recent books by leading Western scholars have assessed how Soviet and Nazi policies shaped Ukraine. “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin,” an internationally acclaimed volume by Yale University professor Timothy Snyder, is expected to be available in Ukrainian shortly.

In June, Snyder told a conference of leading international scholars in Berlin that when considering relations between Ukrainians and Jews on the local level during World War II, it is important to recognize how they were impacted by the larger policies of Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany. [W.Z. Did Ms. Feduschak attend this conference? She seems to uncritically accept everything that Timothy Snyder writes and says. Does she realize that Mr. Snyder is using his popularity to promote the Holocaust Industry version of WWII events?]

To fulfill their political and military agendas, both powers “counted on the local population when things weren’t going to plan,” he said.
“Ukraine is the very center,” Snyder said. “Ukraine was the deadliest place to be.”

Resurrecting historical memory has become a critical component of the reconciliation process. Lviv, which was once home to the third-largest Jewish community in pre-war Poland, is the backdrop for several initiatives.

Lviv’s city council is working with the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, a non-profit private foundation, to create memorials at three places of Jewish history and culture.

For the second year in a row, the center itself has sponsored a summer school in Jewish studies, which include courses in the history of western Ukrainian Jews, Jewish literature and Yiddish, the language spoken by Central and Eastern European Jews.

Sharing experiences with Ukrainians has taken on a particularly important role in promoting understanding. In May, Lviv hosted a conference to discuss the role of non-Jews who saved Jews during the Holocaust, known as The Righteous Among the Nations. [W.Z. Did Ms. Feduschak attend this conference? Perhaps a Conference on Righteous Jews who saved Ukrainians and support/supported Ukraine's independence would be appropriate.]

Among those present was Janina Altman, whose father was Henryk Hescheles, the long-time editor of the renowned Polish-language Zionist newspaper, Chwila, published in Lviv from 1919-1939.

Her diary, penned at the age of 12 and first published in Poland in 1946, is finally available in Ukrainian.

Altman, who said she never expected to return to Ukraine after she left, arrived in Lviv with her two sons and a granddaughter the same age she was when she wrote her heart-wrenching words. [Did Ms. Feduschak interview Janina Altman? When? Where?]

“In order to be a normal person, I tried to be a normal person,” she described how she dealt with life after the Holocaust.
Her sentiment was echoed by other Holocaust survivors, also present at the conference.

Sharona Komem, a Lviv native, vividly remembers the day when the Nazis started pogroms against Jews after they entered the city in 1941.
[W.Z. Does Sharona Komen remember the thousands of Ukrainians massacred in their prison cells by the NKVD as they fled to the East before the German onslaught?]

Her life was saved in part because a Ukrainian man warned her parents while out on the street that the Nazis were looking for Jews and took Komem in.

She was returned to her parents several hours later because her mother was afraid she would never see her daughter again.

Over a period of several hours she patiently shared the contents of her Hebrew-language memoirs, displayed at Bergen-Belsen where she was interred with her family during the war. [W.Z. Did Ms. Feduschak interview Ms. Komem? When? Where?]

Of the Ukrainian man who made a split-second decision and took her in, no matter how short a period, Komem said “now I can appreciate what those people” went through.

“It was spur of the moment,” she said.


Part 1 (June 24, 2011): Boris Orych and western Ukraine Jews

Part 2 (July 1, 2011): The killing grounds

Part 3 (July 8, 2011): Surviving The Holocaust In Lviv

Part 4 (July 15, 2011): Saving Jewish Heritage

Part 5 (July 22, 2011): Reconciliation?

Kyiv Post staff writer Natalia A. Feduschak can be reached at [email protected]


[W.Z. Natalia Feduschak appears to be part of the "modern Ukrainian generation" trying to promote "reconciliation" between Ukrainians and Jews. Perhaps she is part of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE) group being promoted by James Temerty. If so, I truly wish her success, but I am not optimistic. It is far more likely that she will be used as a "useful idiot" and will be discarded by the Jewish power elite, when it serves their purpose.

The key to reconciliation is Symon Petliura  [Simon Petlura]. Symon Petliura tried very hard to include the Jewish ethnic group within his Ukrainian government and tried to obtain Jewish support for Ukraine's independence. Unfortunately, the Jews in Ukraine and in the Diaspora have consistently chosen to support Ukraine's oppressors -- Bolsheviks/Russians and Poland.

In my opinion, until the President or government of Israel, as well as the major Jewish organizations, recognize publicly that Symon Petliura was one of the best friends Jews ever had there is little hope of "reconciliation".]