WAR PROPAGANDA: Ukraine glorifies the killers of 1.5 million Jews

People wearing uniforms of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army hold flags as they mark the 114th birthday of Stepan Bandera near his monument in Lviv, Ukraine, 01 January 2023.
© EPA-EFE/MYKOLA TYS   |   People wearing uniforms of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army hold flags as they mark the 114th birthday of Stepan Bandera near his monument in Lviv, Ukraine, 01 January 2023.

Daruieste Viata

Kyiv glorifies Ukrainian nationalists who killed 1.5 million Jews during World War 2, according to a false narrative promoted by Vladimir Putin.

Propaganda: Over 1.5 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and now Kyiv treats these former war criminals as heroes.

NEWS: Russian president Vladimir Putin said a quarter of Holocaust victims were killed by Nazis and their collaborators on the territory of Ukraine, an act of murder committed by banderovists and their associates, whose actions are closely linked to present-day developments [...]

“The very SS rejected the idea of being part of such repression, committed by local nationalists and anti-Semites", Putin pointed out.

“I've said it before - we need to make efforts to prevent Nazism from being glorified, and this is exactly what's happening over there [in Ukraine]”, Putin pointed out. “I'm in no way referring to the special operation. We're now talking about World War II, when people were massacred.” [...] “Cold-blooded killers, that's whom Ukrainian authorities now glorify. Non-humans have now been placed on the pedestal, while people march in city centers brandishing banners and their portraits”, Vladimir Putin argued.

NARRATIVE: Ukraine glorifies the killers of 1.5 million Jews.

Fact: Ukraine did not rehabilitate nationalist leaders for their anti-Semitism, but rather for their efforts to rebuild the Ukrainian state.

WHY THE NARRATIVE IS FALSE: Vladimir Putin accused Ukrainian authorities of glorifying 1.5 million Jews. The Russian president thus indirectly justified the “special military operation”, which is what Moscow calls Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In actual fact, according to the Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia, the number of Jews killed in World War II on the territory of Ukraine is unknown. Encyclopedia sources estimate over 1.3 million Jews were killed on the territory of the USSR, not just in Ukraine, as Vladimir Putin claims.

Studies conducted by the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory in Kyiv, which quote archive documents, conclude that Nazi occupation troops were first and foremost involved in the killing of Jews in Ukraine. Ukrainian nationalist organizations, which collaborated with Nazi Germany for a while, decided in the first phase not to get involved in the mass extermination of Jews. Still, over the course of World War 2, Ukrainian nationalists did get involved in the extermination of the Jewish population, alongside other Nazi collaborators. Vladimir Putin’s statement about Ukrainian nationalists being solely responsible for the killing of Jews in World War II is an overstatement lacking any historical grounds.

At the same time, according to Ukrainian historians, apart from Nazi troops, both Ukrainian and Russian ethnics were involved in the massacre of Jews in Ukraine. Nazi collaborators were not just Ukrainian, but also the representatives of other minorities. At any rate, the serious crimes were started and committed mainly by Nazi troops.

Furthermore, Vladimir Putin ties historical events to present-day events, accusing Ukrainian authorities of having rehabilitated nationalist leaders for their anti-Semite and anti-human attitudes. Admittedly, in the context of the annexation of Ukraine and the outbreak of the war in Donbas in 2014, Ukrainian authorities did rename a number of streets after nationalist leaders from the past, although they were regarded as symbols of national resistance and the fight for the preservation of Ukrainian statehood.

The anti-Semitism of Ukrainian nationalists in World War II is overstated by Russian propaganda. The third conference of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists in 1942 referred to “the enemies” of the Ukrainian national liberation movement: “Nazis, Poles and Bolsheviks”. Anyone opposing the emergence of an independent Ukrainian state and not displaying a deep-rooted anti-Semite attitude was deemed an enemy in the eyes of Ukrainian nationalists.

For several decades, Soviet historiography concealed examples of Ukrainian nationalists in the west and center of the country who saved Jews. In one such case, one Ukrainian leader, Fedir Vovk, the member of an organization that also included Stepán Bandera, saved hundreds of Jews from deportation, being bestowed the “Righteous among Nations” title from the Yad Vashem Institute under a special decree issued by the Knesset. Another two Ukrainian leaders, Maria Mizina and Sara Bakst, were awarded the “Righteous among Nations” title post-mortem for saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust. Maria Mizina was deported to eastern Russia by the communist regime for her collaboration with “Banderovist organizations”.

Soviet propaganda turned the Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepán Bandera and the so-called “Banderovist” movement into a boogeyman, claiming these were collaborators of Nazi troops who participated in the massacring of Jews. In fact, Stepán Bandera’s collaboration with Adolf Hitler was short-lived. The Ukrainian nationalist leader was arrested by the Nazis after Germany occupied Ukraine. Bandera was imprisoned for several years for “wanting to create an independent Ukraine”, something which was unacceptable to Berlin. Two of Bandera’s brothers died in Nazi concentration camps. Regardless, the Bandera-Hitler alliance of circumstance was depicted by Soviet historiography as a vassalage and a long-lasting friendship, subsequently used by Russia’s anti-Ukrainian propaganda.

In 19541, Nazi and SS troops committed one of the most atrocious war crimes of the past century in Babyn Yar, near Kyiv. On September 29-30, over 34 thousand Jews were killed by the Nazi army. In 1941-1943, another ten thousand Soviet war prisoners, Roma, communist party activists, Ukrainian nationalists, hostages and people accused of sabotage were killed in the same place. In March 2022, the Russian Federation bombed settlements close to the Babyn Yar Memorial, while Volodymyr Zelensky compared the war crimes committed by the Russians with the crimes committed by Nazi troops during World War II.

As regards the so-called contemporary Ukrainian Nazism, as early as 2015 Ukraine banned Nazi and communist ideology. Moreover, since the proclamation of the independence of Ukraine, no Nazi party or candidate ever enrolled in elections. Ukrainian nationalist parties, which can hardly be called Nazi, failed to meet the election threshold, and if they did, they grabbed a maximum of 6-8% of the total number of seats. 

Veridica has debunked several other false narratives. The Russian media wrote that Germany supports Ukraine in order to make people forget about the horrors of Nazism.  A year since the start of the full-scale invasion, the Russian media tried to prove that the “special military operation” saved Russian from NATO’s invasion and Ukrainian Nazism.

  • Publication / Media:
  • Date of publication:
  • Target audience:
    The Russian-speaking population in Russia, Belarus and other ex-Soviet states, as well as in Russian-held territories of Ukraine
  • Amplification:
    M24.RU, RIA NOVOSTI, VEDEMOSTI.RU, RG.RU, the Telegram channels of Russian media outlets
  • Political affiliation:
    The Kremlin
  • Key narrative:
    Ukraine glorifies the killers of 1.5 million Jews
Marin Gherman

Marin Gherman

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