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UKRAINE'S VANISHED JEWS SERIES
1 (June 24, 2011): Boris Orych and western Ukraine Jews
2 (July 1, 2011): The killing grounds
3 (July 8, 2011): Surviving The Holocaust In Lviv
4 (July 15, 2011): Saving Jewish Heritage
 Part 5 (July 22, 2011): Reconciliation?
Kyiv Post | 24Jun2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak
Ukraine’s vanquished Jews
from World War II
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
Undoubtedly, Jews throughout modern-day Ukraine suffered great losses
in the Final Solution, Nazi Germany’s plan to eradicate Jews from
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.”
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
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
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
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
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  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
Chwila’s demise in 1939 signaled the start of a new period of terror
for Jews in Lviv. [???
Even though "Lviv’s
population, which numbered 110,000 before the war, swells
to 200,000?" as
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
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
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
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.”
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
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
another million were evacuated to the East from where they
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
“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
Kyiv Post | 08Jul2011 | Natalia A. Feduschak
Ukraine’s Vanquished Jews: Story of how one family saved a
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
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
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.
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
“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
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 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
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
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.
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
“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
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
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
That evening, Mykola was detained on the way to the apartment and shot [by
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
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
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
precious treasures, was deliberately destroyed or desecrated by the
Nazis, and later the Soviets. Lviv lost two remarkable synagogues --
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
In Ternopil’s Pidhaitsi, he was also able to get a fence placed around
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
school for boys -- and closely border what remains of the Golden Rose.
Recently, however, Sheykhet scored a major victory when the government
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
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
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
LVIV – Nearly 70 years after western Ukraine witnessed the decimation
of its Jewish community, relations between Ukrainians and Jews often
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
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
Seeds of reconciliation, however, are being planted by people who hope
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
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
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
Sharona Komem, a Lviv native, vividly remembers the day when the Nazis
started pogroms against Jews after they entered the city in 1941.
Sharona Komen remember the thousands of Ukrainians massacred in their
prison cells by the NKVD as they fled to the East before the German
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
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.
UKRAINE'S VANISHED JEWS SERIES
1 (June 24, 2011): Boris Orych and western Ukraine Jews
2 (July 1, 2011): The killing grounds
3 (July 8, 2011): Surviving The Holocaust In Lviv
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@example.com.
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.
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