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Prytulak   InfoUkes Posting   25-Aug-1997   The Jewish Choice: Gratitude or Hatred?
Date:  Mon, 25 Aug 1997 12:09:48 -0700
To:  [email protected]
From:  Lubomyr Prytulak
Subject:  The Jewish Choice: Gratitude or Hatred?

The personal testimony of Volodymyr Bemko given on June 18, 1951, begins with his self-introduction, and ends with the authentication of the UCCA, as follows:

I, Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, aged 62, Greek Catholic, former attorney-at-law, now a refugee residing in Salzburg (Austria), testify that during the period from 1941 to July, 1944, I was an attorney-at-law with the right of representation before all German courts.  My office was at 5 Allengasse, Lviv (Lemberg).  As I do not have my journals with me, I am unable to quote the number of legal cases or the dates of sentences, etc., but only the names and residences of the people who at the time, from 1941 to 1944, were tried and sentenced by the German courts for aiding persecuted Jews. (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, p. 123)

The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America testifies herewith that Dr. Volodymyr Bemko was well known to the Committee.  The Committee confirms that at the time of the Nazi occupation in Galicia in 1941-1944, Dr. Volodymyr Bemko as an attorney-at-law had the right to represent the Ukrainians before the German courts and that he exercised it, especially in the defense of Ukrainians who were persecuted by the German authorities for sheltering and aiding the Jews. [Dr. V. Bemko died in the summer of 1965 in Newark, N. J. Ed.]  (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, p. 126)

Volodymyr Bemko's testimony consists of an outline of 21 cases.  Here is a sampling of 5 cases out of the 21.  Be sure particularly not to miss the first of these and the last:

(5)  ...  In the village of Mechyshchiv, which was surrounded by forests and situated quite far from the county center in Bereshany, some 100 Jews were sheltered.  The place had many advantages for this purpose.  How secure the Jews felt in this Ukrainian village may be seen from the fact that many of them used to walk around in a quite composed manner even in the day-time, "to stretch their legs from sitting," they said.

Unfortunately, in April or the beginning of May, 1944, the German police arrived in force to confiscate the cattle in the village for their slaughterhouse.  The Germans caught two Jews on the street.  One of them was Dr. Dienes, the dentist from Berezhany; I am unable to recall the name of the other man.  Instantly, Dr. Dienes betrayed not only the names of all the Jews sheltered in the village, but also the names of the Ukrainian peasants who had sheltered them.  The Germans were able to seize only 8 Jews, the remainder succeeding in escaping into the woods, but 80 local peasants were arrested.  After a week, only 50 peasants returned home; the others were shot in Berezhany along with the seized Jews.  (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, p. 124)

(10)  N. Komarynksy and N. Zarichny both of the village of Kuryany, and Ivan Boyko of the village of Ray, county of Berezhany, were arrested in early 1944 for supplying food to the Jews.  They were arrested after having been named by the involved Jews.  They did not return home.  (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, pp. 124-125)

(19)  Maria Bodnar of the village of Ray, county of Berezhany, was sentence to death by hanging by the German Court in Ternopil in February, 1944, for sheltering 5 Jews.  The sentence was executed.  (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, p. 125)

(20)  N. Rudkovsky of the village of Posukhiv, county of Berezhany, was arrested in 1943 for sheltering 7 Jews, among them N. Siegal, a carpenter from Berezhany.  Rudkovsky vanished without a trace.  (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, pp. 125-126)

(21) Rev. Havryluk parish priest of the city of Rivne, was hanged in February, 1943, by the Gestapo in the market place of the city for sheltering and aiding Jews.  Along with him the Gestapo hanged his wife, his daughters, Nadia, aged 22, and Tatyana, aged 19, as well as a girl friend of his daughters by the name of Varvara Glasko.  (Volodymyr Bemko, Testimony by Dr. Volodymyr Bemko, in Walter Dushnyck (ed.), Ukrainians and Jews, The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, 1966, p. 126)

We need no more than the above testimony to be inclined in the direction of several conclusions:

  1. Ukrainians were the victims of the Nazis, along with the Jews.

  2. Ukrainian rescue of Jews took place on a large scale.

  3. The punishment for aiding Jews was so severe that it is a wonder that any Ukrainians helped Jews at all.

  4. The Jewish response upon being captured, particularly with respect to protecting Ukrainians who had been assisting them, sometimes fell short of heroic (I am thinking of Bemko's Cases 5 and 10 above), and may even be viewed by the cynical observer as occasionally consisting of an enthusiastic collaboration with the Nazis in a futile effort to save themselves.  The demonstration of such a ready collaboration could not have done much to encourage Ukrainians to begin or to continue hiding Jews.

  5. That some of the cases cited are dated as late as 1944 indicates that Jews had been successfully hidden by Ukrainians from the Germans for a considerable period of time specifically, from as far back as the initial German occupation of Western Ukraine in the summer of 1941.  The story of Ann Frank is not unique it can be found repeated throughout Ukraine.

  6. In contradiction of the Jewish stereotype that Catholicism promotes anti-Semitism, we have strong evidence that Catholicism in Ukraine was inclined unreservedly in the direction of defending Jews.

  7. In reply to contemporary Jewish attacks, Ukrainians seem to be seized with an inability to articulate elementary comparisons.  One such comparison would be to point out the risks taken by Andrei Sheptytsky, or the risks taken and the sacrifice made by Reverend Havryluk and his family and family friend (Bemko's case 21 above), and to then ask the Jewish side for a single instance of a rabbi risking his life, or giving his life along with that of his family, to save Ukrainians say during the induced famine of 1932-1933, or during the many deportations and executions of Ukrainians by the Bolsheviks.

  8. Contemporary Jews have a choice of following the path of gratitude and reconciliation, or the path of recrimination and hatred.  With a few rare exceptions, they have chosen the latter.  And not only do they prefer the path of recrimination for real wrongs, but finding these inadequate to fuel their hatred, they focus on imaginary and fantastic wrongs.  Jews could have by now publicized the activities of Volodymyr Bemko, who in defending Ukrainians who had helped Jews was thereby helping Jews, but they have preferred to publicize Trofim Kichko who on orders from the Kremlin published the anti-Semitic "Judaism Without Embellishment" under the auspices of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences but there are only so many resources to go around, and resources expended on hatred become unavailable for reconciliation and Jews chose hatred.  Resources squandered in the Deschenes Commission on War Criminals' wild goose chase to find and prosecute hundreds of Ukrainian war criminals which proved not to exist could have been fruitfully expended in finding and honoring the thousands of Ukrainian heroes who took risks and made sacrifices to save Jews, where such Ukrainians would have been found to exist this was the Jewish choice, and they chose the path of fantasy and hatred.  Resources squandered on the attempt to hang an innocent man Ivan Demjanjuk could instead have been fruitfully invested in a movie about Adrei Sheptytsky but Jews chose the path of fantasy and hatred.  The hundred Jews hidden with knowledge of an entire Ukrainian village (described in Bemko's Case 5 above) would have made a good movie but Steven Spielberg had other projects on his mind.  The priest who along with his wife, two daughters and their friend were shot by the Germans for aiding Jews (Bemko's Case 21 above) this could have been the subject of a 60 Minutes report but, no, why report a real event that clashes with a popular stereotype and promotes amity when contemporary viewers seem hungry from quite another kind of tale the description of an imaginary pogrom which reinforces that popular stereotype and promotes hatred.

When a Jewish rabbi writes a short letter to the editor defending Ukrainians against calumny, Ukrainians fall over themselves in the rush to present him with a Ukrainian Humanitarian Award; when Adrei Sheptytsky risks his life and the lives of other Ukrainians to save hundreds of Jews from death, Jews deny him their award of Righteous Gentile.  It would seem that the impulses toward reconciliation fall predominantly on the Ukrainian side; the ingratitude and the hatred fall predominantly on the Jewish side.  That has been the Jewish choice.


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