Andrew Gregorovitch, "World War II in Ukraine"
(May 1995)

summarized by: UCSB student Rebecca Olch, spring 2002

"This web site intends to provide some basic information about the Ukrainian experience of World War II.  It highlights important events and figures that help to shed some light on Ukraine between 1939 and 1945.  Previously the archives containing this information had been closed to researchers."

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland to begin WWII.  According to the Nazis, Ukrainians were listed as sub-humans along with the Jews. At this time 40 million Ukrainians lived in the land Hitler decided was to be used as the new living space of the German nation. On June 22, 1941 Hitler began his “drive to the East” by invading Ukraine on his way to Moscow.  On the first day of the attack the Ukrainian cities of Kiev, Odessa and Lviv were bombed. German armies captured huge territories of Ukraine and there was little resistance.  At first the Ukrainians treated the Nazis as liberators from Russian Communist rule. However, although the Ukrainians may have suffered repression under the Russians, but they were treated much more brutally under the Germans.  It only took a few weeks before the Germans' true intentions came to light.

In line with Stalin’s scorched earth policy, the Russian army made sure to destroy a large amount of Ukrainian land and resources before they were taken over by the German army. Since the government of the Ukrainian SSR fled the country, it could not be considered a collaborator of Germany. Ukraine was instead occupied by a variety of national forces.

There were attempts to establish an independent Ukrainian government, but the Germans put them down and their leaders were arrested. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), founded in 1942, numbered about 200,000 men and women. They fought both the German and Russian armies in an attempt to win independence.

Germany’s first plan was to kill all men in Ukraine over 15, but then they decided instead to work them to death while supporting the German war effort. All Ukrainians were forced to wear a badge, identifying them at all times. This process allowed them to be abused by any German at any time. The German army imposed starvation rations and the most primitive accommodations. Many Ukrainians were deported to Germany to perform slave labor. Some died in Allied bombings, and only a few survivors were released back to their homeland.

According to this book, Ukrainians lost proportionately more people in WWII than any other European country, although the exact number was never established.  The best estimates are that approximately 10 million citizens were killed between 1939 and 1945, as well as about 600,000 Ukrainian Jews. When the Nazis left Ukraine in 1943 and 1944 they destroyed everything the Soviets had left behind in 1941.

This 29 page website includes a chronology documenting the history of Ukraine during World War II, and is followed with a population chart that helps readers compare the population losses throughout Europe. The article ends with a bibliography that offers numerous other sources on the history of Ukraine in WWII.

review written by Rebecca Olch, spring 2002; proofread by H. Marcuse, Feb. 16, 2004
part of the UCSB Holocaust Oral History Project: homepage, resources page