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Ukrainian reactions to the Soviets

LAURENCE REES: What were the Ukrainians’ reactions to the Soviets?

OMER BARTOV: When the Soviets came in there was a large degree of contentment within the Ukrainian population, and the Ukrainian intelligentsia and Ukrainian nationalists believed that this might be the beginning of a Ukrainian state. By the end of that period they strongly disliked the Soviets not least because of the Soviet deportation policies. Policies against different groups work so that they first go against the Poles, whom they see as the main enemy, then they go against the Jews, who were a class enemy, and then they go against the Ukrainians. So right on the eve of the German invasion large numbers of Ukrainian nationalists and activists are jailed, and then as the Red Army is fleeing from the Wehrmacht there is an order that comes that comes directly, to either take all the prisoners along as you retreat, or if you can’t, which they usually couldn’t, kill them. And they killed thousands of not only Ukrainian nationalists, but Poles and Jews too, but those were put away by the Germans because it didn’t work well with their own policies.  But that was the main reason for incitement right at the beginning when the Germans march in, and there are vast pogroms all over these areas by populations that had been told it was the Judeo-Bolsheviks who killed our men, our sons and our patriots. Now, once the Germans come in, initially the Ukrainians believe that now they will get their state, and the Germans say, well, not so fast. And they arrest those people, and put them in relatively good conditions in concentration camps where they keep the leadership and they say, well, first you have to co-operate with us, which they do. But they tell them that a state is too early right now, and they don’t get a state. By 1943 they’re beginning to work against the Germans, but at the same time they’re even more afraid of a reoccupation by the Soviet Union. So their own view of things depends very much on where they stand and what they want. What the Ukrainians want is a Ukraine free of Poles and Jews, the Jews want to survive, and the Poles had hoped to keep that part of Poland but of course by the end of the war they lose all of that.