Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Why are there Ukrainian guards in death camps?

Discussion in 'Concentration, Death Camps and Crimes Against Huma' started by HellWarrior, Sep 20, 2014.

  1. HellWarrior

    HellWarrior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2013
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    9
    In my recent post, I was talking about a movie that I have seen afew weeks ago: "Escape from Sobibor". In this movie, we see what was happening in Sobibor death camp in Poland.

    We also see that the guards are not all german. There are a lot of guards that are from Ukraine. I didn't know that Ukraine was sending guards to help the Germans. Where do they come from? Does it mean that the Soviet Union was well aware of the existence of the death camp?

    Thanks for your help!
     
  2. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,377
    There were several categories : some were volunteers , others were former POWS who prefered to swith sides rahter than starve. Some were actually pro-German, but others did not have a real choice. An empty stomach and or a dead thread would convinve quite a few "volunteers".
    It has to be added that some were actual volunteers , and sometimes with a Nazi idelology too. They were considered most crual , sometimes even more than others. This can not be stated for all of them, but knowing they would be considered as traitors and hanged/shot by the Soviets certainly made them wish Stalin's troops would not win .
    You might want to see the definition of HIWIS (Auxilary troops ) and Ost Legionen also . Also the Ukranians were often from the area of Lemberg (Lviv) whic hwas Austro-Hungarian until 1918 and had a pro-German minority . There was also an SS division form that area called "Galicien".
    Note that most recruits came from the 1941-42 period when Hitler promised to "free" Ukraine . The majority of Ukrianians never sided with the Germans of course. There were voluntereers from all ocupied countries.
     
    CAC likes this.
  3. green slime

    green slime Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    3,126
    Likes Received:
    565
    The Eastern workers, helpers, "police", and militia is a highly complex and involved subject, as Skipper alluded to. I don't think I could really do it justice in a post.

    There were all sorts, all flavours, and it was a mish-mash of tragedies and sadism; fascism, and anti-communism; forced labour and desperate survival. Brutality untamed in a brutal time, when individuals were caught betwixt brutal ideologies, without real hope for humanity.

    IIRC, there were various and conflicting efforts to both brutally subjugate and recruit helpers within the Nazi apparatus occurring simultaneously. All tied in with the vagaries of internal Nazi politics and the winds of war.
     
    Skipper likes this.
  4. Skipper

    Skipper Kommodore

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2006
    Messages:
    24,985
    Likes Received:
    2,377
  5. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2002
    Messages:
    13,477
    Likes Received:
    1,380
    Location:
    London, England.
    Green Slime is right - this is a complex subject and difficult to condense. Much of the death camp 'system' relied on non-Germans or 'ethnic Germans' from countries outside Germany. The desire of many to ingratiate themselves with the 'winning side' was exploited by the SS. Sometimes it was just a case of survival - but the Germans also recruited minor Police, Customs officials etc. people who thought that if they did what they were told, and returned 'good figures', they'd be OK.

    I'd honestly recommend the late Gitta Sereny's book, 'Into That Darkness', which consists of her interviews with the Commandant of Treblinka, Franz Stangl, just before he died. It's truly frightening - the subject is so monstrous and the man seems so banal.
     
    Skipper likes this.
  6. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,102
    Likes Received:
    1,687
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    Lotta Galicians in my adopted part of the world (Midlands) postwar.
    Some fascinating pub conversations to be had with old Eastern European-looking men in the 90s.

    No shortage of 'Antis' in the Eastern pool.
    Give a man a rubber truncheon & free range to indulge his hatreds & fantasies, and other hands can be kept cleaner. Less minds disillusioned toward the cause by grubby association with the sharp end.
    The Reich always understood the use of auxiliaries; and those of an Eastern origin, despite some problems on the battlefield side, gravitated well to such specialist trades...
     
  7. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,591
    Likes Received:
    2,181
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I agree with the others. This is a very complex subject. Some Ukrainians were actively anti-semitic, but an equal number were not. I concur with Martin's recommendation of Sereny's book. There is a chilling look at how police officials fell in with the Nazis. I'm sure many Ukrainians did the same.
     
  8. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,102
    Likes Received:
    1,687
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    I think that's a rather modern, restrained interpretation, Lou.
    Hatred of Jews & Bolshevism along with an intense nationalism were absolutely rife in that part of the world. I'd be astonished at a 50/50 divide, given the history of the area.
    When the choice is between one Totalitarian regime that offers little but subordination to a Red Star & has inflicted a horrible famine in the 30s, killing millions, and another that maybe has a glimmer of hope for allowing some form of local identity; the recruitment by those handing out the truncheons along with some bread & sausage was often relatively easy.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    We can't cover our eyes when looking at states that were subjugated.
    Some of them welcomed the subjugation, & had their own identities with the politics of hatred, no matter what may have been claimed after the papers were finally signed with whichever group eventually finally dominated a given sphere.

    In fact, I suspect calling it 'complex' is a bit of a cop out.
    The 'Holodomor' (define that as you will) had killed millions in the Ukraine, under an essentially Soviet government/system.
    Soviets were identified in the opposing politics of the time with Jewish intellectuals and all the other bogeymen of Nazism - hence many in the Ukraine were ready & willing to participate in a retaliation.

    Many camps ran on Ukrainian labour.
    As an aside, and with speculation allowed; when you consider that the Nazi plan was quite likely to cover up, deny, or 'forget', the 'solution' once it was finally done - the cynical might suggest that it would be far easier to hide/remove/sideline/disappear people from a subject country (many of whom might even qualify as 'untermensch' themselves), than it would be with ethnic Germans.
     
  9. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2009
    Messages:
    13,591
    Likes Received:
    2,181
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Adam, I think you're on to something. There is a strain of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe. That is difficult to deny. However, anti-Semitism was endemic in most of Europe. The Ukrainians seemed to embody that feeling, so many were willing to be camp guards. Many in Eastern Europe found the Nazi philosophy appealing. I think I recall that guards in these camps came from other places, not just Ukraine.
     
  10. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2006
    Messages:
    6,102
    Likes Received:
    1,687
    Location:
    Perfidious Albion
    It's been a fair while since I read anything directly about the holocaust, but I'm sure I recall many references to the 'efficiency' of Ukrainians in the camp system.
    Ukraine was always a very significant agricultural area, so maybe it suffered that bit more under the disastrous Soviet collectivism - 1933-ish being well within recent memory for those of the right age for Reich service.
    If you starved as a kid, watching parents and other relatives die as a very obvious result of government action, I dare say you might be a good candidate for fervent foot-soldier of the contrary regime.
    Scores to settle, whether real, imagined or indoctrinated.
     
  11. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,661
    Likes Received:
    67
    The Poles, Ukrainians and Lithuanians were active in supporting the Germans against Jews. There is a word Pogrom that is equal to lynching that came out of Ukrainian. It comes from a religious teaching, both Catholic and Orthodox that the Jews need to be punished for crucifying Jesus
     
  12. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    5,920
    Likes Received:
    877
    It's also a good study into humanity in times of crisis...all the personality types that exist everywhere were there...this could unfold anywhere...with the same types involved. The beginnings of the Jewish cleanse are being mirrored somewhat in the Middle East right now...
     
  13. Christopher47

    Christopher47 Same Song, Fourth Verse

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2014
    Messages:
    162
    Likes Received:
    13
    There are many ironies to the Holocaust. Chief among them, in my view, is the percieved link in Nazi minds between Bolshevism and Judeism. Jewish people within the Socialist movement had renounced their Jewishness when they took on the mantle of the Socialist Revolutionairy. Leon Trotsky is the most prominent example of this.
    The Czarist Russians staged their own Jewish pogrom during their retreat in 1914. Irony is the victims of it looked to none other than the Imperial German Army (!) for protection!

    Another irony is the publication in 1902 in St Petersburg of "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". Originally only in Russian, it recieved a spectacular rebirth in popularity with the advent of the Russian revolution. The terror unleashed a wave of readers that percieved it as prophecy. Once it became known that among prominent Bolsheviks were Jews hiding behind Slavic alias's, the whole thing seemed perfectly 'clear'. This, and the involvement in the Spartacist 'putchs', communist 'republics' in Hungary and Bavaria, in which many Jews were involved, all were seen as an extension of Jewish 'power' outside of their Russian base.

    F.V. Vinberg, a Russian officer of German ancestry came up with a list of Soviet officials who were also Jews. Deciding to act with another Judeophobe, they translated and published 'The Protocols' in 1920.. It was an instant success, with Germany flooded with hundreds of thousands of copies, and by 1933, 28 editions.

    The 'connection' between Jewery and Communism was established with the help of the "Protocols.". A Baltic German who had studied architechture in Russia and carried a Russian passport, Alfred Rosenberg, became converted to Vinberg's ideas. (Rosenberg actually spoke Russian better than German). Rosenberg brought the 'Protocols' to Adolf Hitler's attention. Rosenberg further grafted Vinberg's doctrine into the Nazi movement. Hitler reacted in a simliar fashion.," I have read the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It simply appalled me!"" he told Hermann Rauschning.

    Many in Eastern Europe also fell under the Vinberg inspired spell, principally due to the wide publication that Germany had given the Protocols; it was easy to find a Russian language version, and therefore editions in the languages of Eastern Europe.

    The Nazis wasted no time in recruiting these already ideologically "sound" people for military service. Putting them into camps was also ideal. They were considered not much above Jews on the Nazi social scale, so, what better use to put them to, taking out their ideological hatreds on the very sections of society that the Ukrainians themselves viewed as responsible for their situation? The Eastern Camp Guards shared the same mindset as the Nazi's themselves, that the Russian Revolution was a Jewish- Bolshevik conspiracy, that Russia was the headquarters of Jewish efforts to take over the world. They also felt that the revolution had turned their lives up-side down, and had paved the way for Soviet Jewish officials to bring about large scale events like collectivization, (which they saw as a conspiracy within a conspiracy.)

    Also, the more satellites you can get to do your dirty work, the more you can claim later that the German soldier really had little or nothing to do with this distasteful 'work'. After all, the German Army tried to claim that it was only the SS committing anti-jewish atrocities. Having guards in camps who were not German is an SS ruse of a simliar fashion. Not that there weren't guards of good 'herrenvolk' stock, it was just kept to a minimum. The Camp guards may well had to have been eliminated themselves at some stage, if the sky fell in. Far easier to wipe away people who were Slavic 'untermenschen' if it came to it. These camp guards were also expected to fight any insurrection. So better that 2nd grade troops be used for that, too, wherever possible.

    There were many reasons for the Ukrainians.
     
  14. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2014
    Messages:
    1,450
    Likes Received:
    180
    Location:
    The Land of the Noble Steed
    Also it might have to do with the Germans promise of an independent Ukraine. Although it turned out to obviously be false, the Ukrainians who hated the Soviet Union saw their guarantee as promising and saw it as reason for assisting as guards in places like Sobibor.
     
  15. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Messages:
    1,434
    Likes Received:
    378
    Location:
    www.ceba.lu
    We always have a tendency to forget that Czarist Russia and the USSR were colonial empires, the largest part of their territory was forced under their rule against objections of the indigenous populations. The same goes for today's Russia! So many people thought that by siding with the germans they could regain freedom for their homeland.
     
    Tamino likes this.
  16. green slime

    green slime Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    3,126
    Likes Received:
    565
    I don't think we have that tendency at all.
     
  17. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2014
    Messages:
    1,450
    Likes Received:
    180
    Location:
    The Land of the Noble Steed
    On the 70th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, my local newspaper had an article about a man who served for the Nazis as a Ukrainian Auxiliary Police. John Kalymon, a resident of Troy, Michigan, who had come to the US in 1949 from the Ukraine/Soviet Union and ended up working at Chrysler, was stripped of his citizenship during a civil trial after a federal judge in Detroit said that his two years with the Ukrainian police resulted in the persecution of civilians. US authorities said that Kalymon shot Jews while serving with the Ukrainian Nazi-sponsored auxiliary police in the town now known as Lviv. With the help of people like Kalymon the Nazis managed to annihilate around 100,000 Jewish men, women and children, according to Eli Rosenbaum who lead the Justice Department's effort to find and deport former Nazis and collaborators. The government has evidence that includes records of that Kalymon personally shot and killed a Jew himself. His response, "No." He insisted that he was guarding coal from looters while working as a policeman and had no role in the persecution of Jews. He also said that the government is relying on forged handwriting that isn't his. "They want to remove me, an old man. I never was arrested, and I pay my taxes. I don't know anyone as honest as me."
    After this article was printed, there wasn't anymore coverage of this and I have no idea whether he was deported. Although I believe that he might have been.
     
  18. HellWarrior

    HellWarrior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2013
    Messages:
    178
    Likes Received:
    9
    Sorry guys, I didn't receive any notification after you replied and it's been a while I have been on this forum.

    Thanks everybody for all the information you are providing me. Very interesting to read you.
     

Share This Page