If a contest were held with a view of discovering which European nation has been the most vicious in persecuting the European Jews, then the Ukrainians would have a good chance of being the winners.
Survivors of the death camps are agreed that the Ukrainian death camp guards were worse than the Germans, a distinction not easily achieved. According to those who saw the Ukrainians guards in action, these monsters delighted in torturing the prisoners even before they were gassed. Ukrainians specialized in cutting off the ears of those about to be murdered. A number of Ukrainians were labeled “Ivan the Terrible” because of their cruelty, so that John Demjanjuk, who was tried in Israel and later imprisoned in Germany, could not be distinguished from the numerous other Ukrainians so identified.
Ukrainian women also participated in the death camp horrors. They worked in the Ravenbruck camp for women, where they beat women to death, drove violent dogs at the prisoners who tore them to pieces, and delighted in viewing the gas chamber deaths by means of windows installed for the enjoyment of the killers.
Even now the Ukrainians are assaulting the 350,000 Jews who still live there by burning synagogues and threatening the Jewish community.
American Jews who descend from Ukrainian Jewish immigrants are unanimous in reciting the horrors their parents and grandparents suffered there even before the Nazi invasion. Others tells us that in their youth IN THIS COUNTRY, Ukrainian-Americans were in the forefront of the anti-Jewish hate mongers who sought to perpetuate their hatred here.
Recently, the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin held a news conference at which he said that the Ukrainians are Nazis and anti-Semites. Even if one wants to discount everything Putin says, it can hardly be denied that he got that right.
During the 2nd World War, the Ukrainians volunteered to enlist in the German Waffen SS, a violent brutal force which exterminated millions of Jews. These Ukrainians constituted the “Galicia” division of the SS, who were praised by the Germans for their extraordinary brutality.
Already in the 17th century, Jews were massacred in the Ukraine by the Chmielnicki and other Cossack forces. By the end of the 19th century, Zionism first developed among the Jews of the Ukraine, as pogroms assaulted the Jews in 1905 and in 1918. Late, during Soviet rule, a good number of Ukrainian Jews were induced to enter farming after the Soviets promoted ethnic autonomy, leading to the inclusion in the government of ministers for Jewish affairs. Before the Nazi invasion, about one half of Russia’s 3 million Jews lived in the Ukraine. During 1941-1942, over a million Ukrainian Jews were slaughtered by the Germans and the Ukrainians.
Today there are those who seek to rebuild the Jewish community in the Ukraine by rebuilding synagogues, community centers, and schools. American Jews have helped in this and it is claimed that the Ukrainian government has encouraged this revival. Of course the problem faced by the Jews living there is that the population is largely anti-Jewish and that therefore a true revival of Jewish culture is not supported by the mores of the Ukrainian population. It is therefore doubtful that Jews can have a future in that land of religious bigotry and mass murder. Moreover, it cannot now be foreseen what the current developments will mean to the Jewish community there.