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Chapter 1

Ukrainian Nationalism,
Activities Sponsored by Nazi Germany

After the Soviet Union extended their influence into Polish territories, there was an upsurge of Ukrainian Nationalism. This resurgence was not limited to Ukraine proper or to the German-occupied area, but manifested itself abroad in The Americas and Canada. The pro-German Ukrainian activist, Danile Skoropadski, was heavily engaged in the United States and Canada giving speeches to meetings of Ukrainian emigres. The main organ for the distribution of pro-German sympathies and propaganda was the Ukrainian magazine 'Na Vidsich', which was financed from German sources. (2)

In Germany, according to Confidential Press Reports (section re the Ukraine), the Headquarters of the Hetmanzy (nationalist group) – and presumably Hetman Pavlo Skorpadsky himself – moved from Berlin, where they were established since about 1920, to Krakow. (3)

Krakow now became the headquarters (or base from which operations were conducted) of other Ukrainian Nationalists movements or parties, i.e. the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists (O.U.N.). The organ of the O.U.N. in Krakow was 'Kakowski Wisti'. (4) Reports being fed to British Intelligence (M.I.2b) in August 1940 confirmed continued German support for the Ukrainian Nationalists, quelling earlier reports that arrests and even executions had taken place.  Later information confirmed that all the prominent OUN leaders were still in place, and the Hetman Skoropadsky's paper was still appearing in Berlin. (5)

An article in an emigre Russian newspaper published on the 26th April 1940 reported the efforts made by the German administration to encourage the Nationalists in their quest for a Greater Ukraina.(6) The same newspaper also reported that the majority of Ukrainian prisoners of war had been released and sent home, and the remainder were separated from the Polish prisoners and detained in a separate camp. In these Ukrainian camps propaganda was carried out under the supervision of Sevryuk, a leader of the OUN, who offered hope of the formation of a 'Greater Ukraina Army'. This all helped to engender hatred against the Jews and Poles. Another sign of continued German support was the transfer of Orthodox churches taken from the Roman Catholics and given to the Ukrainians.(7) This carrot to the Ukrainians continued:

But this is only one side of the question, and there is another more important one. The whole remnant of the former 'Little Poland' has been officially declared to be Ukrainian land. This German ' Ukraina' includes the territory of Sanok, Leszno, Krasno, Brzozow, Yaslo, Gorlice, and Nowy Sacz. In this territory the Ukrainian yellow and blue flag has been restored and all the administration handed over to the Ukrainians. A Ukrainian militia has been created which is regarded by the local population as 'the 'Cadres' of the future Ukrainian Army'. Many Ukrainians have fled to Przemyszl from Lvov. Walking in Przemyszl, the informant of Vakar saw on one side of the river San yellow and blue flags, and one quite small swastika over the German Commandant's office. The tiny 'Ukrainian' is bounded by the USSR and sub-Carpathian Ruthenia. A little to the west at Zakopane there has just been set up a separate 'state of Carpathian mountaineers' which Governor General Frank visited in February promising to the mountaineers 'a special regime'. (8)

The German view of the Ukrainian presence in Poland was greatly over estimated. This was particularly evident in the Zakopane region on the Slovakian frontier and in Krakow. Many reports suggest there was no Ukrainian question. However, Germany was undoubtedly encouraging the Ukrainians with an eye on the USSR at the same time.

The object of the O.U.N. was to establish an independent Ukraine State. To achieve this, counter-revolutionary activities were carried on in the Ukraine proper (under Soviet rule), which included the forming of military units. (9)

In addition to the O.U.N., there was a sister organisation known as the O.D.V.U, founded in 1929 in America. This sub-organisation was also supported and financed by various German governments, commencing from the government of 1914-18. The sole purpose of the O.D.V.U. was the collection of funds for the O.U.N, and propaganda: 'acquainting the world with the Ukrainian question and the right of Ukrainians for self-determination, etc.' (10)

There was an arm of the O.D.V.U. in South America with its headquarters in Buenos Aires, and in its organ 'Nash Klich' their sympathies were entirely with Germany. As a result of the outbreak of the Second World War, the Argentine government banned the organisation because of its close ties with Germany. In 1940, the American newspapers accused the O.D.V.U. of Fifth Column activities, with the result that the American government instigated an investigation of 'un-American' activities.(11)

In Canada, the Ukrainian newspaper 'Novy Shliah', on the surface, was loyal to Canada. However, the organ reproduced articles from the 'Krakowski Wisti', a defender of Ukrainian nationalism (pro German).  The newspapers' activities extended to propaganda articles and was believed to be a base for the recruitment of Ukrainian emigres in Canada for the 'liberation' of Ukraina. (12)

The American and Canadian governments actively infiltrated these nationalist organisations and were able to obtain various intelligence which pointed directly to various groups organising themselves on a military bases in German occupied Poland. These reports revealed how these groups were being organised, their maintenance, equipment, and training in specially set up establishments near Krakow (SS/SD school in Zakopane/Rabka). It also revealed the treasonable activities of a Ukrainian minority during the war in Poland by acts of sabotage and mutiny in the Polish army, etc.(13)

In the United States, the O.U.N. did not openly declare its pro-German sympathies and policy of collaboration. They did it by inference in newspaper articles indirectly calling for the 're-birth' of national (Ukrainian) life, culture and economics in German occupied Poland. Also by inference, and in some cases more directly, made clear that such national life has been made possible since the time of the German occupation. Besides this, all nationalist Ukrainian newspapers in the occupied area did not hide their hatred of the ally of Great Britain and Canada, i.e. of Poland. Pro-German sympathies were openly discussed in correspondence and newspapers in South America, but not in The United States or Canada.(14)

In the occupied areas of Poland the O.U.N. were conducting violent anti-Soviet propaganda and shouted for the 'liberation of Ukrainian lands' by Ukrainian efforts and forces – which, on the face of it, was absurd as they could not move without their German masters. At one stage the Germans were considering the formation of a Ukrainian Brigade in German occupied Poland, but no doubt the Germans got 'cold feet' over this suggestion, as they were very wary and suspicious of the Ukrainians' proclaimed loyalty to the Reich. (15) Other intelligence reports report Hitler was considering setting up a Polish Government and Army of a million men, consisting of Poles and Ukrainians which was to be led by young peasant stock. (16) The point of these suggested measures was to exclude the intellectuals and create a Polish buffer state between Germany and the U.S.S.R.

In October 1940, a new figure entered upon the scene of Ukrainian politics – namely Nicholas Skoropadski, nephew of Hetman Skoropaski, who, at the end of the First World War, was for a short time, ruler of the 'Ukrainian Republic' under German auspices. At the beginning of the second World War, Nicholas Skoropadski was in Russia fermenting discreet trouble among his nationals. He then left hurriedly for Poland, then passed into Germany and was politically active from then on. Soviet sources at that time, reported that he had a secret meeting with Hitler, in Berlin, in October, 1940 and that a concrete plan of action in Ukraine was discussed. (17)

From intelligence sources gathered by the British, Nicholas Skoropadski was ready to play a quisling part in his country and was credited with having widespread influence and an organisation working steadily on the lines of the old 'Ukrainian Independence Party', spreading disaffection in Soviet Ukraina and the part of Poland recently occupied by the Russians.  Through various intelligence channels reported to the British government, it was possible to gather some idea of the Skopodaski organisations intent should Germany begin an Eastern Drive. These Nazi sympathizers were to be ready to 'play their allotted part' when Germany was ready to move.  Bearing in mind that this intelligence was gathered on the 15th and 16th October, 1940, there was time for the organisation to get its act together. The broad lines of Germany's aggression Plan were expected to materialise around March or April, 1941. (18)

German-Ukrainian collaboration was on high alert and had already made plans to make maximum use of the minorities in Bukovina, Ruthenia, the Balkans, as well as disaffection spread in Ukraine proper and in Soviet occupied Poland. Secret nuclei of 'Ukrainian Legions' such as Roland and Nightingale, were formed in the above territories. Personnel from these 'legions' were being trained in a number of centres in the occupied territories, the main centres being the SS/SD schools in Zakopane/Rabka, and in Pistanay, Slovakia.(19) The report also included reference to Ukrainian Priests being trained at Breslau, for what purpose it is not clear. German instructors and German equipment were supplied on a lavish scale. Recruits for the volunteers for these 'legions' going on in the areas where the Nazis had a sphere of influence over Ukrainian emigres, including those in the United States and Canada. (20)

German proposed expansionism eastward had her eye on the Black Sea ('Oil') which could either be obtained from Russia (amicably by overt threats), or Rumania (less amicably), and then by uprisings engineered in all Ukrainian territories under Soviet rule, as well as Soviet-occupied Poland. The 'Legions' would be used to bolster up the uprisings, preparatory to a formal German move 'to restore order'. The old story of 'self determination' and 'appeals to Germany for aid' to be revived. A policy that was to be perfected by the Soviets.

In the latter part of 1940, there were clear indications of a German build-up on the Soviet border, stretching from Eastern Prussia along the entire demarcation line of the Soviet-German Pact. Intelligence reports of the time refer to at least 46 German divisions in East Prussia, 24 divisions in Poland and a further 12 divisions in the strategic triangle of Krakow, Moravska Ostrava and Ilib. These military formations far exceeded the actual needs of occupation. (21) Again, intelligence reports refer to special winter equipment being used by the German troops on manoeuvres – 'winter clothing' of the type used in Finland – skis, etc. It was also reported that Germany had placed rush orders for ski-mounted aeroplanes in Czech aviation factories, plus large orders for skis for troops. (22) The Skoda works were experimenting with new types of light artillery mounted on special chain protected wheels for travel over ice, as well as 'glider undercarriages' for negotiating deep snow. (23) As a special 'treat' German troops flooded into Zakopane and Bad Rabka for ski-manoeuvres on the slopes of the Carpathians and in the rocky passes as soon as winter conditions permitted, which was usually late October. (24) This activity was described by the German propaganda machine as health sports for the troops. However, shrewd observers interpreted it differently. (25)

These were not the only military preparations that indicated some form of aggression against the Soviet Union, sooner rather than later, even to the untrained eye. Behind the scenes, intensive indoctrination courses were in progress in training of Ukrainians, Polish and SS/SD personnel in the training schools, particularly in Zakopane, and then Rabka.

To compound the confused assessment of the British Government (which will be referred to later), intense activity was taking place in Slovakia, from West to East, pointing directly towards the Soviet-Ukrainian border: strategic 'penetration' roads were being constructed, capable of bearing the accelerated tempo of heavy tanks and other similar vehicles – side roads linked to the former for lesser transport, supplies etc., – short, two-track railway lines, which stopped just short of the border, their exact proposed use was not known at that time. (26)

There is no doubt that the complete suppression of Poland was just the first project on the agenda by the Nazis. With the invasion of Great Britain put on hold, (the battle for the skies over GB had failed) priorities shifted to developments in the Balkans, Rumania and the Black Sea, and of course it was the controlling stake in the oil fields that was very tempting for the future of German expansionism.

All the indications from the intelligence sources at the disposal of the British Government indicated very strongly that Germany would make a push for the wheat-lands, the oil fields and the coal fields etc. of Russian (and Polish) Ukraina. Russia relied on dialogue with her German partners as she was in no way able to respond militarily at that time.

Moscow had received numerous warnings from London and Washington. At the beginning of January, 1941, Sumner Wells, the Under Secretary of State, passed on to the Soviet Ambassador in Washington information which had reached his Government about the Germans preparations for attacking the USSR., and he gave him further details on the 20th March. (27) Sir Stafford Cripps, (Ambassador to Moscow) as early as the 24th April, 1941, had to fight to get the ear of the Soviets to warn them of German intentions. His advice was brushed aside as Stalin had concluded it would have been madness for Hitler to undertake war against the USSR before finishing off the war in the West. (28)

There is no doubt that all governments were indulging in the art of bluff and counter bluff, and in this respect the German propaganda machine was well ahead of the field. Minds were concentrated on Germany: will she or won't she invade the USSR?

About the end of April 1941, in a conversation between Sir Stafford Cripps and General Sikorski, it was reported by Sikorski that the Polish government had received intelligence that German troops were concentrating in the strength of more than a hundred divisions and about 2,000 supporting aircraft, in the proximity of the Russian frontier, mass forces on the Finnish frontier and considerable forces on the Rumanian frontier.(29) Hitler was convinced that the war would be over quickly when he would turn to Great Britain and finish the job before winter. (30) Cripps reported that there were rumors that Rumania had already declared war on Russia, but he was of the opinion (by intelligence) that the anti-war party in Germany was prevailing and this indication was supported by the return to Moscow of the wives and children of the German diplomats.(31)

His Majesty's Britannic Government (Joint Intelligence sub-Committee of the War Cabinet), as late as May, 1941, (only weeks before the Nazi onslaught) was in possession of all the above facts and much more beside which were passed to Maisky, the Soviet Ambassador in London. Yet, despite overwhelming evidence and indications that such an assault was imminent, concluded:

"Whereas a few weeks ago rumours were current throughout Europe of an impending German attack on the U.S.S.R., the contrary is now the case. There are some indications which suggest that a new agreement between the two countries may be nearly complete". (32)


The conclusions of H. M. Government are briefly set out below. A more comprehensive assessment and the arguments on which they are based are set out in Appendix 1. (33)


  1. To pursue her present war aims, Germany needed economic assistance from Russia. Agreement with the Soviets or war.
  2. War with the Soviets economically damaging to Germany. German air force in difficulties. An agreement was overwhelming.
  3. Convincing threats by Germany on the Soviets. The danger point: The Soviets would not sign over control. The Soviets would avoid clash and yield to German demands, but at the same time prepare for the worst.
  4. Politically, Germany to show her domination and influence the U.S.A. and a peace with G. B.
  5. Germany must know immediately where she stands. Agreement or War, H. M. Government believes it will be by agreement. (34)

The Soviet Union (NKVD) were well aware of Ukrainian attitude towards them, and had for some time carried on a relentless opposition to the formations of Ukrainian Nationalist militias fermenting within her borders. The Soviets were attempting to minimise this danger by showing a more lenient approach to the Polish minorities in Volhynia and Galicia, or rather, what was left of the Polish minority. At the same time repressive measures against the Ukrainian nationalists was being intensified to a very marked degree.

At first the NKVD's activities had been directed mainly to liquidating the Ukrainian military organisation, which had been founded by Konovaletz, although the so-called middle class Ukrainians had also suffered considerably, whether on class or nationalistic grounds. (35)Further repressment by the NKVD gathered momentum with the elimination of any Ukrainian centres, by force if necessary, of an anti-Soviet nature which might possibly exist.

The Soviets knew that the Ukrainians within her own territories were in contact with their co-racialists across the border in German Poland and were being influenced by the reports of the privileged position which was accorded to the Ukrainians under German rule.

The Germans had made a special effort to foster a national spirit amongst the Ukrainians in Western Galicia, and the traditional subterranean existence, and extensive revolutionary practice, had resulted in communications between Western Galicia and Eastern Galicia being quickly placed on a regular basis. The population of Galicia had a highly developed sense of nationalism and in this area with ideological and propaganda centres close at hand, but out of Soviet reach, the Soviet authorities were confronted with a difficult problem.

The NKVD was prepared to go to even greater lengths than ever, in stamping out this subversive Ukrainian element, but the stronger the measures, the stronger became the opposition and hatred they evoked. (36)

The Soviets however, were no fools, and they were able to control the entire Soviet population with probably the most sophisticated civil intelligence yet devised by any government. In the main, the Western governments, including Germany, were ignorant of the power base from which the Soviet Union controlled all aspects of Soviet life. This was not only the case during the Second World War, but had been shaped from the very first, namely from 1917, and would continue until the fall of Communism in 1989.

Germany was the first Western government to infiltrate the Organisation of the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) of the Soviet Union, and the power base behind it. Based on information captured during the 'Barbarossa Campaign', and on trustworthy evidence obtained from Soviet officials who had been captured or arrested, Germany responded.

On the 2nd April, 1942, Heydrich in his capacity of the Chief of the German Security and Intelligence Services (Sipo-SD), distributed this intelligence throughout the occupied areas. In the SS/SD school at Rabka, Dr. Schongarth regularly gave lectures to the students on the Soviet subversion of its own people.(37)

The United States Intelligence Agencies were more secure in their knowledge that Germany would strike at the U.S.S.R. The Americans knew at some stage they would be brought into the European War. They were correct in their assessment, that German-Soviet conflict would occur sometime in the spring of 1941, and the build up of her armaments commenced. (38)

The moment of truth, as history has recorded it, was the 22nd June, 1941, when Germany commenced her conquest of the Soviet Union.

Ukrainian National lists in Western Ukraine viewed the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union as a liberation, and welcomed the creation of a 'free' Ukraine within the fascist 'New Order' in Europe. Were they right? We shall see!

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  1. 1) Return
  2. 2) Public Record Office (PRO). WO/208/1724. Return
  3. 3) ibid. Corroboration of Hetman Skoropadski's move to Krakow is shown in another independent assessment intelligence report from Finland on the 24th September, 1940 (WO/208/1734 'Operations Intelligence Report No. 805, dated 24.9.40). The informant learnt from the Finnish wife of the United States Consul in Moscow that Hetman Skoropadski was operating in Krakow where he had set up his headquarters. That the Soviets were aware of this development and concluded that this action was not in the spirit of the Soviet-German Pact. Return
  4. ibid. Return
  5. ibid. 1734, MI2b report dated 3.8.1940. Return
  6. ibid. Return
  7. ibid. Return
  8. ibid. Return
  9. ibid. Intelligence report: in the publication, 'Novy Shilish', a Ukrainian Language newspaper representing nationalist policy, published in Canada, where articles reproduced from Ukrainian press in the U.S.A. proved the existence of such a movement, including military groups. Return
  10. ibid. Return
  11. ibid. Return
  12. ibid. Return
  13. ibid. Return
  14. ibid. Return
  15. British Intelligence Report from Berne, dated 3rd July, 1940. (WO/208/1734): quoting a conversation between H.M.R (not identified) and a Polish Minister to Switzerland. The latter told H.M.R of the reported formation of a Polish Government under a certain STUDNCKI, whom the Minister described as an honest old fool. The Polish Minister referred to the formation of the Ukrainian Brigade in Poland. Return
  16. ibid. Return
  17. ibid. Return
  18. ibid. Return
  19. ibid. Return
  20. ibid. Return
  21. Mark Goldfinger, (now living in Bournmouth) a young boy at the time living in Rabka at that time remembers the side roads stacked nose to tail with tanks and other armoured vehicles. This was confirmed on my visit to Rabka in November, 1997, with the help of the present secretary (Jan Krakowska) of the Catholic school (the building of the SS/SD school) acting as interpreter, we interviewed a number of elderly witnesses who also remembered the large German military presence in Rabka on the run-up to 22nd June, 1941. Return
  22. British intelligence report dated 4th October, 1940. Return
  23. ibid. The only unknown factor was Turkey who may object to a takeover of Ukraine. Turkey's political aspirations were not known. If Germany had designs on Turkey, the war materials being gathered would have been of little use due to the terrain. All indications were for a strike against the Soviets. Return
  24. ibid. Similar reports were coming in from a number of sources, including the L.E.F (Free French) via their office in Istanbul, also dated 4.10.41. Return
  25. ibid. Return
  26. ibid. Undated report but believed October, 1940. Return
  27. Peace and War: United States Foreign Policy, 1931-41, Washington, 1942, p. 105; Sumner Wells, The Time for Decision, London, Hamish Hamilton, 1944, p. 251. Return
  28. In a statement to the American Press on the 31st December, 1941, M. Litvinov agreed that his government had received warnings but had dismissed them. Return
  29. Doc. Polish-Soviet relations, vol, 1 p104. Return
  30. ibid. Return
  31. ibid. The two factions, one led by Goring (for war), and Schulenburg and Hess (anti-war) were both fighting for Hitler's ear. It was Goring that was to prevail. 'So far' – said General Sikorski – 'Germany has won on the land, lost on the seas, and there is a draw in the air'. Return
  32. PRO. WO/208/1761, dated 23rd May, 1940, copy 36, marked 'Secret'. (My underline). Return
  33. In retrospect, the authors of this report may well have wished the ground would open up and swallow them whole. His Majesty's Government assessment of German intentions against the U.S.S.R. was made just a month before the actual attack. Not three miles away, from the seat of government where a contrary assessment was made, at 12, Nevern Place, London, S.W . a self employed journalist, Marie Brett-Perring, undoubtedly an intelligence agent of some kind, had come to another conclusion. Over a period of months she had been feeding the British Security Services with information concerning German military activities in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland and the Ukraine. Marie Brett Perring was surprisingly accurate. Return
  34. WO/208/1734 (assessment report). Return
  35. In June 1940, most of the active nationalists elements in Western Ukraine had gone to ground (M.I.6 Political Report dated in June, 1940). Return
  36. PRO. WO/208/1734 – M.I.6 Political Report No. 123, dated 25.6.41. Return
  37. See Appendix 'A'. Return
  38. ibid. The USA – In several reports mention is made of strategic war materials destined for Sweden that were requisitioned by the USA for her own use. 110 pursuit planes and bombers manufactured for the Swedish air force were seized despite protests from the Swedish government. On the 23rd October, 1940, President Roosevelt issued an 'executive order', decreeing priority defence orders placed with private industry. It established the first government general control over private industry.  The commission was headed by Donald M. Nelson. Return

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