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Home / Books / Lectures & speeches / Interviews / Law& History / Articles-monographies-chapt. in books - LembergNKWDMassacre


 

 

de Zayas   The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 ,  
Picton Press, Rockport, Maine, 2000 edition
Chapter 20: Lemberg

  The Lviv Massacre

"Barely a few hours after the German troops occupied Lvov the 603d Garrison headquarters moved in and began to investigate the extraordinary events that had preceded the German arrival." de Zayas

Below is reproduced all of Chapter 20, with the footnotes removed, of Alfred M. de Zayas, The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 , University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1979, pp. 214-227.  The chapter contributes to the refutation of the Wiesenthal-Safer Calumny discussed in the letters to Morley Safer dated 04-Jul-1999 and 28-Oct-1999 in which Simon Wiesenthal and Morley Safer claimed that in the three days prior to occupation by German forces in June 1941, Ukainians killed 5 to 6 thousand Jews in the city of Lviv (Lvov in Russian).  The more accurate picture that emerges from a consideration of a diversity of writings is that the period prior to German occupation was dedicated to the mass killing by the Jewish-dominated NKVD of Ukrainians and Poles, and that any Ukrainian-Polish anti-Jewish pogroms followed German occupation, were in retaliation for the NKVD massacres, and were of comparatively small scale.

Of course the footnotes in the original de Zayas book provide a much fuller account than is available below, and the other material in the de Zayas book is so rare, and of such interest, as to make the book a valuable acquisition to one's library.  The book contains 65 photographs, six of them concerning the Lviv Massacre.  Also of interest is de Zayas coverage, not reproduced on the Ukrainian Archive, of NKDV crimes throughout Ukraine and Eastern Europe that were contemporaneous with the Lviv Massacre, which coverage appears in de Zayas chapter 19 "Soviet Crimes Against Non-Germans".

Information on the author provided on the back cover of the book is as follows:

Alfred M. de Zayas is an American lawyer and graduate of the Harvard Law School.  A former Fulbright scholar, he holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Göttingen in West Germany.  His works include Nemesis at Potsdam: The Expulsion of the Germans from the East , also available as a Bison Book.


The following thought-provoking quotation is taken from p. xii of the de Zayas book:

War is not a relation between men, but between states; in war individuals are enemies wholly by chance, not as men, not even as citizens, but only as soldiers; not as members of their country, but only as its defenders.  In a word, a state can have as an enemy only another state, not men, because there can be no real relation between things possessing different intrinsic natures....

Since the aim of war is to subdue a hostile state, a combatant has the right to kill the defenders of that state while they are armed; but as soon as they lay down their arms and surrender, they cease to be either enemies or instruments of the enemy; they become simply men once more, and no one has any longer the right to take their lives.  It is sometimes possible to destroy a state without killing a single one of its members, and war gives no right to inflict any more destruction than is necessary for victory.  These principles were not invented by Grotius, nor are they founded on any authority of the poets; they are derived from the nature of things; they are based on reason.

Jean Jacques Rousseau
The Social Contract , Book I, chapter 4

CHAPTER TWENTY  /  LVOV

Every scholarly analysis of the events that occurred in Lvov in the summer of 1941 is fraught with nonscholarly dangers: the dangers of emotional reactions, polemical disputes, quotations out of context, deliberate distortion and misuse for political purposes.  Indeed, because this complex of murders has remained a politically sensitive issue for over four decades, it is prudent at the outset to distinguish three murder phases: (1) the measures taken by the NKVD against Ukrainian and Polish political prisoners in June of 1941; (2) the pogroms carried out by Ukrainian and Polish civilians against local Jews; (3) the murders of 38 Polish professors and at least 7,000 Jews by the SD and SS.

In keeping with its limited authority, the War Crimes Bureau focused only on the crimes committed by the NKVD.  Its files show that Bureau members knew about the local pogroms against the Jews (though no specific investigations of these were conducted) but provide no indication that they were aware of the SD and SS murders.  This chapter is limited in scope by the available Bureau records and therefore concentrates on the first of the three murder phases.

In the early hours of 30 June 1941 the Polish-Ukrainian city of Lvov was occupied by the 1st Mountain Division of the German 49th Army Corps.  There was little resistance, since Soviet troops had already abandoned the area.  The intelligence section of the 49th Army Corps observed in its first report, dated that same day: "According to the account of Major Heinz, commander of a battalion of Regiment 800, thousands of brutally murdered persons were found in the Lvov prisons.  The 1st and 4th Mountain Divisions are hereby ordered to assign journalists and photographers to cover these atrocities.  The chief military judge of the Corps and the liaison officer of the Foreign Office with the High Command of the 17th Army have been sent to Lvov to carry out in-depth investigations."

The German investigations, then, did not originate with the Bureau; the number of victims was so great that three army judges immediately commenced inquiries of their own, without awaiting specific instructions from Berlin: Judge Hans Tomforde, with the 603d Garrison headquarters; Judge Erich Wilke, of the 49th Army Corps; and Judge Wilhelm Möller, with the High Command of the 17th Army.

The Testimony of German Witnesses

Barely a few hours after the German troops occupied Lvov the 603d Garrison headquarters moved in and began to investigate the extraordinary events that had preceded the German arrival.  Upon learning of the mass killings, Judge Tomforde asked his medical officer Dr. Georg Saeltzer to accompany him to the former OGPU prison, to the Brygidky prison, and to the former military prison, known as Samarstinov.  He interrogated a number of witnesses and prepared a preliminary report the same day.

Wilke, chief judge of the 49th Army Corps, issued a report dated 1 July 1941: "The examination of the bodies found at the OGPU prison indicated that the killings had been preceded by torture....  The majority of the victims are Ukrainians; the rest are Polish.  Witnesses also reported that in this prison two German wounded pilots had been interned.  A Luftwaffe belt and a pilot's cap were found in the prison.  In ... one of the mass graves a Luftwaffe helmet was also found.  Thus it must be assumed that these German airmen are among the bodies that could not be identified."  Judge Wilke remained in Lvov until 6 July and took the sworn depositions of numerous witnesses, including those of senior medical officer Dr. Richard Eckl, veterinarian Dr. Joseph Brachetka, and noncommissioned officer Kurt Dittrich.

Further witness depositions, including those of Polish and Ukrainian detainees who had survived the liquidations at the prisons, were obtained by Judge Möller, on special assignment to the High Command of the 17th Army.  On 6 July 1941 Möller took the deposition of Dr. Saeltzer, who had accompanied Tomforde to the prisons on 30 June 1941:

The Brygidky prison ... was still burning.  There I met a young Ukrainian, aged about 24 years....  He claimed that 24 hours before, shortly before he was to be executed, he had succeeded in escaping from cell 3 of the left wing; he guided me through the cellars, the ground floor, and the first floor of the prison.  The people who rushed in through the main entrance wailed and lamented while asking to see their relatives, with whom they had been in contact two days before by shouting from outside the prison.  We discovered ... in the first four cellars a considerable number of bodies, the upper layer being relatively fresh and the lower layers in the pile already in advanced decomposition.  In the fourth cellar the bodies were covered by a thin layer of sand.  In the first courtyard we found several stretchers stained with blood.  On one of the stretchers I saw the body of a male who had been killed by a bullet through the back of the head....  I ordered that the cellars should be immediately cleared, and in the course of the next three days 423 corpses were brought out to the courtyard for identification.  Among the bodies there were young boys aged 10, 12, and 14 and young women aged 18, 20, and 22, besides old men and women....

From there I continued to the former OGPU prison....  We broke the door leading to the lower prison rooms and saw there 4 corpses at the foot of the stairway, among them a young woman aged about 20 years, who apparently was shot at the very last minute; in the first large room the corpses were piled up to about half the height of the room....  In the courtyard were two mounds of earth from which parts of corpses stuck out.  There too the recovery of the corpses was immediately begun, and they were carried to the main courtyard....  In the second courtyard of the OGPU prison I found at one of the gates a Luftwaffe cap and a parachute belt....

[At] the military prison in the northern part of the town ... the stench of decomposition was so strong and there was so much blood under the mountains of corpses that we had to wear a Polish gas mask in order to enter the cellar and carry out the necessary investigations.  Young women, men and older women were piled up layer upon layer all the way to the ceiling....  The third and fourth cellars were only about three-fourths full.  Over 460 corpses were taken out of these cellars.  Many of the bodies showed evidence of serious torture, mutilations of arms and legs, and shackling.  The recovery of the remaining bodies was stopped upon orders of the commander because as a consequence of the heat the decomposition of the bodies was already advanced, and there was no possibility of identifying the scantily dressed corpses.


At the military hospital the bodies of three members of the Luftwaffe were found.  Judge Möller ordered a medico-legal autopsy to determine the cause of death, and the pathologist of the 17th Army, Dr. Herbert Siegmund, was entrusted with the task.  The corpses of four other German airmen found at the OGPU prison were also subjected to forensic investigation.  On 3 July 1941 Judge Möller took a deposition from Dr. Siegmund, who explained that the first three soldiers had been shot dead in their hospital beds:

The body lying on the left bed next to the window had a superficial skin wound on the right chest, the size of the palm of my hand.  The wound was several days old and had been freshly dressed.  Moreover, there was a more recent bullet wound inflicted by a 6.5-mm bullet through the skull slightly over the left ear; the exit wound was about one centimeter in diameter through the right temple, which was considerably destroyed....  The body on the middle bed had a broken jaw that had been professionally bandaged ... the examination also established a fresh bullet wound on the left chest, fourth centimeters down from the nipple, in the area of the heart.  The body on the third bed next to the wall had a large wound in the under side of the lower leg ... a fresh bullet wound of the same caliber as that seen in the other corpses had been inflicted on the right side of the victim's stomach, some six centimeters under the costal arch.


Examination of the four other fliers' bodies indicated that they had not been previously wounded.  Three had been killed by a shot through the head; the fourth had no head injuries, but the rest of the body was in such an advanced state of decomposition that an autopsy was not deemed feasible.

The officer responsible for removing thousands of corpses from the prisons and arranging for their proper burial was Lieutenant Walter Lemmer.  In his deposition before Judge Möller, dated 7 July 1941, he stated:

On the evening of [1 July 1941] I went to the Brygidky prison and observed that already a substantial number of corpses had been taken out of the cells and brought out into the courtyard.  I estimated the number of corpses at about 200....  On the same night I arranged for the burial of 50 more bodies.  They were carried to the Ukrainian cemetery and interred in a mass grave....  In the course of the next day some 300 bodies were buried....  But there were still countless bodies in the cellar.  They had been piled up layer upon layer all the way to the ceiling.  The floor of the cellar was flooded with blood.  It was not possible to carry out an orderly removal ... because of the advanced decomposition of the corpses.  It was not possible to enter the cellar without an oxygen apparatus.  Upon orders of the city commander lime chloride was poured over the bodies, and the openings of the cellars were bricked up.  I estimate the number of bodies still remaining in the cellar at about 1,000.  It is possible that there were further cellars into which we were not able to go....

Late in the afternoon of 2 July 1941 I began the task of clearing up the NKVD prison....  I estimate that there were some 150 corpses in the courtyard....  There were also corpses in the cellars which had been covered with sand.  I cannot estimate how many.... the entrances were bricked up by order of the city commander of Lvov.  The bodies ... in the courtyard were taken to the Ukrainian cemetery for burial.

I had nothing to do with the clearing up of the Samarstinov prison.  But I heard that the cellars ... were similarly full of corpses....  On Friday, 4 July 1941, I went to the prison of the local courthouse....  According to the prison administrator there was a mass grave in the courtyard.  I myself saw a grave mound of about 4 by 6 meters.  The administrator further informed me that a large number of corpses remained in the cellars.


The Testimony of Ukrainian and Polish Witnesses

Besides recording the confirming testimony of many more German officers and medical doctors, the German judges also took the depositions of numerous Ukrainian and Polish witnesses.  On 4 July 1941 Josef Pilichiewicz, an employee of the surgery division in the Lvov hospital, testified before Judge Möller that on 22 June two wounded German soldiers had been brought to the hospital; on 29 June both were shot by the Soviet Commissars Loginov and Maslov.  The responsible chief of section, Dr. Czeslav Sadlinski, stated on 4 July 1941 that he had treated three wounded German soldiers for broken bones; subsequently, he learned that all three had been killed by commissars.  The nurse Sofia Gryglovna remembered that she had brought tea to these soldiers and that the two commissars chased her out of the room and told her that the wounded Germans would be shot.  All three witnesses gave their testimony under oath.

On 5 July 1941 Judge Möller interrogated a survivor of the massacre, the Ukrainian teacher Leo Fedoruk, who spoke with the aid of an interpreter: "On 17 March 1941 I was arrested at the school by members of the NKVD....  The shootings at the prison began two days after the outbreak of war ... the following night we were taken into the interrogation room around one or two in the morning.  Three persons sat at a table with a red cloth on it.  One of them was a first lieutenant, the other person in civilian dress was the prison prosecutor.  I could not recognize the third person because the room was lighted only by candles.  There was a list on the table, and each prisoner was supposed to give his name.  The three persons then decided who should be shot.  Since my name was not properly written on the list ... I was taken away to a solitary cell....  Only twelve persons survived, eight men and four women."

Another Ukrainian survivor, Omelian Matla, testified before Judge Möller on 6 July 1941:

On 7 August 1940 I was arrested in my home by members of the NKVD on account of my links with the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists] ... on the second day after the outbreak of the war I noticed a lot of movement in the prison....  around five or six in the morning the door of my cell was opened and seven NKVD men came in with the prison director....  Someone shouted: "Lie down, you whores!"  And at that very moment the shooting began.  Twelve of us were immediately killed, two were seriously wounded, three ... were not hit.  I survived the massacre because one of the victims fell on top of me....  The NKVD men then rushed from cell to cell and shot down the detainees.  After the last shots had been fired, I stood up....  Suddenly I heard them coming back.  I crept under a corpse and smeared blood on my face....  The men again entered our cell and fired three more times.  They continued from cell to cell, and then I heard, "Come quickly to the courtyard, the cars are ready to go."  I remained a while longer in my cell waiting to see whether the NKVD men would come again.


On 8 July 1941, Judge Möller took the deposition of Ukrainian teacher Bohdan Kazaniwsky, who had also been arrested by the NKVD because of his membership in the OUN.  With the help of an interpreter, Kazaniwsky described his experiences at Brygidky prison: "On Tuesday, 24 June 1941, the NKVD men temporarily left the prison.  We broke out of our cells and attempted to escape.  The courtyard was blocked, however, and we were unable to get out.  While we were standing in the courtyard, machine guns started firing at us.  Numerous persons were wounded and others killed.  We therefore retreated into the prison.  The NKVD men returned and forced some 90 of us into a large cell....  During the following days persons were called out, and we heard then the shooting and the cries.  Of the 90 only 22 survived.  My name had, in fact, been called out, but I did not answer.  On 28 June we heard many shots ... after a while we discovered that civilians had entered the prison to free us.  The NKVD men had already abandoned the prison.  I estimate that the number of detainees at Brygidky prison was around 10,000, of whom only 600 to 800 came out alive."

On 7 July 1941 Josefa Soziada, a Polish widow, testified before Judge Möller: "On Monday, 30 June 1941 ... I went to the NKVD prison, because I had heard that German troops were already in town.  I first went to the courtyard, where I at once saw numerous corpses, including those of three men whose color had turned dark, and of a woman who was totally naked.... through a window ... I saw many corpses butchered on a table....  through another window I saw the body of a girl hanging from a lamp; she was about eight years old.  The corpse was naked and had been hanged with a towel."

On the same day Polish architect Ludwig Pisarek related that on 29 June he had gone to the NKVD prison to look for his brother, arrested in December 1940.  "The prison had already been abandoned by the Russians, although the city of Lvov had not yet been evacuated by the Russians.  I entered the prison and looked into the individual cells.  These were scenes of horror.  The cells were completely full with corpses.  In a large room of 10 by 5 meters I saw bodies piled up to a height of about a meter and half."

Also on 7 July 1941 Irene Loesch, a Ukrainian housewife, testified that she had gone to the same prison on 28 or 29 June to look for her mother, "who had been arrested some three months before because of her religious convictions: as wife of a pastor of the Greek Orthodox church, she had asked a member of her parish why he did not go to church.  When I entered the prison I immediately saw dead people in the first cell.  The bodies were mutilated....  I saw a woman with a breast cut off....  Another woman had had her abdomen slit open; she had been pregnant....  Before that I had already been to the Samarstinov prison to search for my mother.  There I could only see from the outside into a room that was filled up with corpses all the way to the ceiling."

After numerous other Poles and Ukrainians were interrogated by the German judges, Möller drafted a report on 16 July 1941 which he sent together with the originals of all depositions to the War Crimes Bureau.

Knowledge of Lvov Murders in the Outside World

The Bureau collected and evaluated information from various sources, and used part of its documentation on Lvov to prepare its first study of the war in Russia, "War Crimes of the Soviet Armed Forces," dated November 1941.  Numerous depositions were also used in the white book of the German Foreign Office titled "Bolshevist War Crimes and Crimes gainst Humanity," of which the British Foreign Office obtained a copy through its legation in Switzerland.

One important non-German organization that participated in the investigations was the Ukrainian Red Cross.  On 7 July 1941 it addressed an appeal to the German city commander: "Over 4,000 corpses have been found in Lvov's prisons ... it is hardly possible to describe the condition in which the bodies were found....  Full of anguish and consternation because of the fate of all Ukrainians who remain in prisons and concentration camps throughout the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Red Cross requests that the entire civilized world be informed by radio of theses atrocities.  In particular we urge the Swiss, Swedish, and Dutch Red Cross societies to take measures to protect the lives of those who are endangered so that they may still be saved."

Information also reached the outside world through Polish confidential agents and others, such as the Polish professor Olgierd Gorka, who reported from Sweden that the Russians had killed some 160 Poles at the Brygidky prison before evacuating the town.  All these and other reports led the British Foreign Office to address a note to Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who, predictably, rejected the accusations on 12 July 1941.  But when Sir Frank Roberts, a British foreign service officer involved in Polish-Russian relations during the war, mentioned the Gorka report to the foreign minster of the Polish government-in-exile, Edward Raczynski, he replied that there was "little doubt that the Polish and Ukrainian political prisoners in Lvov had in fact been liquidated as alleged."

It was not until the Nuremberg trials, however, that Lvov was discussed at length in the international community and then attention focused not on the NKVD killings described above but rather on the extensive liquidations carried out by the SD and SS.  The Nuremberg indictment charged that "in the Lvov region and in the city of Lvov the Germans exterminated about 700,000 Soviet people, including 70 persons in the field of the arts, science and technology."  On 15 February 1946 Soviet prosecutor L. N. Smirnov referred to a report of the "Extraordinary State Commission on Crimes Committed by the Germans in the Territory of the Lvov Region."  According to that report, even before the German seizure of Lvov the Gestapo detachments were preparing lists of the most prominent representatives of the intelligentsia who were to be annihilated.  He charged that mass arrests and executions began immediately after the seizure of Lvov.

German SD documents introduced by the prosecution at the principal trial and later at the American trial of SS General Otto Ohlendorf (Nuremburg Trial No. 9) show that the civilian population of the city as well as the SD participated in the abuses; for instance, and SD report dated 31 July 1941 asserts that "the population rounded up some 1,000 Jews and drove them to the prison that had been occupied by the Wehrmacht."  The same report continues: "The Lvov prisons were full with the corpses of murdered Ukrainians....  between 3,000 and 4,000.  Reliable information also indicates that some 20,000 Ukrainians, of whom at least 80 percent belong to the intelligentsia, were deported to inner Russia.  Similar conditions were observed in the neighboring towns, e.g., Dobromil, Sambor, and vicinity....  As reprisal for these atrocities 7,000 Jews were picked up and shot."

Erwin Schulz, chief of a division of SS Einsatzgruppe C , which arrived in Lvov early in July 1941, reported in an affidavit for the Ohlendorf trial, dated 26 May 1947: "I saw the thousands of murdered persons and horrendous mutilations in Lvov.  I smelled the awful stench of decomposing corpses that prevailed in the city and saw many weeping women, men, and children who were looking for their relatives."  Otto Rasch, chief of the SS Einsatzgruppe C , claimed that it was Jewish officials and civilians who had been responsible for the killing of the political prisoners, and thus he gave his Sonderkommandos an order from Hitler that reprisals were to be taken against guilty persons and against major suspects.

In affidavits given for the Nuremberg defense, however, senior German officers who had been in Lvov briefly after its capture confirmed the SD and SS reports of the bodies found in the prisons and the reaction of local civilians, but also testified that the German military authorities had issued orders to prevent violence against the Jewish population.

General Max Winkler: "I remember [hearing] the figure of some 4,000 corpses....  As a reaction to those murders the Ukrainian population immediately started to drag the Jews out of their homes and to abuse them in the streets....  The provisional commander of Lvov, Colonel Fingergerst of the 49th Army Corps ... succeeded in stopping [these excesses] by giving orders to German troops and sending special patrols through the streets."

General Egbert Picker: "In the courtyard of the state prison I saw many rows of corpses, laid next to each other, many of them with the most grotesque mutilations....  I also saw in a small courtyard ... some 15 corpses, apparently Jews who had been killed as reprisal by the local population shortly after the Russians evacuated the town....  Jews were being taken to the prison by local civilians wearing armbands, and in one case they were being beaten with a bat....  General Kübler ... told me ... that he had ordered such acts of violence by the civilian population against Jewish persons to be immediately stopped."

General Hans Kreppel: "In the first hours after the occupation of Lvov I personally saw hundreds of bodies of murdered Ukrainians ... I also remember an order of the 49th Army Corps forbidding the Ukrainian population to persecute the Jews."  Similar affidavits were introduced in evidence by the defense in the trial against Field Marshal von Manstein (1949) in Hamburg.

Postwar Investigations

In 1954 the U.S. House of Representatives established a Select Committee on Communist Aggression under the chairmanship of Congressman Charles Kersten of Wisconsin.  At hearings in Munich, New York, and Chicago, hundreds of witnesses testified on a variety of topics, including the systematic killing of political prisoners by the NKVD.  The committee's report reads in part:

In every city in western Ukraine in the first days of the war, the NKVD and its agents shot all of the political prisoners, except a mere handful who were miraculously saved.  One of those, Valentyna Nahirnyak, who had been connected with the theater in Rivne, has given a graphic account of her escape.  She had been in a cell with seven other women....  A band of the murderers came into the cell and shot with their automatics at the group until they fell.  All but three were dead.  A little later a man entered the cell and bayoneted all three of these, but Miss Nahirnyak's wounds were still not mortal, although she had received six bullet wounds and two bayonet cuts.  The same process continued as the German armies advanced into the Eastern Ukraine.  Here the Communists had more time than in the extreme west, but even in Vinnitsa some 700 bodies were found near the railroad station.  In Kharkiv, one of the main prisons was closed and set on fire, while the NKVD remained on guard to prevent any assistance until the interior was destroyed and the inmates were all dead.


Similar statements were given by other Ukrainian witnesses who testified before the House committee, including Bohdan Kazaniwsky, whose deposition had already been taken by the Germans in July 1941.

The Lvov case gained renewed attention in the fall of 1959 when the Soviet press mounted a major disinformation campaign against a minister in the West German Adenauer cabinet, Theodor Oberländer, accusing him of participating in the SS murders there.  On 5 September 1959 the Radianska Ukraina wrote: "Eighteen years ago the fascists committed a horrendous crime in Lvov in the night of 29 - 30 June 1941.  The Hitlerites arrested on the basis of prepared lists hundreds of Communists, Communist youth, and non-party members and murdered them in brutal fashion in the courtyard of the Samarstinov Prison."  These accusations were picked up by the Western press and eventually led to Oberläander's resignation.  The investigation by the district attorney's office in Bonn, however, completely cleared him.

At about the same time an international commission was set up at The Hague in the Netherlands to carry out independent investigations.  The members were four former anti-Hitler activists, Norwegian lawyer Hans Cappelen, former Danish foreign minister and president of the Danish parliament Ole Bjørn Kraft, Dutch socialist Karel van Staal, Belgian law professor Flor Peeters, and Swiss jurist and member of parliament Kurt Scoch.  Following its interrogation of a number of Ukrainian witnesses between November 1959 and March 1960, the commission concluded: "After four months of inquiries and the evaluation of 232 statements by witnesses from all circles involved, it can be established that the accusations against the Battalion Nachtigall and against the then Lieutenant and currently Federal Minister Oberländer have no foundation in fact."

The extensive journalistic and historical activity of Ukrainians in exile further confirm the results of the investigations carried out by the War Crimes Bureau in 1941.  Roman Ilnytzkyi's study condemns both the murders perpetrated in the Ukraine by the SS and the NKVD murders in Lvov.  A collection of documents dealing with the Russian colonialism in the Ukraine devotes an entire chapter to the liquidation of Ukrainian political prisoners by the NKVD, not only in Lvov but also in Vinnitsa, Solotschiv, and a dozen other localities.  It reproduces numerous reports of Ukrainian eyewitnesses living today in the United States, Canada, and the Federal Republic of German.

Ukrainian journalist and author Borys Lewytzkyi wrote in 1960: "The responsibility of the Soviet authorities for the murders perpetrated in the Lvov prisons, and also for the murders in other prisons in Galicia and in the Ukraine, is clear and overwhelming; there is justification to suppose that in Soviet circles there were agitators who wanted to put the blame for these atrocities on the German army of occupation and on the Gestapo.  It is known that the shooting of prison hostages took place even in Kiev; the Polish Embassy in Moscow later received many reports of specific instances in which senior Polish civil servants had been killed in the Kiev prisons.  As for the killings in the Lvov detention centers, the entire population of the town and its vicinity knew what had happened during those tragic days in June."

Further Investigations

Periodically, reports appear in the press that new mass graves have been "discovered" in the Soviet Union; again and again reference to the Lvov murders resurfaces, and there is a tendency even in the Western press to give some credence to Soviet propaganda and to assume that the Germans may indeed have killed the Ukrainian political prisoners at the Brygidky, Samarstinov and OGPU prisons.  Surely, the Germans would have been capable of committing such crimes, but in this case the evidence is overwhelming that they did not.

Because of the persistent political misuse of the Lvov murders, it was necessary to find as many surviving eyewitnesses as possible.  Only one of the German judges, Wilhelm Möller, and four Ukrainian witnesses could be located and questioned.  On 20 August 1976 Judge Möller stated: "The copies of the depositions of witnesses about the events in Lvov which are before me describe the facts as I still remember them....  The investigations were carried out without any influence or pressure from any side or from any other agency."

In December 1976 and again in December 1977 the author visited the Ukrainian witness Bohdan Kazaniwsky at his home in Philadelphia.  He confirmed and expanded on his version of the events as described in his 1941 deposition and at the 1954 congressional hearings.  Leo Fedoruk, another Ukrainian witness who had testified before Judge Möller, also granted an interview in Philadelphia in December 1977 as did Maria Strutynska, who had not been questioned by the Germans in 1941 but had testified before the international commission at the Hague in 1960.  Mrs. Strutynska, the widow of a Lvov victim, journalist Mychailow Strutynskyj, stated: "When the Wehrmacht entered Lvov, all prisons were already full of murdered prisoners ... there were two huge mass graves that had been superficially covered with earth; here and there an elbow or a foot was visible ... When the Bolshevists left, they set fire to the Brygidky prison, and the Germans had to organize a special work force, which spent an entire week removing charred bodies."

Still another witness who had appeared before the international commission was Mrs. A.K., who on 1 April 1977 remembered her experience as follows:

In the fall of 1940 I was arrested by the NKVD in Lvov because of my membership in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.  I was detained in the Samarstinov prison ... until the beginning of June 1941.  I was then transferred to the Brygidky prison because I was sick and I was supposed to be hospitalized for treatment of jaundice and kidney problems.  But instead ... I was thrown into the cellar of the prison.  When the German-Soviet war broke out on 22 June 1941 I was detained in a cell in the cellar.  The cell was bursting with other women detainees....  At short intervals the guards ... called out individual prisoners or small groups, who then had to go out in the hallway with all their possessions.  They kept calling people from Tuesday until Friday....  In the early hours of Saturday the voices of other prisoners from the higher floors became audible....  Right then we realized that there were no more guards in the prison, and so the detainees broke the door open and rushed into the halls....  I then went toward the Samarstinov prison, and on my way I met another woman with whom I had been interned ... she told me that according to another Samarstinov detainee my brother had been murdered there....  I went to look for his body.  Upon arrival I saw that a great many people were already standing outside the gate....  The bodies were laid out in four rows.  I counted 40 corpses, among them 13 women.  I was able to identify three women with whom I had shared a cell....  I saw that the corpses had many broken bones.  Among the male corpses I could not find my brother, perhaps because I did not know what clothing he had been wearing in prison.  I asked whether there were more bodies at the prison and received a positive answer.  I was told, however, that the rest of the corpses ... were unrecognizable as a result of advanced decomposition.


Certainly all these statements should be carefully compared with others so as to discover possible errors or exaggerations; this principle applies to the testimony of all witnesses who have been victims of crime.  But if a historian wants to study the reality of murders and persecutions, it is imperative to identify and interrogate the victims.  Surely the victims have a better recollection of events than the perpetrators, who prefer to keep their silence or, better, to forget.

The mass murders of political prisoners by the NKVD in Lvov are still frequently confused with the anti-Jewish pogroms of the local population and with the liquidations perpetrated by the SD.  Clear separation lines must be drawn between the three murder phases.  With regard to the first phase, the War Crimes Bureau's investigations are thoroughly confirmed by the affidavits presented by the defense at the Nuremberg trials and by the subsequent inquiries of the United States Congress and the international commission at the Hague.  The other two phases, on which the available Bureau records provide no information whatever, have been well documented in the records of a number of war crimes trials.

 

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