Hiding Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Reality

Perhaps the biggest taboo of the U.S. mainstream coverage of the Ukraine crisis is to block out the role played by neo-Nazi militias in both the Feb. 22 coup and this summer’s bloody offensive in eastern Ukraine, but the ugly reality occasionally breaks through, as William Blum noted in Anti-Empire Report.

By William Blum

Ever since serious protest broke out in Ukraine in February the Western mainstream media, particularly in the United States, has seriously downplayed the fact that the usual suspects the US/European Union/NATO triumvirate have been on the same side as the neo-Nazis.

In the U.S. it’s been virtually unmentionable. I’m sure that a poll taken in the United States on this issue would reveal near universal ignorance of the numerous neo-Nazi actions, including publicly calling for death to “Russians, Communists and Jews.” But in the past week the dirty little secret has somehow poked its head out from behind the curtain a bit.

Far-right militia members demonstrating outside Ukrainian parliament in Kiev. (Screen shot from RT video via YouTube video)

Far-right militia members demonstrating outside Ukrainian parliament in Kiev. (Screen shot from RT video via YouTube video)

On Sept. 9, NBCnews.com reported that “German TV shows Nazi symbols on helmets of Ukraine soldiers.” The German station showed pictures of a soldier wearing a combat helmet with the “SS runes” of Hitler’s infamous black-uniformed elite corps. (Runes are the letters of an alphabet used by ancient Germanic peoples.) A second soldier was shown with a swastika on his helmet.On Sept. 13, the Washington Post showed a photo of the sleeping quarter of a member of the Azov Battalion, one of the Ukrainian paramilitary units fighting the pro-Russian separatists. On the wall above the bed is a large swastika. Not to worry, the Post quoted the platoon leader stating that the soldiers embrace symbols and espouse extremist notions as part of some kind of “romantic” idea.

Yet, it is Russian president Vladimir Putin who is compared to Adolf Hitler by everyone from Prince Charles to Princess Hillary because of the incorporation of Crimea as part of Russia. On this question Putin has stated:

“The Crimean authorities have relied on the well-known Kosovo precedent, a precedent our Western partners created themselves, with their own hands, so to speak. In a situation absolutely similar to the Crimean one, they deemed Kosovo’s secession from Serbia to be legitimate, arguing everywhere that no permission from the country’s central authorities was required for the unilateral declaration of independence.

“The UN’s international court, based on Paragraph 2 of Article 1 of the UN Charter, agreed with that, and in its decision of 22 July 2010 noted the following, and I quote verbatim: ‘No general prohibition may be inferred from the practice of the Security Council with regard to unilateral declarations of independence.’”

Putin as Hitler is dwarfed by the stories of Putin as invader (Vlad the Impaler?). For months the Western media has been beating the drums about Russia having (actually) invaded Ukraine. I recommend reading: “How Can You Tell Whether Russia has Invaded Ukraine?” by Dmitry Orlov

And keep in mind the NATO encirclement of Russia. Imagine Russia setting up military bases in Canada and Mexico, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Remember what a Soviet base in Cuba led to.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report,  http://williamblum.org/ .]


12 comments for “Hiding Ukraine’s Neo-Nazi Reality

  1. Abe
    September 16, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    German television presents a less ‘romantic’ and more historically accurate image of the Nazis and Ukrainians during World War II.

    This short scene from the German 2013 TV miniseries Generation War (German: Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter, literally “Our mothers, our fathers”) shows an SS round up of Jewish civilians with the help of Ukrainian auxiliaries (note the blue and yellow armband)
    CAUTION: graphic violence. Viewer discretion advised.

    Total civilian losses during the war and Nazi occupation in Ukraine are estimated at four million, including up to a million Jews who were murdered by the SS Einsatzgruppen (German for “task forces”) death squads.

    Einsatzgruppe C was assigned to north and central Ukraine, and Einsatzgruppe D to Moldavia, south Ukraine, the Crimea. The main assignment of the Einsatzgruppen was to kill civilians. Jews were regarded as partisans to be shot. Initially the targets were adult Jewish men, but by August the net had been widened to include women, children, and the elderly—the entire Jewish population.

    Ukrainian Support for Genocide

    Local Ukrainian officials and the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police helped the Einsatzgruppen quickly identify, round up and massacre Jewish civilians. Most Ukrainian Jews were killed by fellow Ukrainians commanded by German officers rather than by Germans. The Germans could not have killed so many Jews so quickly without local help.

    As word of the massacres in western Ukraine got out, many Jews fled. 70 to 90 percent of the Jews fled to eastern Ukraine and Russia. The further east the Einsatzgruppen travelled, the less likely the residents were to be prompted into killing their Jewish neighbours.

    German historian Dieter Pohl says that around 100,000 Ukrainians joined police units that provided key assistance to the Nazis. Many others staffed the local bureaucracies or lent a helping hand during mass shootings of Jews. According to some historians, the majority of Auxiliary Police came from the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists-B. Ukrainians were also among the guards who manned the Nazi death camps.

    The Massacre at Babi Yar

    On 29 and 30 September 1941, the largest mass shooting perpetrated by the Einsatzgruppen took place at Babi Yar, a ravine northwest of Kiev. The city had fallen to the Germans on 19 September. The perpetrators included a company of Waffen-SS troops from the 2nd SS division Das Reich (famous for its Wolfsangel symbol), and some Ukrainian auxiliary police.

    The Jews of Kiev were told to report to a certain street corner on 29 September; anyone who disobeyed would be shot. Since word of massacres in other areas had not yet reached Kiev and the assembly point was near the train station, they assumed they were being deported. People showed up at the rendezvous point in large numbers, laden with possessions and food for the journey.

    After being marched two miles north-west of the city centre, the victims encountered a barbed wire barrier and numerous Ukrainian police and German troops. Thirty or forty people at a time were told to leave their possessions and were escorted through a narrow passageway lined with soldiers brandishing clubs. Anyone who tried to escape was beaten. Soon the victims reached an open area, where they were forced to strip, and then were herded down into the ravine. People were forced to lie down in rows on top of the bodies of other victims, and they were shot in the back of the head or the neck by members of the execution squads. The murders continued for two days, claiming a total of 33,771 victims.

    Ghettos and death camps

    In Dnepropetrovsk in February 1942, Einsatzgruppe D reduced the city’s Jewish population from 30,000 to 702 over the course of four days. The German Order Police and local collaborators provided the extra manpower needed to perform all the shootings. The ratio of Order Police to auxiliaries was 1 to 10 in both Ukraine and Belarus. In rural areas the proportion was 1 to 20.

    As the Nazis recognized that the total elimination of Jewry would have a negative impact on the economy and the food supply, they began to round their victims up into concentration camps and ghettos and rural districts were for the most part rendered Judenfrei (free of Jews). Jewish councils were set up in major cities and forced labour gangs were established to make use of the Jews as slave labour until they were totally eliminated, a goal that was postponed until 1942.

    The Trawniki concentration camp about 25 miles southeast of Lublin in occupied Poland served as an SS training facility for Ukrainian (as well as Latvian and Lithuanian) auxiliary police. In 1942, it became the forced-labor camp for thousands of Jews within the KL Lublin system of subcamps as well.

    “On-the-spot dirty work”

    Trawniki men (German: Trawnikimänner) were deployed from Trawniki to all major killing sites of the “Final Solution” – it was their primary purpose of training. As guards, they took an active role in the extermination of Jews at Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka II death camps. They conducted large-scale massacres in Warsaw (three times), CzÄ™stochowa, Lublin, Lvov, Radom, Kraków, BiaÅ‚ystok (twice), Majdanek as well as Auschwitz, not to mention Trawniki itself. During training, many have executed Jews imprisoned right across the double-row barbed-wire fence. All of them were involved in shooting and beating Jews.

    Dispatched to the worst of the “on-the-spot dirty work” at the Jewish ghettos in occupied eastern Poland, Trawnikis used to arrive in squads numbering around 50 at the killing site, and start by sitting down to a sandwich and bottles of vodka from their knapsacks behaving like guests, while the Germans dealt with unruly crowds of thousands of ghetto inhabitants: as in MiÄ™dzyrzec, Łuków, RadzyÅ„, Parczew, KoÅ„skowola, Komarówka and all other locations. Trawnikis were seen as indispensable. In Łomazy, the Germans were “overjoyed” to see them coming after the messy Józefów massacre. The killing in MiÄ™dzyrzec was conducted by a Trawniki unit of about 350 to 400 men, the same as in Parczew.

    In 2011, the The Simon Wiesenthal Center reported that “Ukraine has, to the best of our knowledge, never conducted a single investigation of a local Nazi war criminal, let alone prosecuted a Holocaust perpetrator.”

  2. F. G. Sanford
    September 16, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    I regard it as almost a Natural Law that anybody who is, or ever has been, involved in any of three controversial topics can be written off as either complete screwballs or crackpots. Serious scientists and scholars won’t touch these three issues with a ten foot pole. These three issues are 1)Holocaust denial, 2)recovered alien bodies and flying saucers, and 3)Hitler survived the bunker. Ernst Zundel is a perfect example. A graphic artist and pulp science fiction writer, he can be credited as the father of the “Nazi UFO” mythology which has spawned dozens of books, movies, documentaries and conspiracy “theories”. But once he embarked on a Holocaust denial campaign, it was not long before he was jailed for that transgression. David Irving, an author once respected for his prolific original research on World War Two history, lost all credibility and was eventually jailed in Austria when he plead guilty to “trivializing, grossly playing down and denying the Holocaust”.

    So, we are now living in a world where crackpots, screwballs and con-artists, despicable though they may be, were jailed for opinions that merely softened or discounted genocide. That they were taken seriously in the first place is bewildering, but that they were jailed suggests that these matters were once upon a time taken seriously. They denied the Holocaust, and went to jail. Today, we are confronted with a regime actively engaged in GLORIFYING and RE-ENACTING that same tragedy. Where is the outrage? Where is the Jewish Lobby? Where are the media, academia and the humanitarian organizations who clamor for “Responsibility to Protect”? Surely, these organizations include members who should, by reason of faith or moral commitment, be appalled at the reported atrocities. Why are they silent? The truth is not difficult to know. Is it a matter of laziness or lack of courage? Or, is there a hidden agenda which merits a blind eye in order to achieve some perceived ‘higher goal’? I’m sorry, but good for the goose and all that. Somebody should be facing jail time for this, and there are a lot of Americans among them.

  3. Joe Tedesky
    September 16, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Somebody ought to fire Brzezinski. On his way out tell him we are done using bottom barrel criminals and the world’s worst misfits to fight our wars. Oh, there are those that would even argue if some of these terrible events we inflict on other nations are even wars. Well go live there and then let me know what we should call it…its war!

    While we’re at it, we should all learn, or brush up on Africa. I have a bad feeling that there will be some really sad goings on there in the future. I know its bad at this moment, but I am expecting things to get worst. Does Africa have Nazi’s?

  4. Abe
    September 16, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    The ‘romantic’ legacy of Ukrainian nationalism hides a reality of Nazi collaboration and terrorist violence.

    The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was created in 1929 in Western Ukraine (at the time interwar Poland). The OUN sought to infiltrate legal political parties, universities and other political structures and institutions. Its strategy to achieve Ukrainian independence included violence and terrorism against perceived foreign and domestic enemies, particularly Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia, which controlled territory inhabited by ethnic Ukrainians.

    In 1940, the OUN split into two parts. The older, more moderate members, supported Andriy Melnyk (OUN-M) while the younger and more radical members supported Stepan Bandera (OUN-B).

    After the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, both factions of the OUN collaborated with the Germans and used the opportunity of the invasion to send their activists into Soviet-controlled territory.

    Roman Shukhevych became a member the Revolutionary Command of the OUN headed by Bandera, taking charge of the section dealing with territories claimed by the Ukrainians, which after the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact had been seized by Germany.

    A powerful web was formed for the preparation of underground activities in Ukraine. Paramilitary training courses were set up. Military cadres were prepared that were to command a future Ukrainian army.

    Bandera held meetings with the heads of Germany’s intelligence, regarding the formation of Ukrainian staffed forces. In February 1941, the head of Abwehr Wilhelm Franz Canaris sanctioned the creation of the “Ukrainian Legion” under German command. Shukhevych became a commander of the Legion. OUN expected that the unit would become the core of the future Ukrainian army.

    In May 1941, the German command split a 700-strong Ukrainian Legion into three units. One of the units became known as Nachtigall Battalion, a second became the Roland Battalion, and a third was immediately dispatched into the Soviet Union to sabotage the Red Army’s rear.

    The Nachtigall (Nightingale”) Battalion was a Security Police unit composed almost exclusively from members of the OUN-B. After intensive training, outfitted in the standard Wehrmacht uniforms, the Battalion was moved to the border four days before the attack on the Soviet Union.

    On the night of 23–24 June 1941, the Nachtigall Battalion crossed the border near Przemyśl while traveling in the direction of Lviv. Before entering Lviv on 29 June, they placed blue and yellow ribbons on their shoulders.

    Under the command of Shukhevych, the Nachtigall Battalion took up guard of strategic objects, the most important of which was the radio station on the Vysoky Zamok Hill in the centre of Lviv. From this radio station, on 30 June, the OUN-B proclaimed the establishment of Ukrainian State in Lviv, with Yaroslav Stetsko as premier. The German administration did not support this act, but did not act harshly against the organizers until mid-September 1941.

    It is estimated that in June-July 1941, over 4,000 Jews were murdered in pogroms in Lviv and other cities in Western Ukraine. There is controversy regarding the participation of the Nachtigall Battalion.

    The first company of the Nachtigall Battalion left Lviv on 7 July in the direction of Zolochiv. The remainder of the unit joined later during their eastward march towards Zolochiv, Ternopil and Vinnytsia. During the march, Jews were said to have been shot en masse. The unit participated in action against the Stalin Line, where some of its members were awarded decorations by the Germans.

    The Germans refused to accept the 30 June OUN-B proclamation of Ukrainian independence in L’viv. In August, the Nachtigall Battalion was recalled to Cracow, then transported to Germany and disarmed at gunpoint. In September, OUN-B leaders and associates were arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo. Many members were killed outright, or perished in jails and concentration camps. Bandera and Stetsko were sent to Sachsenhausen. By the end of November 1941, the Germans started a second wave of repression in Reichskommissariat Ukraine specifically targeting OUN-B members.

    At the same time, Ukrainian soldiers of the disbanded Nachtigall and Roland Battalions were given the option of signing a one year contract for military service. Reformed into the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion. 650 Ukrainian personnel, including Shukhevych, were given German Police uniforms and sent to Belarus where they waged a brutal anti-partisan campaign. There are claims that the unit participated in the killing of Jews. In 1943, with the tide of war turning with the catastrophic German defeat at Stalingrad, all the Ukrainian soldiers refused to renew their services. Shukhevych escaped from arrest by the Gestapo.

    During 1942, the principal activities of OUN-B were propaganda and the development of its own underground network. Although German policies were criticized, the Soviet partisans were identified as the primary enemy of OUN-B. By October 1942, the OUN adopted a policy for the accelerated growth of a Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

    The OUN-B viewed the Germans as a secondary threat compared to their main enemies: the communist forces of the Soviet Union and Poland. They were content to let the Red Army and Soviet partisans battle the Germans. Due to its focus on the Soviets as the principal adversary, OUN-B anti-German actions were limited to situations where the Germans attacked the Ukrainian population or UPA units.

    In August 1943, Shukhevych was elected head of the Direction of the OUN and Supreme Commander of the UPN. During 1943 and 1944, UPA military units carried out large-scale ethnic cleansing against Polish and Jewish populations. Historians estimate that 60,000-100,000 Polish civilians were massacred in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia.

    The OUN long regarded Galicia and Volhynia as ethnic Ukrainian territory that should be included in a future restored Ukrainian republic. It sought to use terror and violence in opposition to the Polish government. The UPA massacres of Poles in 1943-44 were a preemptive strike, in expectation of another Polish-Ukrainian conflict over the disputed territories which were internationally recognized as part of Poland in 1923.

    Conversely, killings of Ukrainians by Poles in Volhynia resulted in between 10,000 and 20,000 deaths in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, while several thousand more were killed by Poles in Polish territory to the west.

    There are a number of contemporary far-right Ukrainian political organizations who claim to be inheritors of the OUN’s political traditions, including Svoboda, the Ukrainian National Assembly and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists. The role of the OUN remains contested in historiography, as these later political inheritors developed a literature denying the organization’s fascist political heritage and collaboration with Nazi Germany, while also celebrating the Waffen SS Galizien.

  5. maraidk@unisa.ac.za
    September 17, 2014 at 1:48 am

    The involvement of the neo-Nazi in Ukraine is not only hidden in the US mainstream media, but the whole world at large. In South Africa I have not seen this kind of perspective in any of our media including the national broadcasters. On writing articles or letters about it as an individual, to these media, these are completely ignored. My worry is that sooner or later, countries such as ours will soon be mobilised to join US/NATO and EU to support these fascists in Ukraine. And people because of being kept ignorant of these facts, might find themselves supporting these fascists. Just as much as the world is now being mobilised to fight the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. To begin with, these extremist groups such as ISIS, Talibans and Al-Qaedas were supported and funded or conditions created for their emergence by US/NATO/EU actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. And now US/NATO wants even to violate the Syrian’s sovereignty by engaging in air strikes of ISIS without even discussing this with Syria.

  6. Abe
    September 17, 2014 at 2:02 am

    Zbigniew Brzezinski was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1928. His family were members of the nobility (or “szlachta” in Polish) and hailed from Galicia in then eastern Poland (now in Ukraine). His father, a Polish diplomat, was posted to Germany from 1931 to 1935, and the Soviet Union from 1936 to 1938 during Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge.

    Given Brzezinski’s awareness of what has called “the extraordinary violence that was perpetrated against Poland” during the Second World War, he surely has little compunction about making both the Ukrainians and the Russians “bleed for as much and as long as is possible.”

  7. Abe
    September 18, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Nazism: History is Repeating itself in Ukraine (VIDEO)

    It’s been said those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it…

    In the 1930’s, special interests backed the Nazis as a means of achieving greater power and wealth. Today in Ukraine, they are doing it again. Play by play, word for word- using the same toxic demagoguery and arraying troops, armor, and airpower against their own people and their neighbors.

    History is repeating itself because some of us have clearly failed to learn from it. For those of us that have learned history’s lessons, it is time to spread the word.

  8. James
    September 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Pathetic article. Every country has a small amount of neo Nazis from Asia to the USA. Even France had SS collaborators, are we going to condemn France now?

    • Abe
      September 19, 2014 at 2:38 am

      Your objection is pathetic. Armed SS admirers did not execute a coup d’état in Paris, bomb Midi-Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon, and blame Spain.

      Russians in Ukraine form the largest ethnic minority in the country, and the community forms the largest single Russian diaspora in the world.

      Ethnic Russians live throughout Ukraine. They comprise a notable fraction of the overall population in the west, a significant minority in the center, and larger minority in the east and south.

      The traditionally mixed Russo-Ukrainian populated territories are mainly the historic Novorossiya (New Russia) and Slobozhanshchina (Sloboda Ukraine) – now both split between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. Russians also constitute the majority of the population of Crimea.

  9. Maxim
    September 19, 2014 at 3:59 am

    When video is worth of thousand of words. Nazi March in Lviv, Western Ukraine on September 17. Torches, stylized swastika, howls “Glory to nation, death to enemies!”.

  10. Maxim
    September 19, 2014 at 8:54 am

    Nazi March in Lviv, Western Ukraine, on September 17. When video is worth of thousand of words.

  11. epiphany
    September 23, 2014 at 10:00 am

    “Democracy” in Kiev (Ukraine)
    Welcome to Nulandistan: US-Supported Ukrainian Democrats at Work

Comments are closed.