"Ukraine was, to the Germans, first and foremost a source of food; secondly, of coal, iron and other minerals; and thirdly, of slave labour."
World War II ended in Europe fifty years ago on V-E Day (Victory in Europe) May 8, 1945 after 2,076 days of war. The USSR celebrated the end of the war, which it called the "Great Patriotic War," one day later on May 9th. Ukraine was the greatest victim of World War II, suffering the greatest material damage and the greatest human losses of any country in the war. How is it possible that Ukraine was even more devastated than Germany? One reason was that Ukraine suffered twice from a "scorched earth" policy conducted by the two greatest totalitarian powers of this century, first Stalin's Soviet Russia and then by Hitler's Nazi Germany.
An American foreign correpondent, Edgar Snow, who visited Ukraine in 1943 and at the end of the war in 1945, was so astonished at the enormous losses it had suffered that he wrote an article for Saturday Evening Post titled "Ukraine Pays the Bill." It could be said that "The Allies won the war but Ukraine paid the bill."
The story of Ukraine's role and suffering in World War II is generally unknown to the world because it was in the interest of the Soviet Union and Moscow to emphasize the sacrifice and struggle of the "Russian people," of whom inaccurate statistics said twenty million died. This statistic, first quoted by Khrushchev, included 16 million civilians, and actually applied to all citizens of the USSR. In fact, the majority of these victims were non-Russians, mostly Ukrainians. Ukraine was entirely occupied by the German Army for three years but only a small part of Russia was briefly under German occupation during the war.
Prof. Norman Davies, criticizing western historians, wrote:
"...the overwhelming brunt of the Nazi occupation between 1941 and 1944, as of the devastating Soviet reoccupation, was borne not by Russia but by the Baltic States, by Belarus, by Poland, and above all by Ukraine.... nowhere is it made clear that the largest number of civilian casualties in Europe were inflicted on the Ukrainians, millions of whom were killed both by the Nazis and by the Soviets. Thanks to persistent wartime prejudices, many British and Americans still harbor the illusion that most Ukrainians spent the war either as auxiliaries in the concentration camps or in the Waffen-SS Galizien....[but] the Waffen SS recruited three times as many Dutchmen as Ukrainians." (New York Review of Books June 9, 1994, p. 23).
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Copyright © 1995 Andrew Gregorovich
Copyright © 1995 Andrew GregorovichReprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 92, Spring 1995