World War II in Ukraine:

Hitler's Scorched Earth Policy in Ukraine

Andrew Gregorovich

Hitler's Scorched Earth Policy in Ukraine

The Commander of the German Army Group South issued a "Top Secret" Memorandum on December 22, 1941 to all combat commanders in Ukraine:

"The following concept of the Fuehrer [Hitler] is to be made known ... to all commanders ... "

"Each area that has to be abandoned to the enemy must be made completely unfit for his use. Regardless of its inhabitants every locality must be burned down and destroyed to deprive the enemy of accomodation facilities ... the localities left intact have to be subsequently ruined by the air force." (Kondufor, History Teaches a Lesson, Kiev: 1986, Document no. 119, p. 172)

In many Ukrainian villages the German army ordered all the people into the church and set fire to it. Himmler on September 7, 1943 ordered SS-Obergruppenfuehrer Prutzmann "to leave behind in Ukraine not a single person, no cattle, not a ton of grain, not a railroad track ... The enemy must find a country totally burned and destroyed." (Bezymenski p. 38,; Dallin p. 364). The German Army was ordered to leave complete destruction in its wake so again 18,414 miles of railroads were ripped up, mines were flooded, industries that the Soviets missed were dynamited, wells were poisoned, and over two million houses and buildings were burned and destroyed.

Erich Koch ordered during the 1943 retreat that "the homes of recalcitrant natives ... are to be burned down; relatives are to be arrested as hostages."

What the Soviets missed in 1941 the Germans destroyed in 1943-44.. According to Soviet Ukraine, the retreating Germans "razed and burned over 28,000 villages and 714 cities and towns, leaving 10,000,000 people without shelter. More than 16,000 industrial enterprises, more than 200,000 industrial production sites, 27,910 collective and 872 state farms, 1,300 machine and tractor stations, and 32,930 general schools, vocational secondary schools and higher educational institutions of Ukraine had been destroyed. The direct damage to the Ukrainian national economy caused by the fascist [Nazi German] occupation came to 285,000,000,000 rubles..." (p. 155). This was about $60,000,000,000 U.S. pre-war dollars for Ukraine or trillions of dollars today. In the space of about three years Ukraine suffered devastation from the scorched earth policy of two cruel totalitarian governments.

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Copyright © 1995 Andrew Gregorovich

Reprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 92, Spring 1995

since March 1st 1997