Historical Background

Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and by December 1941 all of Ukraine was under German occupation. Ukrainian nationalists welcomed the Germans and public figures, including church leaders, greeted them as liberators from the Soviet yoke. Many Ukrainians and some of the prisoners of war willingly joined German auxiliary unites, and in 1943 preparations were made to create a Ukrainian SS battalion within the Waffen-SS. However instead of independence, most of Ukrainian territory was transferred into a German administrated Reich Kommissariat Ukraine. The remainder was put under martial law, and Eastern Galicia was annexed to the Generalgouvernment of Poland.

The murder of Ukraine’s Jews was mostly carried out by the Einsatzgruppen (the special mobile units that shot Jews) and SD. They were helped by Ukrainian auxiliaries who gathered the Jews, guarded them, and in many instances participated in their killing. Those who sheltered Jews were in mortal danger from the Germans, as well as from some of their neighbors. Despite the danger, there were individuals and sometimes entire villages who offered Jews shelter.