Did Hitler or Stalin Kill More Ukrainians in World War II?
by Andrew Gregorovich
Total Losses by Country
Kosyk gives 2.5 million military and 4.5 million civilian deaths or a total loss of 7 million for Ukraine compared to a total German loss of 6.5 million. Other losses in World War II: Poland 5 (or 6) million, Japan 2.36 million, Yugoslavia 1.7 million, France 600,000, Italy 500,000, Romania 500,000, Greece 450,000, Hungary 430,000, Great Britain 350,000, Czechoslovakia 340,000, Austria 374,000, USA 300,000, Holland 210,000, Finland 100,000, Belgium 88,000 and Canada 42,000. Byelorussia lost 2,198,000 civilians. The Russian SFSR, or Russia, lost 1,781,000 civilians and about 3 to 4 million military or about 5 to 6 million total according to Kosyk.
Academician Yuri Kondufor, Director of the Institute of History , Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, in September 1984 gave for the first time precise statistics of Ukrainian population losses in World War II. He stated that there was a total loss of 7.5 million (7,509,045) including the dead and those taken as slave laborers to Germany. The German occupation and World War II resulted in the extermination and death in Ukraine of 3,898,457 civilians and 1,366,588 military and prisoners-of-war for a total of 5,265,045. (Gregorovich, Forum No. 61).
According to Professor Kondufor there were also 2,244,000 Ukrainian citizens taken to Germany for slave labor in the German war industry. Most of these probably perished in Allied bombing raids. According to these statistics provided by Prof. Kondufor, Ukraine’s total World War II loss was 7.5 million. To this should be added the loss of 250,159 in Carpatho-Ukraine and Crimea giving a total of 5,515,204 dead according to Kosyk or 7,759,204 total lost including Zakarpatia and Crimea. This includes about 600,000 Ukrainian Jews. Kondufor’s statistics, perhaps the most accurate of all, probably cover the period from June 1941 rather than September 1939.
The Encyclopedia of Ukraine (University of Toronto Press, vol. 5, p. 727) states: “An estimated 6.8 million Ukrainians were killed…. About 200,000 Ukrainian displaced persons [DPs] ended up in the emigration to the West; the vast majority were returned to Soviet rule through forced repatriation.” Bohdan Krawchenko states that “In the course of the conflict 6.8 million people were killed, of whom 600,000 were Jews and 1.4 million were military personnel who either perished at the front or died as prisoners of war (POWs).” (Ukraine during World War II, ed. by Y. Boshyk, p. 15)
Toronto historian Orest Subtelny in his Ukraine: A History (University of Toronto Press, 1994) states: “Even a cursory listing of losses reflects the terrible impact that the Second World War had on Ukraine and its inhabitants. About 5.3 million, or one of six inhabitants of Ukraine, perished in the conflict. An additional 2.3 million had been shipped to Germany to perform forced labor.” (p. 479).
Soviet encyclopedia gave the following statistics: “During this war over 20 million Soviet people were killed including many peaceful citizens. On the territory of Ukraine along the Hitlerites destroyed over 5 million people and more than 2 million people were carried off into slavery [in Germany].” (Ukrainska Radyanska Entsyklopedia, Kyiv 1978, vol. 2, p. 152).
Even if we accept the conservative figure offered by Prof. Kondufor (during Soviet rule it should be mentioned), Ukraine’s loss of about 7.5 million people is greater than the total military loss of the USA, Canada, British Commonwealth, France, Germany and Italy all put together. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica the total military losses of these countries in World War II was 4,305,214. The statistics are: USA 292,100; British Commonwealth 544,596 (including 39,139 Canadians); France 210,671 (+ 107,847 civilians); Germany 2,850,000, and Italy 300,000.
In conclusion it seems reasonable to estimate that because of the German occupation and the Soviet repression from 1939 to 1945 during World War II, that Ukraine lost about 10,000,000 citizens or one Ukrainian out of four. It is reasonably estimated that about 50 million people perished in the world because of World War II which means 20 per cent of all the victims were Ukrainians. In this figure are about 600,000 Ukrainian Jews.
Did Hitler or Stalin Kill More Ukrainians in World War II?
Both Hitler and Stalin saw the Ukrainian nation as an obstacle to their plans and goals. Hitler wanted Ukraine as German Lebensraum and Stalin feared that Ukrainian nationalism and an independent Ukraine would wreck the Soviet Russian Empire. Both were guilty of war crimes and genocide in Ukraine on such a massive scale that they are virtually unequaled in history. We are not speaking here of thousands, or tens of thousands, or even hundreds of tousands of victims of mass murder. We are talking of millions of Ukrainians killed by both Hitler and Stalin.
The great puzzle is: Did Hitler or Stalin during WW II kill the most Ukrainians? Hitler’s crimes in Ukraine have been better documented and are better known. Stalin once said that history is written by the winners. As a victor, Stalin’s USSR was able to hide its genocide of Ukrainians. After the war Stalin said that 7 million Soviet citizens died but we know he was concealing the true higher figures. Nikita Krushchev in 1961 set the death toll in the USSR at 20 million and this seems to be a credible and accurate statistic. Recently Moscow has quoted figures of 25 and 27 million. These new figures are either sheer propaganda or are based on new information about Stalin’s genocide of Ukrainians and other Soviet citizens during the War.
No documentary evidence exists of Hitler’s order to eliminate all Jews in Europe but we know this is true. Likewise, we have no Hitler order to annihilate the Ukrainians. But we do have the evidence: 1) Millions of civilian victims perished which could not be “accidental”. 2) Documentary evidence of the wholesale executions of Ukrainians. 3) The order to execute up to 100 innocent Ukrainians for one German soldier shot by the partisans (and 460,000 German soldiers were killed by partisans and guerillas). 4) The Ostarbeiter Ukrainian slaves were to be “worked to death” in Germany. 5) Millions of prisoners of war were intentionally starved to death in concentration camps. 6) Ukrainian cities were starved to death according to plan. 7) Nazi leaders said that Ukraine as the Lebensraum of Nazi Germany would be colonized by German population and some Ukrainians would be used as slave labor. What about the other Ukrainians? 8) As late as 1943 Hitler refused status to Ukraine and when Ukrainians offered to form an army against the USSR it had to be named Galicia Division until the very last few minutes of the war in 1945 when it was renamed the Ukrainian National Army. 9) Ukraine’s disproportionate civilian losses compared to military also indicates a special Nazi German campaign.
It would be naive to think that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi German government was not bent on destroying as many Ukrainian Untermensch as possible in view of the statements which prove it.
For example, Reichmarshal Goering, who was next to Hitler in power said: “This year between twenty and thirty million persons will die [in Ukraine and] and Russia of hunger. Perhaps it is well that it should be so, for certain nations must be decimated.” — Hermann Goering, Nov. 24-27, 1941 (Dallin p. 123).
Today all over independent Ukraine there are discoveries of mass murder graves in the suburbs of cities (such as Bykivna in Kiev), and near all the KGB (NKVD) secret police stations throughout Ukraine. The Ukrainian victims of Stalin’s Soviet Russia number in the millions. Many Ukrainians are also buried in the mass graves of Siberia. It is unknown how many of these Ukrainian victims of the Soviet system perished during the war years.
Kortelisy (Ukraine), Lidice (Czechoslovakia) & Oradour-sur-Glane (France): Razed Villages
The German war on the civilian population in Ukraine was ruthless. The entire world heard about the total destruction of the Czech village of Lidice and the killing of all the men in its population of 400 on June 10, 1942. The French village of Oradour-sur-Glane razed on June 10, 1944 is also well known.
But the world never heard about the Ukrainian village of Kortelisy which the Germans burned to the ground on September 23, 1942 and killed all its 2,892 population of men, women and children. There were about 459 villages in Ukraine completely destroyed with all or part of their population by the German Army with 97 in Volhynia Province, 32 in Zhitomir province, 21 in Chernihiv province, 17 in Kiev province and elsewhere. There were at least 27 Ukrainian villages in which every man, woman and child was killed and the village completely destroyed by the Germans. (Ukrainska RSR u Velykyi Vitchyznianiy Viyni, vol.3, p. 150).
At least 160 Nazi concentration camps, some holding tens of thousands of prisoners, were established in Ukraine. Many Ukrainians were also sent to Auschwitz and other death camps in Poland. The janowska (Yanivska) Camp in Lviv was especially notorious because the Commandant, SS officer Gustav Wilhaus, used to sit on his balcony and with his automatic rifle use the inmates in the yard as target practice, even shooting children. The camp also had an orchestra and played a tune titled “The Tango of Death” specially composed for it. The orchestra was executed when the Germans closed the camp during their retreat. (Wytwycky, p. 59)
According to the official records of Germany there were 4,192,000 German war dead. If Germany itself, according to World Book Encyclopedia, lost only 2,196,000 military dead and 1,858,000 missing or a total of 4,054,000 why were Ukraine’s losses so huge? There are several possible explanations. It is known that the Germans intentionally starved Ukrainian cities; that Ukrainian prisoners of war in concentration camps were starved to death; that disease was rampant and was not top be treated on Hitler’s orders; and that because about 2,000,000 houses and apartments were burned at least 10,000,000 Ukrainians were left homeless in the war exposing them to freezing in the winter.
Wilhelm Keitel gave an order to the German Army in the East: “for the killing of a single German soldier we should retaliate by the execution of 50-100 persons” (Kamenetsky, Secret Nazi Plans, p. 166). The death penalty was applied to Ukrainian hostages: up to 200 innocent Ukrainians were executed for one German attacked by guerillas. In spite of this a total of 460,000 German soldiers and officers were killed by partisans in Ukraine during the War.
Major-General Eberhardt, the German Commandant of Kiev, on November 2, 1941 announced that: “Cases of arson and sabotage are becoming more frequent in Kiev and oblige me to take firm action. For this reason 300 Kiev citizens have been shot today.” This seemed to do no good because Eberhardt on November 29, 1941 again announced: “400 men have been executed in the city [of Kiev]. This should serve as a warning to the population.”
The death penalty was applied by the Germans to any Ukrainian who gave aid or merely information or directions to the UPA or Ukrainian guerillas. If you owned a pigeon the penalty was death. The penalty was death for anyone who did not report or aided a Jew to escape, and many Ukrainians were executed for helping Jews. Death was the penalty for listening to a Soviet radio program or reading anti-German leaflets. For example, on March 28, 1943 three women in Kherson, Maria and Vera Alexandrovska and Klavdia Tselhelnyk were executed because they had “read an anti-German leaflet, said they agreed with its contents and passed it on.” (History Teaches a Lesson). It is obvious that early in the war Germany had a policy of annihilation of Ukrainians because it planned to establish a German colonial population in the Lebensraum of Ukraine.
The USSR also sacrificed countless Ukrainian lives in its “cannon fodder” military procedures. Soldiers were marched across minefields by foot to clear them by their deaths. When the USSR retreated in June 1941 it executed over 19,000 political prisoners in Lviv and other west Ukrainian cities. Stalin was not interested in preserving Ukrainian lives. But does all this account for Ukraine’s population loss of 7.5 to 11 million? Unfortunately the Government of Ukraine since independence in 1991 has not released any official figures for Ukraine’s population loss in World War II.
One astounding theory is that Stalin used the war as a pretext to destroy Ukrainians and other Soviet citizens. This theory was proposed by an Englishman of Russian origin, Nikolai Tolstoy, in his book Stalin’s Secret War. Nikita Khrushchev in his secret speech to the 20th Congress said Stalin wanted to exile all the Ukrainians to Siberia so this theory is not completely far-fetched. In June 1944 a Soviet decree, signed by Marshal Georgy Zhukov and Lavrenti Beria, recommended that all Ukrainians be resettled in Siberia. One expert on Soviet history suggested that Stalin destroyed up to one million people of the USSR every year during the war so the statistic of 20 million total lost probably includes Stalin’s victims.
Ukrainian Division Galicia
In World War II, although the Soviet or Red Army had 4.5 million Ukrainians, (of which 2.5 million were decorated and 1.5 to 2 million killed), there were no completely Ukrainian units. The Ukrainian Front Armies were heavily Ukrainian. As the tide turned against Germany there was a decision to establish Waffen SS units of Eastern Europeans which were regular military units distinct from the German SS. On April 28th, 1943, the Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS ‘Galizien’, volunteer Division Galicia (Diviziya Halychyna) was established. The initiative for its establishment came from the Govenor of Galicia, Dr. Otto Eaechter, who had the support of the Ukrainian Central Committee of Professor V. Kubijovych which was the only legal representative of Ukrainians during the German occupation. Himmler strictly forbid the use of the name Ukrainian for the Division. All orders had to be given in German.
It was decided by Ukrainian leaders that it would be advantageous for Ukraine to have a properly trained and equipped army. As Germany found growing pressure on its armies it agreed to establishment of the Galicia Division renamed the 1st Ukrainian Division at the end of the war in April 1945. The Galicia Division was trained in late 1943 and early 1944 and was designated to fight only against the USSR not the Allies. About 40,000 Ukrainians were enlisted and under German officers in the higher echelons the Division was sent to fight the Battle of Brody July 13-22, 1944 where it was encircled and largely destroyed by the Soviet Army. There were only about 3,000 survivors but the Division was later increased to 20,000 with new recruits.
Eventually the Ukrainian National Army (including the Division) was surrendered by General Pavlo Shandruk to the Allies in Austria, was interned in Rimini Italy. A Soviet three month investigation in Rimini found no war criminals. It was then transferred to England and finally members emigrated to Canada, USA and Australia. The British and Canadian authorities carefully reviewed the Galicia Division and the Divizynyky and cleared them of any war crimes. No war criminals were found in the Division, but a vendetta by Simon Wiesenthal has falsely accused them of war crimes. An intensive investigation was made by the Canadian government. Hon. Justice Jules Deschenes in his official Report of March 12, 1987, completely exonerated the Galicia Division from any war crimes.
Ukraine’s Property Losses in World War II
Stalin’s scorched earth policy in Ukraine called first for the evacuation of industries, factories, machinery, skilled workers and livestock east to Russia. From the capital city of Kiev itself some 197 major industrial plants were evacuated east to Russia in two months. Everything that could not be moved was to be destroyed and burned. The rapid advance of the German Wehrmacht did not allow the Soviet officials to completely empty Ukraine. However, huge amounts of Ukrainian machinery did go to Magnitogorsk and other Russian cities. Wholesale “scorched earth” destruction was wreaked on Ukraine by the retreating Soviet officials and armies.
Two years later, when Hitler’s German Army started its retreat from Ukraine, orders were again given to loot and remove to Germany all art works (including a Rembrandt self-portrait), folk art collections, rare books, engravings, libraries, sculptures, and museum collections. These treasures totaled in the hundreds of thousands of items. The cultural wealth of Ukraine was nearly stripped from the country. According to Soviet sources a total of 151 museums, 62 drama theaters and 600 movie theaters were destroyed by the Germans.
Anything that could not be moved was to be destroyed and many libraries were dumped outside and burned. The German occupation destroyed a total of 19,200 libraries in Ukraine. On April 28, 1995, Germany returned over 700 books including Kievan Antiquity (Kyivska Staryna) taken from Ukraine in 1943 during World War II. German Ambassador Alexander Arno in a ceremony at the National Museum of History in Kiev expressed regret that they had not been returned earlier.
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.
Copyright © 1995 Andrew Gregorovich