Hilberg Revisited

  • 2010-03-28
  • By Askold S. Lozynskyj

Most historians would agree that one of the most eminent, if not the preeminent expert on the “Holocaust” was Raul Hilberg. Professor Hilberg published a three volume seminal study of this tragic event under the title “The Destruction of the European Jews” and that publication remains one of, if not the single greatest achievement of “Holocaust” historiography. In fact the US Department of Justice Office of Special Investigations has relied predominantly on the expertise of Prof. Hilberg in a large number of its denaturalization and deportation proceedings.

The last few years have witnessed an avalanche of anti-Ukrainian nationalist writings and accusations. This has been spearheaded by the Russians, but the Jews and the Poles have attempted to introduce their perspective as well. The object of this calumny has been the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), its leader Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and its leader Roman Shukhevych. To some degree this anti-Ukrainian nationalist campaign has been fueled by the posthumous honoring of Shukhevych in 2007 and Bandera in 2010  as “Heroes of Ukraine.”

However, this campaign against Ukrainian nationalism has not cited Professor Raul Hilberg. In fact the new stream of revisionist historians has paid scant attention to Professor Hilberg and for good reason. Apparently,  Hilberg does not agree with them. Certainly, Prof. Hilberg cannot be interviewed on this subject as he is no longer with the living, but his work remains. The underlying documentation and evidence for this work have not been contradicted by these new accusers and their scholars-revisionists. It has been ignored.

“The Destruction of the European Jews” does not mention the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, the Ukrainian Insurgent  Army, Bandera or Shukhevych. Certainly, had there been evidence of their complicity in the  Holocaust, Prof.  Hilberg’s silence would be inexplicable. Hilberg’s findings do impugn most nationalities on the Nazi’s road to European dominance, with great specificity as to formations. Hilberg does mention Ukrainians, Ukrainian nationalists and the acronym OUN, the last only one time in a reference to an exchange of prisoners between the Einsatzgruppe and Romanians in Northern Bukovina. Here he refers to “pro-German nationalist (OUN men)” but does not ascribe to them any killings or crimes and concludes Einsatzgruppe D and Romanian police were jointly shooting thousands of Jews.  

One of the more prominent recent revisionist accusations against Bandera and the OUN is that when the Nazis entered Lviv in June 1941, they utilized the services of the OUN in perpetrating a pogrom against the Jews in Lviv and other Western Ukrainian cities. The subject of these “pogroms” is considered by Raul Hilberg thusly:

The southern pogrom area was largely confined to Galicia, an area that was formerly Polish territory and that had a large Ukrainian population. The Galician capital of Lvov was the scene of a mass seizure by local inhabitants. In “reprisal” for the deportation of Ukrainians by the Soviets, 1,000 members of the Jewish intelligentsia were driven together and handed over to the Security Police. On July 5, 1941, about seventy Jews in Tarnopol were rounded up by Ukrainians when three mutilated German corpses were found in the local prisons. The Jews were killed with dynamite. Another twenty Jews were killed by Ukrainians and German troops. In Krzeminiec (Kremenets), 100 to 150 Ukrainians had been killed by the Soviets. When some of the exhumed bodies were found without skin, rumors circulated that the Ukrainians had been thrown into kettles full of boiling water. The Ukrainian population retaliated by seizing 130 Jews and beating them to death with clubs. Although the Galician pogroms spread still further, to such places as Sambor and Czortkow, the Ukrainian violence as a whole did not come up to expectations. Only Tarnopol and Czortkiw were scored as major successes.

Prof. Hilberg makes certain pointed observations about these “pogroms.” He concludes that spontaneous pogroms, free from Einsatzgruppen influence, did not take place, “All outbreaks were either organized or inspired by the Einsatzgruppen.” Additionally, he concludes that the “pogroms” were not “self-perpetuating,” that new ones were not started after things had settled down and that most of the pogroms “occurred in buffer territory, areas in which submerged hostility toward the Jews was apparently greatest and in which the Soviet threat of a return could most easily be discounted, for the Communist government had been in power there for less than two years.”

As to the timing and role of the Ukrainian militia in this, Prof. Hilberg  writes, “The Ukrainian auxiliaries appeared on the scene in August 1941, and the Einsatzgruppe C found itself compelled to make use of them because it was repeatedly diverted from its main task to fight the “partisan nuisance’.” In fact, Prof. Hilberg cites from a report of Einsatzkommando 6 of Einsatzgruppe C:

Almost nowhere can the population be persuaded to take active steps against the Jews. This may be explained by the fear of many people that the Red army may return. Again and again this anxiety has been pointed out to us…In order to meet the fear psychosis, and in order to destroy the myth which, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, places the Jew in the position of the wielder of political power, Einsatzkommando 6 on several occasions marched Jews before their execution through the city. Also, care was taken to have Ukrainian militiamen watch the shooting of Jews.

Prof. Hilberg concludes that the “deflation” of the Jews as being powerful did not have the effect that the Germans wanted. A few weeks later, the Einsatzgruppe C complained “that the inhabitants did not betray the movements of hidden Jews.” Hilberg concludes, the “Ukrainians were passive, benumbed by the ‘Bolshevist terror’.”

Revisiting Hilberg, one cannot but question the conclusions of today’s Holocaust “scholars-revisionists.” Whom are we to believe? Given the credentials and the painstaking approach, with documentary evidence particularly from German archives, one would have to go with Raul Hilberg.

Askold S. Lozynskyj
March 12, 2010                                  
Askold S. Lozynskyj, the son of an Auschwitz survivor, is a New York attorney and immediate past president of the Ukrainian World Congress.