Understanding the Ukrainians in WWII. Part 2. Stories of Ukrainians in the Red Army

wwII

 

2015/06/11 • Featured, History

Article by: James Oliver

For Part 1, in which we uncovered the underreported role of Ukrainians living both in Ukraine and abroad in WWII, please see this article.

On 19 September 1939, advanced units of the Soviet 6th army reached the outskirts of the city of Lviv. What they found was a city that had already been subject to relentless bombardment from German artillery placed upon nearby hills as well as from the Luftwaffe. Officially, the Red Army and the Wehrmacht were supposed to keep a 25km distance from one another during their joint invasion of Poland [1]. But here (as elsewhere), it was not the case. Lviv was meant to be a city to be defended at all costs for the Polish in the name of keeping alive a transport route for supplies and promised western aid to Poland known as the Romanian bridgehead to be delivered from Constanța. However, Plan Zachód, the Polish codename for the defensive plan to protect Poland from a German invasion, had not anticipated the Soviets and the Germans being allies. Because of the Soviet invasion, and because no promised western aid was forthcoming, the defense of Lviv was rendered untenable. On September 22, the city’s commander, Władysław Langner, was forced to surrender, not to the Germans who had withdrawn from Lviv as part of honouring their side of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but to the Soviets. According to one eyewitness: “Hardly had they laid down their arms when they were surrounded by Russian troops and marched off.” [2]

If we were to believe the Soviet version of history, the capture of Lviv was part of a joyous liberation of “blood brothers” in 1939.

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Communist deputies hold up a placard praising the incorporation of western Ukraine into the USSR

This was also how it was presented in the West at the time. David Lloyd George, former British prime minister, wrote an article for the British newspaper the Daily Express on 23 September 1939 praising the USSR for liberating natural kinsmen from a class-ridden Polish yoke. [3] On 31 May 1941, Sir Bernard Pares, who had an international reputation as being one of the foremost historians of Eastern Europe of his era wrote an article in the Guardian praising the USSR for liberating “10 million Russians [sic]” in the invasion of Poland whom he regarded had been cut off from Russia “by accident” in the aftermath of the end of WW1. His definition of what these “10 million Russians” were had nothing to do with either actual self-identity or actual self-determination. [4]

With this in mind, it’s worth noting Lviv did not have a history of being ruled by Moscow until 1939. With regards to whether the conquest of Polish held “Western Ukraine” can really be called a “liberation” as the Soviets claimed, there is also the matter of what the Red Army actually did to the Ukrainian peoples. According to Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, the Soviets deported about 400,000 Ukrainians from Western Ukraine between 1939-41. [5]

Much like Pares’ “10 million” comments are as wrong as they are over-simplistic, calling the Red Army during WWII simply “Russian” as many westerners did at the time and continue to do so today is also as wrong as it is over simplistic. The Red Army was very much a multinational force. This makes Vladimir Putin’s speech commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Victory Day in Europe all the more interesting because in his speech he conceded that point, honouring soldiers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Mongolia.

Missing from that list for political reasons are Ukrainians. In my last post I told the stories of some of the Ukrainians who fought for Poland and in the West in WWII. In this post, I turn to Ukrainians who fought as part of the Red Army. Between 1941-45 there were an estimated 7 Million of them. They also participated in the Pacific theatre against Japan.

As was the case of Ukrainians fighting for Poland in September 1939, Ukrainians also served as part of the invading Red Army. The core of the aforementioned 6th Soviet army which took Lviv was formed in Kyiv in August with the specific intention of participating in the invasion of Poland. Reflecting the multinational character of the Red Army, it was commanded by a Russian, Filipp Golikov, who in turn was subordinate to a Ukrainian, Semyon Timoshenko.

Unfortunately, that Ukrainians were also present in the Red Army also means that certain Ukrainians were complicit in the crimes against humanity conducted by the Red Army against the peoples they occupied as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. On 5 March 1940 Beria and Stalin approved the execution of 22,000 POWs captured in the invasion of Poland. Beginning in April they were to be taken to the Katyń forest, blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs, where they were to be shot in the back of the head and buried in mass graves. The most infamous of the Katyń executioners may well be Vasily Blokhin, but the 22,000 POWs were under the jurisdiction of the “Department for POW Affairs”, a branch of the Soviet NKVD created by Beria. It was headed by a Ukrainian, Peter Karpovich Soprunenko, born near Kyiv in 1908 and it was he who decided the fates of those destined for massacre. [6]

In May 2014, Putin signed into law making illegal what is called “wittingly spreading false information about the activity of the USSR during the years of WWII” under the pretense that doing so rehabilitates Nazism. It has now become increasingly risky for Russians to dispute an official line that glorifies the wartime achievements of the Soviet leadership and plays down its errors, or its crimes! For context, Putin has a history of attempting to justify the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and all the bloodshed that is associated with it. It is quite a state of affairs that condemning a man like Sopruenko may well be considered now illegal in Russia.

Tactical blunders plagued the Red Army in 1941 when Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa. In theory, Ukraine east of Kyiv was meant to be protected by the southern end of a series of fortifications built in the 1920s under Stalin’s orders, however by 1941 the “Stalin line”, as it was known, had been deliberately weakened of men and materials in light of the westward expansion of the USSR. In early June, the men tasked to defend Ukraine against the oncoming Wehrmacht onslaught were poorly prepared. Not merely was the Red Army still reeling from the bloodletting purges of the 1930s, it was prepared for offensive, not defensive warfare. Warnings that Germany was going to invade the USSR were ignored, such as that on 15 April 1941, when a German plane crash landed near the city of Rivne. Upon inspection of the plane, cameras, rolls of films and maps were discovered. [7] It was apparent the pilots had been undertaking reconnaissance missions to aid an up and coming invasion. When that invasion came, Soviet tactical ineptitude doomed the aforementioned 6th Army. By August 3, the German Blitzkrieg had trapped the Soviet 6th and 12th armies around Uman. Despite a further two weeks of fighting the Germans captured 103,000 POWs, among which was general Ivan Muzychenko who had assumed command of the 6th army by 1941. He was to spend the rest of the war in captivity and his army dissolved. Details of the fate of the Soviet 6th army can be found here.

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Ivan Muzychenko, born in Rostov-on-Don, surrounded by two Wehrmacht officers. After WWII he was investigated by the Soviet secret police for alleged “cowardice” because he surrendered to the Germans, but because he was judged to have been injured at the time of capture, he was cleared of the charge. Other Soviet soldiers accused of “cowardice” were not so lucky.

An even greater disaster for the Red army befell at Kyiv. On 4 August 1941, Hitler ordered his generals commanding the “Army Group Center” fighting their way to Moscow to divert south. Hitler was allured to capture Ukraine because of its geopolitical assets. Between 1940-41, “90% percent of the food shipments from the Soviet Union came from Soviet Ukraine. […] For Stalin, mastery of Ukraine was the precondition and proof of the triumph of his version of socialism. Purged, starved, collectivized, and terrorized, it fed and defended Soviet Russia and the rest of the Soviet Union. Hitler dreamed of the endlessly fertile Ukrainian soil, assuming that Germans would extract more from the terrain than the Soviets. Food from Ukraine was as important to the Nazi vision of an Eastern empire as it was to Stalin’s defense of the integrity of the Soviet Union. Stalin’s Ukrainian “fortress” was Hitler’s Ukrainian “breadbasket.” [8]

On September 12 the German 2nd Panzer army, having been victorious in subduing Minsk further north met the 1st Panzer army, which had been fighting through Ukraine at the small town of Lokhvytsia, east of Kyiv, thereby completing what was the largest encirclement of an opposing force in military history. 600,000 POWs were taken. [9] Despite further setbacks for the Soviets, including an encirclement of almost similar size at Vyazma on the approach to Moscow, [10] the Red Army was not beaten. At the beginning of the campaign, Hitler’s generals, such as Franz Halder were confident that they could simply smash all opposition before them. [11] By August 6th, Halder was already complaining about the ability of the Red Army to escape from the jaws of the Wehrmacht across the Eastern front [12] and by the time the Germans had reached the outskirts of Kyiv, Halder was reporting that the German 6th Army was losing 1,600 men daily. [13] Halder also complained that after smashing a dozen Soviet divisions, “the Russians [sic] simply put up another dozen. The time factor favors them, as they are near their own resources, while we are moving farther and farther away from ours.” [14] Despite what looked like on paper eyewatering losses for the Red Army in the grand encirclements such as at Kyiv, the Red Army could draw on reserves of manpower that the Germans simply did not have, and nowhere on the Eastern front could the Wehrmacht land a fatal blow to the Red Army.

When Hitler ordered the diversion of his Army group center forces on August 4, his decision was met by protests from some of his generals. They said that Moscow, not Kyiv, would decide the war. The focus, they argued, should be on the destruction of the Red Army, not mere land-grabbing for the sake of it. Seen in this light, in addition to the problems highlighted above the offensive capabilities of the Wehrmacht’s thrust into Russia proper were blunted not just merely as defenses around the capital city of the USSR (as well as at the same time the organisation of the Red Army was improved) but also as Autumn turned into the infamous “Russian Winter” that the Wehrmacht was ill-prepared for. [15] Although it can be argued that the Red Army would have fought on even if Moscow had been captured as the Russian Empire did in 1812 when Napoleon Bonaparte captured the city, it can also be argued that Hitler’s obsession with Ukraine was a major contributor to the failure of Operation Barbarossa even before the 1st of the winter snows fell, and thus actually helped cost Hitler the war. [16]

Despite all the above, when the Wehrmacht’s advance finally stuttered in the face of the resistance of the Red Army, all of Ukraine had been subdued, whilst only a portion of Western Russia had fallen to the Wehrmacht. Sevastopol held out against the Wehrmacht in a lengthy siege that lasted until early July in 1942, when it was abandoned by Stalin in light of an inability to resupply the city’s defenders with munitions. Oleksiy Leshchenko, born near Vasylivka in 1906, was one of the men tasked to defend the city. In 1940, he had been placed command of “coastal battery 35,” which although designed to protect Sevastopol from sea attacks ended up playing a role in delaying the advance of the Wehrmacht on land. Leshchenko kept his guns firing at the Germans until 3am on July 2 1942, when after having run out of ammunition, he ordered his men to destroy the turrets of coastal battery 35 to prevent it falling into enemy hands before escaping by boat out of the Crimea. [17] Leshchenko returned to Sevastopol in 1944 to help drive the Germans out of the city.

Much was sacrificed to keep Sevastopol alive, including Odesa which was abandoned to shore up the defences of the Crimea. As the rest of western Ukraine fell into the hands of the Wehrmacht, the city of Odesa managed to repulse the German onslaught and their Romanian allies in a near 70 day siege – in part because the Germans and Romanians were frustrated by partisan resistance. Yakov Gordiyenko, born in the city in 1925, was one of the early partisan leaders and became locally notorious for conducting sabotage activities behind enemy lines. However, he did not survive the siege. Another Ukrainian who began to make a name for herself here was Lyudmyla Pavlychenko, born in Bila Tserkva in 1916. Pavlichenko is still regarded as the deadliest female sniper in history with over 300 confirmed kills during the battles of Odesa and Sevastopol. Her exploits made her not only a hero of the Soviet Union, but also a celebrity in the west

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Leshchenko next to a turret of coastal battery 35

On the evening of November 4 1941 in the small village of Baravnika, local Ukrainian partisans got word that a group of German commanders of the 667th regiment of the 6th army had stayed in the house of the village doctor, Ovram Martynenko. At midnight they made their move and in the ensuing firefight dispatched the doctor as well as three of his German guests, identified as Colonel Sinz, Sgt Graf and Lance corporal Tischler. By no means had this been the 1st time the Wehrmacht had met local partisan activity around Myrhohod, but it was the 1st time a Colonel had been dispatched by partisans in the area. [18] The German response to this and other acts of partisan activity was to intensify massacres of Ukrainian villagers and Jews under the pretext of being “complicit” in partisan activities. In practice, this not only meant that lower officers and men of the Wehrmacht became complicit in the Holocaust, but also men and resources had to be siphoned off from the front lines to deal with the partisan movement.

One of the most well known partisan leaders in Ukraine is Sydir Kovpak, born in Kharkiv in 1887. In 1943, he would conduct a lengthy partisan raid into Volhynia to disrupt German lines. According to the encyclopedia of Ukraine “the raid had an important psychological effect on the Ukrainian population: it destroyed its belief in German invincibility.” In Ukraine, Soviet partisans played a less important role in the Soviet war effort against the Germans than they did in other parts of the USSR but nonetheless the Partisans still offered a major avenue of resistance.

On 20 October 1943, units of the Red Army that by this stage were now pushing into Ukraine and which had taken part in the battles around the Russian city of Voronezh, as well as the defence of Stalingrad, were renamed as the 1st Ukrainian front. This contingent of the Red Army was 80% Ukrainian. Among them was the Tank commander Andriy Kravchenko, born near Kyiv in 1899, and Kyrylo Moskalenko, born near Donetsk in 1902. By 1943 both had already distinguished themselves by leading tank units at the battles of Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk. Both also participated in the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939.

By November 1943 the Wehrmacht, by this stage outnumbered and had lost the initiative against the Red Army, retreated across to the western side of the Dnipro river, hoping to utilise its banks as part of a defensive line. By November 5, that defensive line had been broken by a concentrated river crossing to the north near Lyutizh. By November 6, the Germans, fearing encirclement and a mirror image of the battle of 1941, made a bloody retreat. Moskalenko and Kravchenko’s tanks had reached the center of Kyiv and and Nikolai Vatutin, commander of the 1st Ukrainian front, proclaimed the liberation of Kyiv to Moscow. Kyiv was in soviet terms “liberated” the day before the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. Theories have long persisted that Stalin ordered the liberation of Kyiv at any cost to commemorate the anniversary of the revolution; however the liberation of Kyiv was initiated by a bypassing attack, not a direct offensive, which puts those theories into question. [19]

(“The Liberation of Kyiv from Nazi Rule.” A British Pathé interwar Newsreel. Note how the Red Army is depicted here as being “Russian” among other things.)

When the Germans were thrown out of Kyiv in 1943, the war had still had more than 1½ years to run. It was a slow and brutal process. The most decisive defeat of the Wehrmacht came not in a battle in Russia, but in an offensive operation that began in Belarus and would end in Poland in 1944. Operation Bagration caused the near destruction of 20 German divisions and another 50 severely mauled. [20] Part of the reason for its success was the deception campaign the Soviets conducted. German intelligence had anticipated a massive Soviet Summer offensive, but they had anticipated it being in Ukraine. [21]

On 13 July 1944, the Ukrainian fronts began a joint offensive in conjunction with operation Bagration to drive out the Germans from the rest of Ukraine. On July 26, they entered Lviv, only to find that the city had already been liberated by the Polish home army. For this, Władysław Filipkowski, the Polish commander of the home army forces based around Lviv, was arrested along with 5000 of his men. The next day Edward Osóbka-Morawski, head of the Polish PKWN, or Stalin’s Polish puppet government, signed an agreement to change the borders of eastern Poland creating in effect the outline of Poland we see today. However, this change left a number of Ukrainian communities and smaller groups such as the Lemkos in limbo. To solve this, Stalin began a process of ethnic cleansing. But in the meanwhile the Ukrainian Soviet secret police became obsessed by another piece of ethnic cleansing, this time conducted by the Germans and their allies.

On August 28 1944 Sergey Savchenko – deputy head of state security for the Ukrainian SSR reported to his superiors in Moscow about intelligence he had received concerning activities of a concentration and extermination camp complex located south-east of Katowice. This was Auschwitz-Birkenau, and its full horrors were exposed when it was liberated by the 60th army of the 1st Ukrainian front on January 27 1945. As I have mentioned before, the first Red Army officer to enter Auschwitz was a Ukrainian Jew by the name of Anatoliy Shapiro.

One of the most iconic photographs of the end of WWII is of the flag of the USSR flying over the Reichstag on 2 May 1945. This was a photo created for propaganda purposes. The man who took the photo was Yevhen Khaldei, born in Donetsk in 1917. He wanted to create an image as iconic as that of Joe Rosenthal’s photo of the raising of the US flag on the summit of Iwo Jima. Before he took his photo the Reichstag had already been surmounted on 30 April 1945 by a Russian soldier, Mikhail Minin, born in 1922 in Vinino, Pskov oblast of the RSFSR. However Minin’s raising of the flag of the USSR took place at night and in conditions not suited to war photography. As a result no photos exist of it and his flag was taken down by Germans the next day. Khaledei took a series of images of the raising of the flag of the USSR and in his recollections he identified three men who served as his photo subjects. Oleksiy Kovalev, the depicted flag raiser was born in Kyiv in 1925 who had served as part of the 1st Belorussian front. He was supported by Abdulkhakim Ismailov from Dagestan and a Alexei/Leonid “Gorychev” from Minsk. For political reasons subsequent Soviet propaganda identified the men in the photos not as the above but as two Russians and a Georgian. 

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The flag of the USSR over the Reichstag. This photo was edited by Khaldei to make it more dramatic and also to hide the suggestion that at some point during the battle of Berlin Kovalev’s accomplice had stolen a pair of watches which he was wearing

The Rosenthal photo that inspired Khaledi also has a Ukranian connection. Michael Strank was born in Jarabina in what is now Slovakia to Ukrainian Lemko parents in 1919 before his family moved to Pennsylvania to seek a better life. In 1939 he enlisted to join the Marine corps and it was through this in WWII that he found himself fighting island to island against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre. Rosenthal’s iconic photo did not depict the first raising of the US flag at Iwo Jima on 23 February 1945. Earlier on the same day, another US flag had been raised, but it had been deemed too small to see down the mountainside. The full story is here. Rosenthal photographed Strank and his men raising the flag for a 2nd time. Unfortunately for Strank, he died just a few days later on March 1.

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Grigori Shtern (left) and Georgy Zhukhov (right) with the leader of the Mongolian people’s Republic, Khorloogiin Choibalsan (center) at Khalkhin Gol. The battle of Khalkhin Gol between the USSR and Japan over the borders of the “Mongolian people’s Republic” in 1939 is a long forgotten conflict in the west yet its outcome, a complete Japanese failure to seize a headway into Mongolia, would shape and fundamentally change Japanese and Soviet strategic planning for the rest of WWII. It was here that Zhukhov began to make his mark as a general but the front was commanded by Shtern, born in Smila in 1900. Shtern was by this stage an experienced commander, having dealt with another Japanese invasion of soviet territory at the battle of Lake Khasan in 1938. Shtern also participated in the winter war, the soviet invasion of Finland. In 1941 he was arrested and executed under the orders of Beria on the basis of alleged “Trotskyism”

When the USSR invaded Japanese-occupied Manchuria on 9 August 1945, they were facing an enemy already reeling from losses in China and of the Pacific islands. Three days earlier, the city of Hiroshima had been devastated by a new weapon that fundamentally altered how wars and power-politics have been looked at ever since – the Atomic Bomb. On the same day as the Soviet invasion, the Japanese supreme war council met to discuss if Japan should continue the war. As they were doing this, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. This and the Soviet invasion made the Japanese position of continuing the war untenable. Despite nationalist and militarist opposition, on August 15 Emperor Hirohito announced to his nation acceptance of the terms of surrender as agreed by the allies at Potsdam. However, this did not end the fighting. Conflict between the Red Army and the Japanese persisted and Ukrainians drawn from the west were participants in that fighting.

The aforementioned Tank commander Kravchenko was among the Red Army contingent in the Far East. So was Oleksiy Gnechko, born near Kharkiv in 1900. On 18 August 1945, it was he that was placed in charge of the amphibious conquest of the isle of Shumshu, one of the northernmost of the Kuril islands, and which possessed a Japanese military base. As a result of his exploits, in 2012 the Russian Federation decided to name one of the small islets of the Kurils after him. Officially, the war in the Pacific ended on September 2 on board the USS Missouri, when Japan signed the instrument of Surrender. The representative for the USSR in this ceremony was Kuzma Derevyanko, born in 1904 near Kyiv.

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At exactly 9:16am local time in Tokyo on September 2 1945, Derevyanko on board the USS Missouri representing the USSR signed the Japanese instrument of surrender.

Ukrainians were a major presence in the Red Army from the beginning of September 1939 until the bitter end of WWII in 1945, being full participants in not just its victories, but also many of its crimes. The above is just a selection of some of their stories. The eastern front of the European theatre remains the largest, as well as the bloodiest, arena of war to date. There can never be enough room for telling its full story. Ultimately, it was where Hitler and his allies were defeated, but it came at a heavy cost. At least 27 million people died in the fight against fascism in Europe, but “Soviet losses” does not translate as mere “Russian losses.” Yet, crude assumptions and stereotypes about WWII, the Eastern front, and Ukrainians still persist. It is long past time for the West to rethink what it thinks it knows about the most important conflict of the 20th century. Contrary to Putin’s line, the Red Army, even with its Ukrainians, isn’t exactly something to be completely glorified either, even if it defeated the Wehrmacht.

[1] R Moorhouse, “The Devils Alliance: Hitler’s pact with Stalin. 1939-41”, p49.
[2] F Czarnoski, as quoted in Moorhouse, “ibid”, p50.
[3] Cited by T Lane in J Hiden and T Lane (eds) “The Baltic and the Outbreak of the Second World War”, p146.
[4] N Davies, “Rising 44: The Battle of Warsaw”, p157.
[5] O Subtelney, “Ukraine: A History”, p456. cites Sheptytsky as stating the deported Ukrainians came from Galicia alone” D Kalkandjieva, “The Russian Orthodox Church, 1917-1948: From Decline to Resurrection”, p82. Cites Sheptytsky stating that 400,000 Catholics were deported from western Ukraine.
[6] M Parrish, “The Lesser Terror: Soviet State Security, 1939-1953”, p325.
[7] C Bellamy, “Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War”, p143.
[8] T Snyder, “Bloodlands: Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin”, p161.
[9] H Henderson, “The Greatest Blunders of WWII”, p167. Here it is worth noting Henderson calls the captured Pows “Russian”, another example of the over-simplistic western categorisation that doesn’t take into account where each Red army soldier might have come from or how he identified himself.
[10] Henderson, “ibid” p167.
[11] F Halder, “War Journal, Vol 6”, p166. Entry June 24 1941. “There is a chance, that we might smash the entire enemy force in the Ukraine [sic] in the battles of the next few days.” More well known is Hitler’s remarks before Operation Barbarossa stating that “we have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down” referring to a German invasion of the USSR. Hitler quoted in R Kirchubel, “Operation Barbarossa. Vol 1, Army Group South,” p7.
[12] F Halder, “War Journal, Vol 7”, p22. Entry August 6 1941. “Enemy elements thought to be trapped at Roslavl have escaped. The Russians [sic] have an uncanny ability for moving on roads impassable for our troops and build concealed river crossings.” In another entry on p64 dated August 25 Halder wrote “It appears that considerable enemy elements did manage to escape encirclement at Veikkie Luki [sic], The trouble is that our Armd divs now have such a low combat strength that they just do not have the men to seal off any sizeable areas.”
[13] F Halder, ibid, p38. Entry August 11 1941.
[14] F Halder, ibid, p36. Entry August 11 1941.
[15] For further analysis of this type see D Pipes, “Last Stand of the Great Bear: Hitler, Stalin, and Operation Barbarossa
[16] But Hitler’s obsession with Ukraine wasn’t the last time he made the mistake of placing grand ambitions over battlefield tactics either. In 1942 the Wehrmacht had an opportunity to cut Stalin of his oil supply from the Caucasus, however Hitler again blunted his forces from achieving this goal in favour of trying to capture a city with seemingly at first more symbolic than tactical value. This city had Stalin’s name on it, it was called Stalingrad.
[17] R Forczyk, “Sevastopol 1942: Von Manstein’s Triumph”, p89.
[18] T Anderson, “Incident at Baranivka: German Reprisals and the Soviet Partisan Movement in Ukraine, October‐December 1941.” in The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 71, No. 3 (Sep 1999), p585-623.
[19] As admitted in “Soviet Storm: World War II — In The East. ep. 10. The Liberation Of Ukraine.” Soviet Storm was a documentary series about WWII made for Russian TV in 2011 before Putin’s laws prohibiting criticism of the Red Army. Whilst the documentary series is crude in places, here beginning at 10:15 it admits that some elements of post-hoc soviet propaganda are simply not true.
[20] D reynolds, “The other D-day – and the onset of cold war
[21] Zhukov is quoted as saying here that “the German High Command expected us to make the first blow in the summer campaign in the Ukraine, not Byelorussia.”

Edited by: Alya Shandra

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  • Rods

    Both part 1 and part 2 of this series have been very well researched, written, engaging and enlightening. I hope James goes on to write a well overdue book on Ukraine’s role in WWII as seen from a western perspective as all of the books I have seen and read, to date, have concentrated on the battles as purely German-Soviet affairs.

    Let us not forget that in terms of casualties, Ukraine is a very close second to Belarus in terms of the percentage of the population killed and as a much bigger country and population, so the number of deaths were much higher in WWII. Ukraine was caught between and fought over by two of the most evil and ruthless dictators in history. Hitler who saw Slavs as sub-human and who had a long term plan (and was quite happy at every opportunity) to exterminate them and turn Ukraine into German living space and Stalin who was quite happy to use Ukrainians as cannon fodder for two reasons; their fighting prowess and also to get rid of many as possible of the ‘independence trouble makers’ because of the ‘Maiden’ in 1930, which culminated in the 1932-33 Holodomor.

    In one of the books I have read on the eastern front, a US General at the end of the war made a memorable quip on Ukraine’s casualties along the lines of: Of all of the nations that fought in WWII, Ukraine was the one that picked up the tab! This should never been forgotten.

    In the modern world, IMO poor specimens of humanity don’t come much lower than Putin, who already has the blood of about 250,000 Chechens, 200,000 Syrians (through his active support of Assad) and 6-12,000 Ukrainians (through his illegal invasion of Crimea and East Ukraine) on his hands and where he likes to write his own perverted versions of history to support his equally perverted view of the world, he has conveniently forgotten about the millions of Ukrainians that fought and died in the Red Army in WWII including my grandfather-in-law in 1944. To me, this failure to acknowledge the big and ultimate sacrifices that Ukrainians made in fighting Nazism in WWII, means Putin is not a big enough person to even be given the accolade of licking any Red Army Ukrainians boots clean.

  • Murf

    Excellent work.

  • puttypants

    I did not realize that Kiev was so badly damaged during WW2. I’ve read that Kharkiv was almost burned to the ground by both the soviets as well as the Germans.

  • puttypants

    If so many knew the sacrifices made by Ukrainians during WW2 why isn’t that part of written history and so unknown in the western world?

  • puttypants

    It’s unfortunate that a history book isn’t ready to go right now. This is the time to be educating the world about Ukraine when there is some interest about the country. This article shouldn’t just run in EuroMaidan press they should send it to major newspapers in the world but especially in US and Europe.