Disinformation: The OUN / UPA (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists / Ukrainian Insurgent Army) were collaborators with the German Nazi regime.
An image had been created that somehow, in contrast to WW1, the Second World War in Europe was actually a “good” war. Today we realize that in its essence this war was a conflict of two imperialist tyrannies: the German Third Reich and the Soviet Union. Other WWII combatants found themselves allied to one or the other side. Very few fighting forces can claim to have fought simultaneously against both tyrannies. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the UPA, mobilized by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists to fight for an independent state for the Ukrainian nation, was one such major force. The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) was the underground political organization that struggled for that same goal and, as such, maintained contacts with many states including England, Japan, Italy, Lithuania as well as Germany for a decade before the war. The June 30, 1941 Proclamation of the restoration of Ukrainian statehood and proposed anti-Soviet alliance was a surprise and a challenge to the Third Reich. It took the German leadership but a week to begin arresting the OUN leadership and participants in that Proclamation. Hitler was thus forced to show his hand much earlier in his campaign than he would have liked.
It was under German occupation that the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) was formed in 1942. Its operations were so effective that large swaths of the countryside became so-called “insurgent republics” free of foreign forces (eg. the Kolky, Antonivetska, Winter, and Proud Hutsul “republics”). To dislodge these UPA forces the Germans often resorted to the use of armour and aircraft. Researchers have calculated that the Germans and their allies lost over 12,000 men killed in battles with the UPA.
Disinformation: The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) were “Nazi collaborators”.
At the height of the German occupaton of Ukraine (1942-1944) the UPA conducted 2,526 armed engagements against the Nazi forces. Nazi losses: 12,427 – killed; 2047 – wounded; 2448 – taken prisoner. UPA losses: 2,251 – killed; 475 – wounded; 534 – taken prisoner.
In some instances areas of Ukraine that were liberated and held by the UPA were called “insurgent republics,” and in many respects they functioned as mini “underground states.”
One of the best known was the “Kolky Republic,”which covered an area of roughly 2,500 square kilometers, located in the UPA-North military district, in the Volyn region. The “Kolky Republic” remained under UPA control until November 1943, when it was overrun by German troops using tanks, artillery and aircraft.
At the same time, the UPA was so effective that in 1943 the Nazis admitted that in western Ukraine they had no control over 75% of the arable land and 52% of the livestock. Hitler’s forces led many anti-insurgency campaigns against the UPA and in order to discredit the Ukrainian nationalist movement, German propaganda called the insurgent leaders “agents of Moscow.”
From July 1941 to the end of World War II on May 8, 1945, up to 10,000 members of the OUN were killed in their resistance against the Germans or perished in Nazi concentration camps. Total tally of losses of the OUN-UPA Ukrainian Resistance Movement: up to 13,000 dead and missing in action.
After the war, a number of survivors of the anti-Nazi resistance settled in Canada, the U.S.A. and other Western countries.
Disinformation: The UPA was “Hitler’s henchmen” and did not fight against the Nazis.
Extremely brutal occupation policies of the Nazis forced the OUN (b) leadership to mobilize the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) by October 1942. The first regular UPA company (military unit) went into action on February 7, 1943, by overrunning the German commandant’s base in the district center Volodymyrets, Rivne oblast (province), Volyn oblast, and northwestern Ukraine.
In the spring of 1943, the UPA constantly increases the extent of resistance. Their fiercest clashes with the Germans happened near Lutsk, Kovel, Horokhiv, Rivne, Kremenets, Kostopil, Sarny and Lanivtsi (Volyn oblast). During March 1943, the insurgents seized regional centers five times. At the end of the first spring month, the German officials reported to Reichskommissar Erichlast Koch that only two areas in Volyn were free of “gangs”.
The occupation administration began undertaking extensive anti-partisan operations involving armor and aircraft. At the end of April, a division for fighting the UPA was redeployed to Berezne, Lyudvypil, Mizoch, Ostroh, Shumsk, and Kremenets (Volyn oblast).
The Nazis counterinsurgency actions proved to have little effect. While in March the UPA units attacked the German economic targets only 8 times, in April there were already 57 attacks, and 70 in May.
Heinrich Schoene, Nazi General Commissar of Volyn-Podillya, reported at a meeting in Rivne June 5, 1943 to Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories Alfred Rosenberg that “Ukrainian nationalists cause more difficulties than the Bolshevik gangs” to his administration.
The Soviet partisans’ leadership also recognized this fact later. Petro Vershyhora, commander of Soviet partisans, reported to the Soviet Ukrainian Partisan Movement Headquarters on March 4, 1944, “We cannot make the same mistake in Poland as we did in Volyn by passing the leadership of a popular uprising against the Germans into the hands of counterrevolutionary groups of nationalists.”
The available Nazi forces were not enough to suppress resistance. Therefore, Erich von dem Bach, commander of anti-partisan forces in the East, took charge of the struggle against the UPA in July 1943. He commanded the 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer (10,000 soldiers) and 10 mechanized infantry battalions with artillery. The grouping was covered by 27 aircraft from the air and 50 tanks and armored vehicles on the ground.
However, UPA units outmaneuvered the Germans and gave the enemy no chance to destroy them. Overall, in July the insurgents attacked German bases 295 times, and supply facilities 119 times.
In early August 1943, von dem Bach was sent to another area. The German pressure weakened, and the UPA intensified their anti-German operations: 391 assaults on garrisons and 151 attacks on enterprises.
But soon, Hans-Adolf Prützmann, senior SS leader, organized a new attack on the UPA. This attack lasted from August 23 to September 9, 1943 in South Volyn. First, aircraft bombed the village of Antonivtsi, which was the headquarters of the UPA “Bohun” group. Then the punitive expedition attacked the UPA camp in Kremenets forests. The UPA battalions had to split into small units and break out of the encirclement.
In the summer of 1943 the anti-Nazi insurgency movement spread over to the Galicia region. On August 18, the Ukrainian People’s Self-Defense (UNS, the original name of UPA in Galicia) attacked the German stone quarry in Skole, Lviv region. The nationalists freed 150 forced laborers and killed the camp security guards.
Autumn 1943 was the beginning of larger scale battles between the insurgents and the Nazis. On September 3, UPA soldiers routed a German battalion that was travelling by narrow-gauge rail in the mountains near the town of Dolyna. The invaders left about 200 soldiers dead on the battlefield. On September 25-29, the UPA company “Trembita” repelled a punitive attack on their camp on Mount Stovba.
On November 29-30, 1943, there was heavy fighting between 1.5-2 thousand Germans and the UPA “Kryvonis-II” battalion near the village of Nedilna, Sambir district. The insurgents retreated with considerable losses, almost the entire command and the leader of the battalion were killed in action.
The Germans undertook the last major counterinsurgency action in Volyn in November 1943. On November 2-3, aircraft bombed the town of Stepan and ousted the units of the UPA ”Zahrava” regiment to the north. Simultaneously, on November 3 German planes bombed and shelled the town of Kolky, where the UPA had formed the “Kolky Undrground Republic”. It should be noted that the Nazis could not seize the “republic” from June to early November 1943, and then they carried out a mop up operation, killing 600 civilians.
In October-November 1943, the UPA-UNS conducted 47 combat operations against German occupiers, and the UPA village self-defense units clashed with them 125 times. The Nazis lost more than 1,500 soldiers.
The Nazis failed to suppress the UPA resistance completely. The approaching Soviet-German front drained their military forces. Therefore, the German generals stopped undertaking actions against insurgents in Volyn. In Galicia, the confrontation lasted until the end of summer 1944. Ukrainian People’s Self Defense (UNS) was re-formed into the UPA-West. In March-May 1944, the UPA defended Ukrainian villages against looting by the Germans. In May, the Wehrmacht defeated the UPA “Halaida” and “Siromantsi” companies in Lviv oblast.
From May 31 to June 6, 1944, the units of the Wehrmacht’s 7th Armored Division fought against the UPA in the Chornyi Lis area. By mid-summer the confrontation in Galicia peaked.
The biggest clashes of the UPA-West with German troops took place around Mount Lopata on the boundary between Drohobych and Stanislav (now Ivano-Frankivsk) regions. These events were also detailed in written reports of the Polish anti-Nazi resistance. From July 6 through July 16, 1944, heavy fighting took place – both with artillery engagement and close-quarters combat. Insurgents under Vasyl Andrusyak’s command won the day. Fifty Ukrainians were killed. The invaders lost 200 soldiers and retreated.
By November, under pressure of the Red Army the Wehrmacht left Ukraine. The UPA continued to attack and disarm German units until early fall 1944.
There were episodes in the history of the Ukrainian insurgency movement when some commanders tried on their own initiative to negotiate with German commanders using the formula “neutrality in exchange for weapons” or “food in exchange for weapons.” Several cases are known when from 80 to 100 small arms were handed over to the insurgents using the above formula. But the Ukrainian underground leadership strictly prohibited such arrangements. In some cases, it even led to severe punishment. In March 1944, the UPA field court martial sentenced an UPA officer, Porphyriy Antoniuk, the first initiator of such an unauthorized negotiation, to death. In April 1944, another officer, Mykola Oliynyk, was sentenced to death by the UPA martial court. Both were executed by a firing squad in the presence of their units.
However, the talks with the German occupation officials were subsequently held by the OUN (b) leadership. The Germans wanted the OUN and UPA to stop fighting against them so they could focus on repelling the Soviet Army’s advance. The OUN members sought to secure the release of prisoners of concentration camps (Stepan Bandera, Yaroslav Stetsko and many others) as well as to obtain weapons. Meetings between OUN-UPA leaders and German authorities took place in March, April, June and July 1944. As a result of them, the insurgents received some weapons, and in September – October 1944 Bandera and other Ukrainian nationalists were released from concentration camps, though they remained in Gestapo custody.
As a result, the insurgents decreased the intensity of their anti-German actions (mainly in Volyn), but did not stop them.
According to researchers, 12 thousand German invaders and their allies were killed by UPA insurgents. The Ukrainian underground and its insurgent units also lost 10-12 thousand people during the armed confrontation with the occupiers.
On August 25, 1943, Hans-Adolf Prützmann, senior SS leader, sent the following telegram: “To the Commander of the Army Group ‘South’. Due to the fact that the Reichsführer-SS ordered to send strong teams of military units previously assigned to me to the front, I have to limit myself to the remnants of these units to suppress the Ukrainian national uprising in Volyn. Since this results in large uncontrolled areas in the north of Ukraine, in the near future there will be increased pressure from gangs in the south sector.”