Stepan Bandera, Yaroslav Stetsko
Disinformation: The leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, Stepan Bandera, “collaborated” with Hitler.
On June 30, 1941, the Nachtigall Battalion reached Lviv, and OUN leaders headed by Yaroslav Stetsko declared the restoration of Ukrainian statehood and formed a government. Stepan Bandera and Yaroslav Stetsko were arrested by the Germans in early July 1941 for refusing to withdraw the official Declaration of Restoration of Ukrainian Statehood of June 30, 1941 in Lviv. They spent most of WWII in Germany’s Sachsenhausen concentration camp in a special block for political prisoners. Bandera’s two brothers ( Alexander and Wasyl) died in Nazi Germany’s Auschwitz concentration camp. Bandera and Stetsko were released in the fall of 1944, placed under house arrest in Berlin, but refused to collaborate with the Nazis. In 1945 Bandera and Stetsko escaped during a bombing raid on Berlin, and went underground until the war was over.
Disinformation 1: Bandera was Hitler’s puppet.
At the start of World War II in September 1939, Stepan Bandera was freed from the Polish prison where he had been serving a life sentence for organizing the assassination of Bronislaw Pieracky, Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland, the organizer of repressions in the 1930s against Ukrainians in Polish-occupied western Ukraine.
In February of 1940, the OUN organization split into two wings, one led by Stepan Bandera named OUN (b) (Banderite) and the other led by Col. Andriy Melnyk named OUN (m) (Melnykite) over policy issues regarding liberation activities of the OUN in Ukraine. Bandera insisted that Ukrainians must rely solely on themselves, and that any collaboration with Berlin would only be situational and transactional.
Anticipating war against the USSR, in the spring of 1941 the OUN (b) came to an agreement with Admiral Wilhelm Canaris of the German Abwehr [intelligence service] to create a Ukrainian legion consisting of 800 men grouped into two battalions, Nachtigall and Roland. Pointedly these men swore fealty to the Ukrainian nation and not Hitler. The Nazi leadership was not made aware of this plan.
On the night of June 29, 1941, the Nachtigall battalion entered Lviv along with other Wehrmacht divisions. On the very next day, Bandera’s associates, headed by Yaroslav Stetsko, proclaimed the “Act of Restoration of Ukrainian Statehood”. The newly formed Ukrainian government would join Germany in the common struggle against Moscow – but only if Ukrainian independence was recognized.
Hitler adamantly opposed this development and gave orders to “crush anyone who empowers this Slavic trash.” Members of the OUN(b) were rounded up and Bandera was arrested in Krakow on July 5, 1941 and Stetsko in Lviv on July 12. Both refused to retract the declaration and were imprisoned in the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, spending more than three years in a high security block for high value “political persons.” The OUN (b) and the newly formed (1942) Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) became enemies to the occupying Germans.
Facing defeat, the Germans released Bandera and Stetsko from the concentration camp on September 25, 1944, brought them to Berlin and asked for their support in the war against the Soviets. They refused and remained in German confinement until their escape (with the help of the OUN underground active in Germany) during an Allied bombing raid on Berlin in 1945.
Stepan Bandera’s two brothers – Alexander and Wasyl – were murdered in Auschwitz in July 1942. Both were also leading members of the OUN.
Disinformation: West German agents, or rival Ukrainian nationalists murdered Bandera.
On October 15, 1959, KGB agent Bohdan Stashynskiy met Stepan Bandera in the hallway of his apartment building in Munich and killed him with a special pistol firing an ampule filled with prussic acid (potassium cyanide). The OUN security service and West German police had foiled four previous attempts on the life of the nationalist leader. In a secret decree, Stashynskiy was awarded the Order of the Red Banner by the USSR.
The Soviet Union tried to lay the blame for Bandera’s assassination on the German Special Service, composing an elaborate story that he possessed some compromising materials about West German Federal Minister Theodor Oberländer and had tried to blackmail him.
Two years later, Stashynskiy surrendered to the German Special Service on his own recognizance, confessed to this murder as well as the murder of another Ukrainian leader, Lev Rebet, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Regardless of the growing international scandal, Moscow continued to officially deny any involvement in the death of Bandera up until the era of “perestroika” in the late 1980s before the collapse of the USSR in 1991.