By Christelle Néant
During his visit to Ukraine to inaugurate a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Babi Yar massacre, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier literally rewrote the history of the massacre of tens of thousands of Jews, and made Ukrainian collaborators of the Nazis look like victims.
On 6 October 2021, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Ukraine to inaugurate a memorial dedicated to the victims of the Babi Yar massacre. And the least one can say is that this speech, which was revolting from the point of view of historical truth, shocked those who know history.
But let us briefly recall the history of the massacres that took place in the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev during the Second World War.
A few days after the arrival of the Wehrmacht in Kiev on 19 September 1941, the NKVD (Soviet secret police), which had anticipated that the German occupiers would move into the Soviet administrative buildings, detonated charges placed in advance in these buildings. These explosions and the fires that followed killed several thousand German soldiers.
The Germans decided to use these explosions as a justification for massacring the Jews of Kiev, and an order was issued asking the city’s Jews to assemble on 29 September at 8 a.m. at the corner of Melnikova and Dokterivskaya streets, not far from the Babi Yar ravine.
On hand to kill the Jews were not only SS, German Sonderkommando policemen and members of the Waffen SS, but also the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion, a battalion of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators from Stepan Bandera’s OUN-B, which is referred to in some sources as the “Ukrainian auxiliary police”. Roman Shukhevich, a member of the OUN-B, was captain of the first company of this battalion.
Together, German Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators shot and killed more than 33,771 Jews (the figure is not exact because children under 3 were not counted) in two days, on 29 and 30 September 1941. Some of the members of the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion later formed the UPA, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
The massacres continued in Babi Yar after these two bloody days in September 1941. In two years, nearly 140,000 people were shot or buried alive in the ravine: Jews, Poles, Gypsies, prisoners of war, mentally ill people and opponents of the Nazis. In 1942, 621 members of the OUN (the Ukrainian nationalist organisation that collaborated with the Nazis and took part in the Holocaust) were killed by the Nazis at Babi Yar (yes they should not have made an alliance with the devil).
Now that the history of the massacres committed at Babi Yar during the Second World War is clearly summarised, let us return to Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his speech.
“Here in Babi Yar, in the last days of September 1941, German troops murdered nearly 34,000 Jews. It was the Germans who perpetrated these atrocities. Words fail us in the face of their absolute cruelty and brutality. This act — it was not an act of retaliation. The mass murder of the Jews of Kiev was a meticulously planned crime — planned and executed by members of the SS, the security police and the Wehrmacht. They were all involved,” said Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Except that, as we have seen above, it was not only the Germans who planned and carried out the massacre. Ukrainian collaborators were actively involved. By omitting to mention the latter, Steinmeier ‘clears’ them somehow for the Babi Yar massacre, since according to him, only the Germans were responsible. Moreover, the expression “Ukrainian collaborators” does not appear once in the German President’s speech, even though they played a more than active part in the Holocaust!
But where his speech was most shocking was when he later equated the Roma, Sinti, prisoners of war, and disabled people massacred at Babi Yar, with members of the Ukrainian Liberation Army.
“Here, too, in Babi Yar, after the massacre of the Jews of Kiev, the killing continued: until 1943, until the retreat of the Germans. Tens of thousands of Sinti and Roma, members of the Ukrainian Liberation Army, disabled people and prisoners of war lost their lives in this ravine,” he added.
The Ukrainian Liberation Army is a term that actually covers all Ukrainian units that fought on the side of the Nazis, including those that massacred Jews, Gypsies, disabled people and prisoners of war! To put them in the same sentence as their victims, as if these Ukrainian collaborators were as much to be mourned as those they helped to massacre, is absolutely despicable.
This speech was so shocking that Eduard Dolinsky, director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, who was present at the inauguration of the Babi Yar memorial, almost fell off his chair when he heard Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s speech.
“Yesterday, at the magnificent ceremony at Babi Yar, I almost fell off my chair when German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that at Babi Yar ‘thousands of fighters of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army [OUN; the Ukrainian translation of the speech says insurgent army instead of liberation army — translator’s note] were exterminated.’
“Who did the German President mean?
“Bagazia, a member of the OUN, the mayor of Kiev, an accomplice in the theft and extermination of the Jews of Kiev, who was later shot by the Germans?
“Or perhaps the OUN member, the editor of the newspaper Ukrainskoe slovo, Ivan Rogach, who in his newspaper called on the people of Kiev to expel and kill the Jews? He too was later executed by the Germans. Or the OUN member, Ukrainian police commander Yakov Shevchenko, the direct perpetrator of the murder of the Jews of the Fastov district? He too was later killed by the Nazis!
“There is a memorial to all these people in Babi Yar set up right on the bones of their victims.
“In addition, the streets adjacent to the mass grave are named after other murderers and accomplices to murder — Oleg Olzhich, a member of the OUN, organiser of the Kiev auxiliary police, the head of the OUN Bandera and their puppet Olena Teliga.
“As I understand it, the embassy staff in Kiev helped write the German president’s speech. It was only from them that information could come out presenting murderers and looters as ‘innocent victims of Nazism.’
“After the German embassy wanted to erect a memorial sign in honour of Nazi mayor Bagazia and this presidential speech, German diplomats should think seriously about who prepares such documents and which sources they use,” Dolinsky wrote on his Facebook wall.
If Eduard Dolinsky is surprised that the rewriting of history, which has become a national sport in Ukraine, also affects Germany, I am not. When you regularly see German officials calling on Moscow to apply the Minsk agreements, even though Germany was one of the four countries that drew up this text, which does not mention Russia once as a party to the conflict (see my complete translation of the Minsk 2 agreements), you quickly understand that the rewriting of history is as widespread in the West as it is in Ukraine!
By erasing the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the massacre of Jews at Babi Yar, and by placing the death of the executioners on the same level as that of their victims, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has indeed engaged in a sordid rewriting of history. A rewriting that allows Ukrainian neo-Nazis to whitewash their ideological ancestors such as Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevich, and thus to present themselves as simple nationalists, and not as neo-Nazis.
It is by rewriting history that neo-Nazism is allowed to develop, among others in Ukraine. And Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s speech is part of this rewriting of history, making him an accomplice in the development of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.
(Donbass Insider, October 9, 2021. Christelle Néant is a journalist and founder of Donbass Insider. Photos: J. Boyer, Wikimedia)