This Day In History: The Germans Murder 20,000 Innocent People in The Ukraine(1941)

On this day in the Ukraine in 1941, more than 22,000 Hungarian Jews are murdered by the Nazi death squad. The Ukraine was then part of the Soviet Union and been recently occupied by the Germans.

After Operation Barbarossa, the Germans had been able to push the Soviet army back deep into their own territory. The Germans could advance up to fifty miles in a single day. The Nazi war machine had killed hundreds of thousands of Soviet soldiers and captured even more. Many Ukrainians had viewed the Germans as liberators, who would free them from the yoke of Stalin. In truth, the Germans were to prove even more brutal than the Soviets. The rapid advance of the Germans allowed them, the space, and opportunity to implement their racial policies, which was the elimination of all those judged to be racially inferior.

The Ukrainian nationalists had hoped that the Germans would allow them to establish their own state with Kiev as the capital. The Germans in 1918 had allowed the Ukrainians to found a state under the auspices of Berlin. However, Hitler despised all Slavs, including the Ukrainians and he immediately began to grant areas of the Ukraine to his allies including Romania.

When the Germans were advancing in the Ukraine they came across a huge number of Hungarian Jews. They had been expelled by the anti-Semitic government and they had found refuge in the Ukraine.  The German authorities tried sending them back, but Hungary would not take them.  An SS General, by the name of  Franz Jaeckeln, vowed to deal with the influx of refugees. He personally promised Hitler the complete annihilation of the Hungarian Jews by the first of September. On this day, he marched up to 23,000 Hungarian Jews to bomb craters on a recent battlefield. This was a rural area and far from any towns or villages. Those Hungarians who did not march were killed on the spot. The SS was in charge of the operation and they employed death squads known as Einsatzgruppen, to carry out the killings. When they arrived at the site they  ordered them to undress. Then they demanded that they formed groups by the side of the bomb craters.

An SS death squad in the Ukraine

Exekution von polnischen Geiseln

The SS set up machine guns and mowed down the helpless victims.  Those who were not killed from the spray of bullets were buried alive under the weight of corpses that piled atop them. The killings lasted all day. The SS killed men, women, and children. By the end of the day, some 23,000 Hungarian Jews had been murdered. The Nazis had received some help from Ukrainian nationalist militias, who helped them to round-up and escorted them on their march to be massacred. This was only one of many mass killings of Jews.

It is estimated that more than 600,000 Jews had been murdered in Ukraine by 1945.