Auxiliary Administration and Police

Particularly in Reichskommissariat Ukraine, the “Ukrainian auxiliary administration,” as it was collectively called, consisted of city administrations (Stadtverwaltung; Ukr. miska uprava), headed by a mayor or assistant mayor (Bürgermeister or Hilfsbürgermeister; Ukr. holova mista); raion administrations (Rayonverwaltung; Ukr. raionova uprava), headed by a raion chief (Rayonchef; Ukr. holova raionu or shef raionu); and village administrations (Dorfsverwaltung; Ukr. silska uprava), headed by a village elder (Dorfältester or Dorfvorsteher; Ukr. starosta).

Auxiliary administrators generally did not shoot Jews themselves. Still, in other ways the administrators were deeply involved in all the stages of the Holocaust. To the Germans who arrived and lacked detailed knowledge of local affairs, this involvement, usually coercive in one way or another, much facilitated persecution and murder. This assistance could consist of (i) the registration of Jews; (ii) the setting up of ghettos; (iii) the provision of forced Jewish laborers on German demand, for instance for shoveling snow; and (iv) the registration and control of Jewish property.

The German military administration in many places ordered the auxiliary administrations to register every single inhabitant and to list who was Jewish or ethnic German. The registration of Jews remained mandatory up to the end of the Nazi period. Less is known about demands to label Jews; presented here is such a demand by the German commissar of the Berdychiv district. [Document C05]

In Donetsk, in March 1942, the mayor, city district leaders, and the auxiliary police sent the Jews to a ghetto upon order of Einsatzkommando 6. The victims were murdered two months later.

In some places, local administrators initiated the discrimination of Jews. This happened in the Shpykiv raion in September and October 1941 in Transnistria, where all Jews were barred from the town center and the main roads. The raion chief also warned the Jews that they would be shot if they did not wash and were found to be “dirty.”

Apparently bypassing the Germans, acting mayor Verkhovsky of the town of Kremenchuk, in the German military zone, created barracks far from the town center and placed 1,100 of the four thousand local Jews there; each day, hundreds of them were used as street cleaners. [Document C04] This case shows how complicated the events could be, for in Kremenchuk itself, possibly with Verkhovsky’s permission, at least some of the thousands of Jews still remaining there were baptized under new names. The SD arrested him on suspicion of being involved; his fate is unknown. Even so, his successor, Senytsia, allowed a priest called Romansky to continue the practice, for which the authorities executed the new mayor early in 1942. [Document C06]

Some city administrations, such as of the city of Zaporizhzhia (which was led by an ethnic German), were allowed to raise their city budget considerably by selling Jewish property. They also granted “abandoned” homes to applicants. Documents dealing with the auxiliary administration of Kiev reveal the various actors involved with the confiscation of Jewish property. In the immediate aftermath of the Babi Yar massacre, Kiev’s new auxiliary city administration (uprava) was headed by the historian Oleksandr Ohloblyn (1899–1992). The one city newspaper  Ukraïnske Slovo (Ukrainian Word, edited by activists of the OUN-M) published an order by him (and his associate at the Department of Social Security) to all owners, renters, and custodians of apartments [Document C02]. It obliged these persons to collect and make lists of the furniture, clothing, food, and other items of Jews (and others who had “left” Kiev). Hiding such items would be punished. It is not clear how much “abandoned” property was thus kept out of private hands. Some German involvement is visible from an order by the German “plenipotentiary” for Kiev to the auxiliary administration allowing a citizen to purchase Jewish furniture already stored at her home. [Document C07]

The administrators did not have to hate Jews to carry out German anti-Jewish policies — a desire for material gain often sufficed. Still some mayors were antisemitic by conviction, such as Kiev’s third German-sponsored mayor, Leontii Forostivsky (d.1974). In the fall of 1942, he ordered all gramophone discs with “Jewish and Soviet content” to be handed in, and in May 1943, he wrote in the newspaper that when seeing the children who died as a result of a Soviet bombing on Kiev, “we recognize the face of Jewry that hates us Ukrainians so much.” (Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair, 203, 190). In September 1943, on the occasion of the second anniversary of Kiev’s “liberation from the Jewish Bolsheviks,” he thanked the Germans for bringing a “genuine, humane, free life.” His leaflet said the war had been unleashed by capitalists (in the UK and the US) and “Red Moscow,” “in the interests of world Jewry.” [Document C08]

The Auxiliary Police

The Ukrainian historian Ivan Dereiko has calculated that in Reichskommissariat Ukraine alone, there were about 80,000 police auxiliaries, four times as many as German policemen. Yet generally, until recently even experts have tended to overlook the role the auxiliary police in the Holocaust in Ukraine, or have considered its role minor. The Nazis were so eager to murder the Jews, they stated or assumed, that had the auxiliaries (known at the time to locals by the Germanism politsaï) refused to participate, other ways would have been devised (e.g., Pohl, Holocaust, 133–134). Nowadays few scholars doubt that shooting so many people without the these auxiliaries would at the very least have been difficult.

The first German-sponsored Ukrainian auxiliary police was founded beyond the borders of present-day Ukraine, in the Polish Chełm region in 1940. Later, in a special case, also in the Lublin District of the General Government, Soviet prisoners of war (mostly Ukrainians and ethnic Germans) were recruited for guard duty in the POW camps, where mass starvation was rampant. They were taken to an SS-run camp in the town of Trawniki for training and subsequent deployment as auxiliaries in anti-Jewish contexts, mostly at the death camps and for the liquidations of ghettos [see also Ghettos, section E

The earliest local police formations in Ukraine were militias that appeared with little or no German involvement right after the invasion started, particularly in western Ukraine. After a while the Einsatzgruppen or the German military reduced these militias in size, not least by expelling many OUN members due to the falling-out between the Germans and the OUN-B. Most prominent was the force commanded by Taras “Bulba” Borovets (1908–1981), a nationalist close to the OUN-M. Named the Polissian Sich, it consisted of armed Ukrainians from western Volhynia and Polissia. At first it received legal German status as a police force, a status withdrawn in November 1941. Roaming forests and the Pripet Marshes from its base in Olevsk, the Sich apprehended partisans and Jewish civilians, and if the unit did not kill them it at the least handed its captives over to the German authorities. A contemporary newspaper interview with a fifteen-year-old Sich member seems to confirm this: the boy recalls shooting Jews who he claims had done him harm. [Document C01] At the end of the year, the Sich’s own periodical (Haidamaka, 22 November) declared that “now the parasitical Jewish nation has been destroyed.” When the Germans destroyed the “fake commune” — communism, supposedly represented by the Jews — the Sich had “lent a hand in its shameful death.” (Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair, 64) Former commander Borovets wrote memoirs that appeared in Canada in the year of his death in New York City in 1981; a reprint in Ukraine omitted his lengthy criticism of Jews (and of the OUN-B)([Bul’ba-Borovets’, Armiia bez derzhavy).

In the third week of September 1941, a company of Ukrainian policemen arrived in Kiev from the West under the command of Ivan Kediulych (1912–1945), a Ukrainian from Transcarpathia with years of military training and experience in Czechoslovak and German service. He subsequently became the covert leader of the OUN-M within Kiev’s auxiliary police. In addition, at least two groups of members of the Bukovinian Battalion led by Petro Voinovsky (1913–1996) arrived in Kiev — one in September 1941 right after the Germans, another in November 1941. They went on to work in the city administration, created police units in places near Kiev, or joined Kiev’s Ukrainian police. One of the earliest public orders issued by this police was a death threat to house custodians who failed to report inhabitants who were Jewish, NKVD officers, or Communist party members. [Document C03]

Although officially the auxiliary police was subordinate to the city mayor or raion chief, in reality, the local German or Romanian police or the military commander usually decided directly. In the German-occupied areas, the non-German members of the Order Police were collectively called the Schutzmannschaft, often simply abbreviated as Schuma.

Standing mobile battalions with hundreds of members, created in the spring of 1942, became the largest category. Many were deployed for violent German “Bandenbekämpfung” (“struggle against bandits”) beyond Ukraine; one example is the 201st Battalion, which mostly consisted of veterans of Wehrmacht units Roland and Nachtigall, and included members of the OUN-B such as the future leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, Roman Shukhevych. The other police auxiliaries were formally associated with the German Schutzpolizei (Protective Police), in the cities, and the German Gendarmerie, in the countryside.

Most auxiliaries were locals from the regions where they operated; the majority were Ukrainians, but they also included Crimean Tatars, Poles, Belarusians, Russians, and others. In 1942, a special Ethnic German Auxiliary Police was set up; it wore green German police uniforms. The number of armed ethnic Germans was small, but as translators and senior NCOs they performed a crucial role. These ethnic Germans did not simply participate in the hunting and killing of Jews, but with their translations and reporting they enabled the local police to carry out German orders. Some of them were recruited into the Security Police and the SD, as members of an Einsatzgruppe or with a stationed regional commander.

In Kiev and in western Volhynia, some non-German auxiliary policemen also officially joined the SD; in the latter region they were called the 31st SD battalion, which was comprised of supporters of the OUN-M, who referred to it themselves as the Ukrainian Self-Defense Legion. Such auxiliary SD units were also charged with the search for Jews.

The political training of the various police auxiliaries brought home rules such as that Jews had to be destroyed. These policemen played a key role in intimidating, abusing, robbing, arresting, guarding, and sometimes even personally murdering Jews. They also transported Jews from the countryside to mayor cities, for questioning followed by murder. The auxiliary policemen were licensed to arrest Jews and search their homes. Wherever ghettos were formed, Schuma plundered and guarded them. The main stage of their participation in the Holocaust was in the second half of 1942, when they drove the victims to the shooting pits, and guarded them there.

That auxiliary policemen also killed Jews themselves is mentioned in some Einsatzgruppen reports and in postwar eyewitness and perpetrator testimonies. Interrogated by SMERSH on 11 March 1945, former policeman Vasyl Pokotylo (1914–1945) confessed to shooting Jews at Babi Yar from October 1941 on, and to watching shootings there in the presence of German Kiev’s second mayor, Volodymyr Bahazii (1902–1942). It is indicative of the problematic nature of this kind of source that on 5 May, Pokotylo retracted these particular confessions, saying they had been beaten out of him. It did not spare him from the death penalty. [Document C09]

In Bila Tserkva, the children were taken to the shooting pits by German soldiers, but August Häfner of the Sonderkommando saw to it that the new Ukrainian militia murdered them, as he recalled in Darmstadt twenty-four years later. [Document C10] The Wehrmacht interpreter who accompanied Groscurth [Document B01], Edmund Pyszczuk (1904–1969, “Tischuk” in Groscurth’s report), in Darmstadt also recalled the Ukrainian guards — and the indignation of the local Ukrainian population. [Document C11]

Karel Berkhoff