Christian Leaders

In a pastoral letter issued in Lviv on 1 July 1941, Greek Catholic Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky (1865–1944) welcomed the German army as a “liberator from the enemy,” and recognized the new government proclaimed by the OUN. [Document D01] Yet he added that all citizens had to be treated equally, a statement probably reflecting his concern with the ongoing pogrom. The letter is not known to have circulated or appeared in public (and three years later, talking to the returning Soviet authorities, Sheptytsky was to deny having written publications from July 1941 that called on the local population to support the Germans; Mytropolyt Andrei Sheptyts’kyi, 288). Other interventions by him in the pogrom are not known either.

But other pastoral letters, in early 1942, encouraged his flock to offer shelter to Jews. There were times, Sheptytsky wrote, when Christians just had to risk their lives to help others (Himka, Metropolitan Sheptytsky). A pastoral letter in November 1942 bravely expressed the Christian commandment not to kill. [Document D03]

Why the Jews were not specially mentioned is a matter of debate.

Unlike any other church leader in Nazi Europe, Sheptytsky also sent a letter about the Jews to Himmler, in February 1942. It has not been preserved, but numerous testimonies about it exist. Rabbi David Kahane, who hid at St. George cathedral, read it at the time and found that it requested the SS leader to stop using Ukrainian policemen in the murders of the Jews. Sheptytsky also informed the Vatican: in late August 1942, following a mass deportation of Lviv Jews to their death, he sent Pope Pius XII a passionate letter. [Document D02] Calling the Jews the main victims of the Nazis, he stated that over 200,000 had already been killed in Galicia, and the death toll was even higher further to the east: in Kiev, for instance, over 30,000 had been shot in a few days. The letter shows that, at the same time, Sheptytsky kept subscribing to the church doctrine that “nothing comes to us without the will of our Heavenly Father.” This ultimately meant that in his view, what we now call the Holocaust was also God’s plan. (Whether he really believed the centuries-old teaching of the Catholic church that Jews were cursed by God unless they converted—and which remained official until 1965—is unknown.)

Apart from sending letters, Sheptytsky was directly responsible for saving about 150 Jews, mainly children. Numerous survivors have testified to this. One of them was Oded Amarant (b. 1913), who was sheltered in the Greek Catholic monastery in Uhniv (Pol.Uhnów). [Document D05] Sheptytsky also arranged for the two sons of a murdered rabbi, Kurt (Isaac) and Nathan Lewin, to stay in Greek Catholic monasteries and in the St. George cathedral complex. That Sheptytsky thus risked his life, without seeking anything in return, is unmistakable—Galicia’s rulers, SS and Police Leader Katzmann and Governor Wächter, publicly warned all locals that the penalty for hiding Jews was death. [Document D04]

Although it seems that ever since the summer of 1942, Sheptytsky considered the Nazis a greater evil than the Bolsheviks, this is difficult to reconcile with his appointment of chaplains to the new Galician division of the Waffen-SS in 1943. Perhaps he considered the establishment of this division with Ukrainian soldiers the best way of controlling young Ukrainian nationalists who were thinking of joining the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).

The Orthodox Churches

Statements from bishops of the Orthodox churches in Ukraine—or at least those published in German-sponsored Ukrainian-language newspapers and leaflets—present quite a different picture. Many leaders of the Orthodox Autonomous Church and, in particular, the Orthodox Autocephalous Church, deluded themselves that Communism was a Jewish matter. They condemned not the Holocaust, but “Jewish Bolshevism.” The Autocephalous bishops Nikanor (Abramovych), Mstyslav (Skrypnyk), and Sylvestr (Haievsky) did so in a letter to Hitler (Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair, 84); and their formal superior, Metropolitan Dionysii (Valedynsky) /Dionisii (Valedinskii, 1876–1960) of Warsaw, agreed in a private letter that “ever since 1919, Ukraine has been finding itself in an armed struggle with Moscow’s Jewish Communist power.” (Dionysii to Polikarp, 13 November 1941, Derzhavny arkhiv Kyïvskoï oblasti (DAKO), f. r-2412, op. 2, spr. 199, ark. 87)

In June 1942, the name of Archbishop Polikarp (Sikorsky, 1875–1953) of the Autocephalous Church appeared under a response to “rumors” that the Ukrainians working in the Reich were living in miserable conditions. Polikarp stressed both the alleged benefits and the duty to go—after all, Ukrainian Orthodox persons had a “holy duty and honor” to oppose the “terrible enemy of humanity and European Christian culture”—“Muscovite-Jewish communism.”  In February 1943, one week after the German defeat at Stalingrad, Polikarp repeated that Ukrainian labor in Germany would help defeat the “communist Muscovite-Jewish state.” (Ukraïnsky holos (Proskuriv], 21 June 1942, 3 and 14 February 1943, 3.) He talked in the same vein to Nazi officials—visiting the Reichskommissariat headquarters in January 1942, he gave thanks for “the liberation of Ukrainian lands from Muscovite-Jewish rule”. (“Osvidchennia Vysokopreosviashchenishoho Administratora Sv. Pravoslavnoï Tserkvy v Ukraïni u Raikhskomisariiati,” Volyn (Rivne), 12 February 1942, 1). In May 1944 Polikarp promised Hans Frank, the Nazi governor of the neighboring General Government, to pray for German victory over the “Jewish Bolsheviks” (Kleßmann, "Nationalsozialistische Kirchenpolitik, 596).

In the document by Polikarp presented here, dated 25 March 1943 and published in a newspaper with some delay [Document D06], he dealt with the German struggle against the “Jewish communists” and their ally, “the Jewish plutocracy of America and England.” He stated his explanation as to why so many people were fleeing from the Red Army despite having relatives serving in it: “They know that after this army comes the NKVD, led by the Jewish Communists.” Yet Polikarp was dismayed to find that many others did not flee, evidently because of a “blinding of the mind.” In his view, they failed to realize that “Jewry” had been “destroying” the Ukrainian people for twenty years and now, eager to take “revenge,” was as dangerous as ever: the “life” of the entire Ukrainian people was on the line.

Bishop Hryhorii (Ohiichuk, 1893–1985) of Zhytomyr and Vinnytsia expressed himself in a similar vein. During one of several reburials of NKVD victims in Vinnytsia, on 12 June 1943, according to the report published in the local newspaper some time later, he fiercely denounced Stalin and “his” Jews. [Document D07] In a written call to his clergy and flock, he said that “Jewry knows well that our work in Germany is part of the struggle against it, [and] is a struggle against the enemy of the Church.” (Vinnytski visti, 13 June  1943, 3) Hryhorii told his flock in August of the same year that Christian Europe led by Hitler was fighting the “Jewish Anti-Christian and Communist” world and its ally, “international Jewish capitalists.” According to him, Communism wanted to exterminate the Ukrainians and might still do so, using the “armed forces of world Jewry.” [Document D08]

The leader of the Autonomous Orthodox Church in Ukraine, Aleksii (Hromadsky) of Volhynia, which recognized the Moscow patriarchate, is not on record as antisemitic, although in September 1941, at the Pochaïv Monastery, he did call upon his flock to pray for Hitler, whose goals he stated he fully shared. However, one of his bishops, Panteleimon (Rudyk, 1898–1968) of Kiev, issued a leaflet that was fiercely antisemitic from a theological point of view. Starting on the evening of 10 May 1943, Soviet airplanes bombarded Kiev, which resulted in casualties. On 15 May, Panteleimon conducted a mass burial but apparently did not condemn the raid. Mayor Forostivsky hated the Autonomists and quickly asked the Germans to punish Panteleimon for this. In response Panteleimon issued “Against the Anarchy of the Evil Spirit,” a four page leaflet that warned about an increasing struggle between “good” and “evil.” [Document D09]

Long ago, he said, the devil took possession of “the people once chosen by God” and made them crucify God’s Son. “All fratricidal wars, all bloody power grabs, all criminal revolts are done by this very nation” that, he believed, had been murdering its way toward its ultimate goal of a vicious universal slavery. “Through criminal deceit and violence and under the cover of Bolshevism, the sons of the devil seized power over our land and flooded it with the blood of millions of innocent people.” Panteleimon thus argued in favor of support of the Germans in their “destruction of the devil’s regime and establishment of a peaceful and happy life for the people of Ukraine, of all of Europe, and of the whole world.” The bishop seems to have taken as a fact John 8:44, where Jesus tells “the Jews” that “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires” (http://www.bibleserver.com/text/ESV/John8).

A Romanian Orthodox Church Mission operated in Transnistria and was directly subordinate to the Romanian government. When its leader, archimandrite Iuliu Scriban, asked if Jews wishing to convert could be baptized, Patriarch Nicodim (Munteanu) of All Romania referred him to Governor Gheorghe Alexianu, saying that he did not know whether the Romanian law banning such baptism applied in Transnistria. Nicodim also took no action in support of the Jews in the region (where soon the Romanian Security Police did ban them from being baptized). (Ancel, Transnistria, vol. 1, 478, 481–482).

Saving Jews: The Case of Aleksei Glagolev

It seems likely that antisemitic statements by church leaders had a detrimental impact on the morale of Christian believers. However the devout had more contact with clergy of lower rank, and here the available record is more diverse. On the one hand, there were priests who condemned “Jewish Bolshevism,” but on the other hand, there were also priests who tried to save Jews. The best known example is the case of a Russian priest consecrated by Panteleimon in October 1941: Aleksei Glagolev (1901–1972). He and his wife Tatiana (1905–1981) helped as many Jews in Kiev as they could. These included Izabella Mirkina and her daughter, who appealed to them at the time of the Babi Yar massacre. First the Glagolevs provided identity papers, then they sheltered the two in their home near the Pokrov Church in Kiev’s Podil district. After a non-Jewish Ukrainian begged them to save his Jewish wife and mother-in-law, Glagolev falsified two certificates of baptism, baptized the wife, and conducted a second marriage of the couple, Dmytro Pasichny and Polina Sheveleva. The two Jewish women were housed and officially registered by a friendly custodian. The Glagolevs also vouched that a woman called Liudmyla Hermaize was not Jewish, even to an SS officer who came to question them about this; this prolonged her life for three months.

Glagolev, whose father had been shot by the NKVD before the war, seems to have been the only priest in Kiev who refused to hold a church service in 1942 to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. Just weeks before leaving Kiev, Germans severely beat him up, twice. Forcibly deported, he jumped from the train. In 1945 the Soviet authorities asked Glagolev to describe his acts in writing. [Document D10].

Recalling the mass murder of the Jews, Glagolev observed in this autobiographical document that those shot on 29 September 1941 had suffered less than those who lost their loved ones, attempted to survive, and then were arrested after all. The source gives a rare glimpse into the stance of first auxiliary mayor Ohloblyn, who reportedly said in September 1941, “pale and upset” that the Germans had barred any role of the Ukrainian authorities in the “Jewish question”. It also raises questions: it is difficult to explain why Glagolev called “the horrors created by the Germans with the Jews in Ukraine… merely a prelude,” after which the Russians and Ukrainians “suffered to an even larger degree.”

The story of the Glagolevs was ignored for the remainder of the Soviet period. The Soviet Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee’s Black Book contains an account largely consisting of a shorter version of Glagolev’s text, misattributed to the above-mentioned woman he and his wife saved (“Sviashchennik Glagolev. Soobshchenie I. Mirkinoi-Egorychevoi,” in Chernaia kniga,  372–377; “The Orthodox Priest Glagolev,” in The Complete Black Book of Russian Jewry, 430–435).

Karel Berkhoff