Nazi collaborators included in Ukrainian memorial project

Individuals included in the online ‘Virtual Necropolis’ are ultra-nationalists and senior auxiliary police unit officials that collaborated in the massacre of Jews

Participants of an annual event in honor of Stepan Bandera march through Kyiv, Ukraine on Jan. 1, 2021. (photo credit: GENYA SAVILOU/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Participants of an annual event in honor of Stepan Bandera march through Kyiv, Ukraine on Jan. 1, 2021.
A project of the Ukrainian Institute for National Memory memorializing Ukrainian national figures includes senior officials in Ukrainian auxiliary police units that collaborated with the Nazis and carried out atrocities against local populations, including Jews, during the Holocaust.
The project also memorializes controversial Ukrainian nationalists also accused of responsibility for the murder of Jews during the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1923, and during the Holocaust.
Amongst those memorialized on the site are a deputy commander of the 118th Schutzmanshaft Battalion, a commander of the 109th Schutzmanshaft Battalion, Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera and Symon Petliura, a politician in the Ukrainian People's Republic which existed from 1917 to 1920.
The Ukrainian Institute for National Memory has insisted however that the individuals in question were not convicted of war crimes or recorded in state archives as having done so.
The Ukrainian Institute of National Memory is a government institution directed by Anton Drabovich and is dedicated to the preservation of Ukrainian national memory and history.
The institute comes under the authority of the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture and its current minister Oleksandr Tkachenko. 
The institute’s “Virtual necropolis of Ukrainian emigration” project is devoted to memorializing Ukrainian national figures who emigrated from the country and are buried outside of Ukraine.
The project has created separate web pages for dozens of Ukrainian national figures, providing exact details of their place of burial including specific cemetery plots, as well as information about their lives.
The virtual necropolis is designed to identify and record those burial sites with the aim of preserving their physical graves, and assisting Ukrainian associations abroad to care for them and hold events “in honor of prominent Ukrainians,” according to the website.
Among those with web pages on the virtual necropolis are Smovsky Konstantin Avdiyovych, deputy commander of the 118th Battalion of the Schutzmanshaft, the collaborationist Ukrainian auxiliary police units established by the Nazis. 
The 118th Schutzmanshaft Battalion carried out the Khatyn massacre in Belarus in which 156 villagers were shot and burnt alive in March 1943, and is also thought to have been involved in other massacres and war crimes during numerous anti-partisan operations in the region. 
The virtual necropolis website notes Avdiyovych’s burial place in Minneapolis, and his service in the Ukrainian army during the short-lived independent Ukrainian People’s Republic from 1917 to 1921. But it does not mention the atrocities his unit was involved in during the Second World War.
Per Rudling, a Swedish historian and expert on Ukrainian nationalism and the role of Ukrainian nationalists in the Holocaust, says definitively that Smovsky was one of the commanders of the Khatyn “aktion.”
Another figure commemorated by the virtual necropolis project is Ivan Omelianovycha-Pavlenko, commander of the 109th Schutzmannschaft Battalion, which is also thought to have been involved in the massacre of Jews in Ukraine.
Omelianovycha-Pavlenko was awarded the Nazi Medal for Gallantry and Merit for Members of the Eastern Peoples for his service in the unit.
His webpage location is given as Chicago, although little else is mentioned.
According to Rudling, the Schutzmannschaft units were staffed by volunteers and were heavily involved in the Holocaust.
Rudling says that Nazi forces were often unable to identify and locate Jewish populations, and that the Schutzmannschaft, as well as carrying out police functions, were “the foot soldiers of pacification in occupied areas and tracked down Jews and cordoned off their areas,” allowing Nazi Einsatzgruppen units to carry out their massacres. 
“The Schutzmannschaft were primarily a police force in the heartland of  the Holocaust, but were at the heart of implementing the violence and terror that took place during the occupation,” says Rudling.
Two other prominent yet highly controversial Ukrainian figures memorialized on the project are Stepan Bandera and Symon Petliura, who were also responsible for massacring thousands of Jews.
Bandera was the head of one branch of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), an ultranationalist organization in Ukraine seeking to establish Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union for which Bandera has of late been increasingly honored. 
His organization initially collaborated with the Nazis during their invasion of the Soviet Union, and was responsible for massacring thousands of Jews. 
In one of the worst single incidents, Bandera’s OUN-B conducted the Lviv pogrom in July 1941 in which an estimated 4,000 Jews were murdered. 
Simon Petliura was the head of the independent Ukrainian People's Republic which was established in 1917, but also served as commander in chief of the Ukrainian army in the Russian Civil War of 1917 to 1923 during which 50,000 Jews were massacred.
It is thought that Petliura’s troops were responsible for thousands of these deaths. 
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said the inclusion of such figures was part of an effort by eastern European countries to “glorify figures who are considered heroes because they fought for independence,” but who “should be disqualified for such honor because they murdered people, primarily Jews.”
Pavlo Podobed, coordinator of the Virtual Necropolis project, noted in response that both Ivanovich and Omelianovycha-Pavlenko moved to the US and were naturalized there.
“Neither Kost Smovsky nor Ivan Omelianovycha-Pavlenko were found guilty of war crimes by the US court in the manner prescribed by law,” said Podobed. “None of them was subject to the procedure of deprivation of American citizenship or extradition to the USSR or the State of Israel, although such a practice of war criminals existed and was used in the postwar period.”
He added that according to the records of the Sectoral State Archive of the Security Service of Ukraine – which stores archival and criminal cases against those who served in the auxiliary police and other German formations during the Nazi occupation of Ukraine – the Soviet investigative and punitive-repressive bodies did not record the involvement of Ivanovich or Omelianovycha-Pavlenko in war crimes committed in Ukraine or Belarus.
“Regarding the involvement of Stepan Bandera or the OUN (B) in the pogrom in Lvov, as well as the responsibility of Chief Ataman of the Troops and the Navy of the UPR Simon Petliura in the Jewish pogroms in Ukraine, there is a large body of academic texts and archival materials refuting these manipulative theses,” Podobed said.