April 20: A man of contradictions

Sheptytskj's activities were characterized by a positive approach toward the Jews on the one hand, while supporting German policy on the other.

letters 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
letters 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A man of contradictions Sir, - In response to "Deserving honor" (Letters, April 15) about the lack of Righteous Gentile status for Metropolitan Andre Sheptytsky: In the third volume of an eventual four-volume series called Shnot Ra'inu Ra'ah ("Years wherein we have seen evil"), published by Yad Vashem, appears a description of one of the instances where Metropolitan Sheptytskj tried to save Jews during the Holocaust (pp. 47-50). A sidebar on page 48 provides a brief summary of his activities. I am in the midst of translating this third volume for Yad Vashem (I was not the translator for the first two volumes). Below is some general information relating to the comments made by the letter's authors: Among the heads of the Ukrainian Church, Andre Sheptytskj was one of the prominent leaders of the Ukrainian National Movement, and in 5660 (1900) he was appointed Metropolitan - head of the Greek Catholic Church (Uniates). Even before the outbreak of World War II he played an active role in the Ukranian community's struggle for national rights in independent Poland. At the same time Sheptytskj maintained good relations with the heads of the Jewish community in Galicia. During the German occupation, Sheptytskj's activities were characterized by a positive approach toward the Jews on the one hand, while supporting German policy on the other. For example, in the summer of 5701 (1941), when the Germans entered the Ukraine, Sheptytskj blessed the German army as the liberators of the Ukrainians. Along with that, he promised Rabbi Yechezkel Levin to try to restrain the Ukrainians in their murders of the Jews. There is no way of knowing if he fulfilled his promise, but despite his great influence on the Ukrainian public, the murderous pogroms did not cease, and actually increased. In the middle of 5702 (February 1942), when the direct connection of the German regime to the slaughter of the Jews was clear, Sheptytskj signed a letter to Hitler promising to support the New Order and Nazi hegemony in Europe, hoping in this way to secure Ukrainian independence. During that exact period he also sent a protest letter to Himmler, demanding that Ukrainian police participation in the killing of Jews stop. Sheptytskj's activities were full of contradictions: Throughout the war he strove for close cooperation between the Ukranians and the Germans, while simultaneously and continuously acting to save the lives of dozens of Jews who were hidden in monasteries under his supervision and, at times, in his private palace. According to the author of the Yad Vashem volume, Sheptytskj was not accorded the title of Righteous Among the Nations because of his contradictory behavior. I am not an employee of Yad Vashem, nor affiliated with it in any way except in my capacity as a freelance translator working on this particular project. NACHAMA KANNER Rehovot