Only God knows their names...

Author : Olga Bogomolets

23:32, 27 September 2016

Only God knows their names...

Author : Olga Bogomolets

Today are still unknown not even dozens – but thousands of names of righteous Ukrainians who had been saving Jews during the Second World War. To their names we should now add the names of Jews who gave their lives for our country's independence during the Revolution of Dignity

23:32, 27 September 2016

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The mass extermination of Jews during World War II is a shameful page in the history of mankind. Although the initiator and main executor of the crime was Nazi Germany, but representatives of other nations also joined them. Unfortunately, some Ukrainians as well. Especially valuable for us are the examples when Ukrainian for the cost of their lives saved Jews from destruction. Some of them were awarded the title "Righteous among the Nations", granted by the Holocaust memorial "Yad Vashem". Of the almost 26-thousand "Righteous among the Nations" it is approximately 2.5 thousand Ukrainians.

Before the Second World War, the population of some cities of Ukraine, especially in Polissia and Volyn, more than half consisted of Jews. One of such cities was Radomyshl (Zhytomyr region). Jews in the early twentieth century accounted for two-thirds of its population. They were the first to build industrial plants there, a brick factory, a number of factories - lime, cloth, confectionery. The first schools in the city, the first theater, first bank - all are the achievements of Radomyshl Jews, moreover, dedicated not only to their community but also to the residents of the city. After all, the Jewish theater in Radomyshl became the place where Ukrainian music and drama were popularized. In 1905 theater even received permission for a tour of Polish and German theatrical groups in it.

During the German occupation most Jews in Radomyshl were killed by the Nazis. In total, in Radomyshl and near it were killed, according to various estimates, from 3 to 10 thousand Jews - both from the city itself and from the surrounding area. About 1,000 of those killed were children. Under the city were found mass burials of Jews killed by the Nazis. As of 1970 in Radomyshl lived no more than 250 Jews, and 1989 - even less than fifty. Now in Radomyshl there’s no Jewish society at all.

Related: Rivlin: Ukrainians involved in murders and prosecutions of Jews during WWII

When it comes to Ukrainian participation in the rescue of Jews, it is worth mentioning those modern Russian and pro-Russian propaganda accused of collaboration with the Nazis. This refers to the Commander of Ukrainian Insurgent Army Roman Shukhevych and Metropolitan of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Sheptytsky. Shukhevych family was hiding from punishment their neighbors’ daughter - Irina Rayhenberg. Shukhevych gave her documents with another name, and later she was taken to the orphanage of Basilian sisters’ monastery near Lviv. Irina Rayhenberg died in Kyiv in 2007.

Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky was probably the only one in Ukraine who created a centralized system of rescue of Jews from Nazi persecution. He organized the production of documents, including certificates of baptism for the Jews. They received shelter in monasteries and several of them Sheptytsky hid in his house. In total Bishop Andriy saved about a hundred Jewish adults and up to two hundred children. Sheptytsky was one of the few priests in Ukraine, who decided to write a letter to the highest Nazi leadership to protest against the murder of Jews (the second was Peremyshl pastor Omelian Kovch). Despite this "Yad Vashem" still not granted him the title of "Righteous Among the Nations", which is assigned for the rescue for at least one Jew. Ultimately, whether or not having the title - it's not so important. For Ukrainian he was, is and will remain a righteous man, without any official status.

To understand the conditions under which people dare to rescue Jews, worth quoting Ukrainian historian, candidate of historical sciences Andriy Rukkas:

"Saving a Jew in Eastern Europe was much harder and more dangerous than in Western Europe. The rescuers in Western Europe, where the occupation regime was softer than in the eastern lands, were threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp. And saviors of Jews in Eastern Europe were threatened with death. Moreover, not necessarily his personal death, but, for example, the death of his relatives and the destruction of property.

Many priests gave lives for their noble rescue mission. Legendary became the name of Omelian Kovch - Greek Catholic priest from Peremyshliany. Despite the invader’s ban, he gave more than 600 certificates of baptism to Jews. In his letter to Hitler condemned the mass murder of Jews. Moreover, the letter contained a requirement of permission to attend the Jews in ghetto. In December 1942 he was arrested and thrown into prison in Lviv (now the museum "Prison on Lontskoho"), and in August 1943 - to the Majdanek concentration camp, where he stayed until his death in August 1944, and continued his priestly activity.

Related: Poroshenko meets with representatives of Jewish organizations in US

Today are still unknown not even dozens – but thousands of names of righteous Ukrainians who saved the lives of Jews during the Second World War.

To their names we should now add the names of Jews who gave their lives for our country's independence during the Revolution of Dignity. Among them - Shcherbaniuk Oleksandr, 45 years, from Chernivtsi. Killed on Maidan from a bullet in the heart. Yevgen Kotlyar, 33 years, from Kharkiv. Killed by the sniper in Kyiv on the Institutskay street. Yosif Schilling, 61 years old, from Drohobych, killed with a headshot in Kyiv near October Palace.

We also should remember those soldiers who were killed and missing, while protecting the integrity of our country in the war on our eastern borders. Jews by birth, they were Ukrainians; they came to defend their homeland.

The memory of Ukrainian-Jewish solidarity must be immortalized. Historical and cultural complex "Castle Museum Radomysl" which is located in Radomyshl city decided to come up with such an initiative. At the castle, with the support of the Center of Judaica Kyiv Mohyla Academy and Zhytomyr Regional State Administration it is planned to establish a memorial sign of Ukrainian-Jewish solidarity. It will remind people about those who rescued others with the cost of their own life, and about those who were saved. By this public initiative and this monument we want to honor those names of Ukrainians and Jews that only God knows...

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