Germans Were Greeted as Liberators
|Ukrainian women, some in native garb, greet advancing Wehrmacht troops during Operation Barbarossa in 1941.|
World War II tore Ukraine apart. The Ukrainians had good reason to be, shall we say, disenchanted with Soviet rule at the outbreak of the war. The Ukrainian famine/genocide ("Holodomor") of 1932-33 was a bitter recent memory. How many innocent Ukrainians perished under Stalin's benevolent (if you believe Soviet histories) rule is highly debatable and, truthfully, will never be known. There is a solid agreement, though, that it was a lot - certainly in the millions. Many millions of innocent men, women, and children were carried out of their huts, put in piles, and burned. That is exactly what the authorities intended and was their desired outcome.
|This makes more sense in context.|
Thus, what follows did not just come out of the blue.
Ukrainian Collaborator GirlsWhile most evidence of collaborator girls comes from the West for purely pragmatic reasons, there was a great deal of collaboration in the East, too. While the Germans never pressed it nearly forcefully enough for their own good, they did make some perfunctory steps toward encouraging friendship with the locals.
|A propaganda poster encouraging collaboration by Ukrainians. "Let there be a growing friendship between our two brother nations."|
|It is important to remember that peasant girls were completely unsophisticated and unworldly. They may not even have understood what was happening in terms of politics and what it meant to fraternize with the "other side." So, when pictures show them mingling with Axis troops, they may simply be acting politely to guests (Tamas Conoco Sr.).|
|A parade in Stanislav honored a visit by Hans Frank, Gauleiter of Poland.|
|A posed picture. Whether it reflected something genuine or completely manufactured is impossible to tell now (Ang, Federal Archive).|
|Local girls greet the Germans, whose faces are still covered with road dirt (Gotze, Federal Archive).|
|Latvian women greet advancing German soldiers with supplies.|
|Cossack Wehrmacht Volunteer.|
|German soldiers give Soviet kids smokes during Barbarossa.|
And it led to other problems later, too.
Ukrainian Fighting GirlsWhen writing about one aspect of the war, inevitably other elements are dragged in. Everything is related; you must follow a stream of events to reach the end of the war, and nobody rings a bell to say when peoples' allegiance changes. The most difficult part of writing discrete articles about the war is compartmentalizing them so that you don't start wandering off and lose your readers' interest. This page is primarily about the early stage of Barbarossa when there was hope within some "conquered" peoples that the conquerors would be an improvement over their former masters.
However, I would be remiss in ending this page by leaving the impression that Ukrainian girls were nothing more than handmaidens of the Third Reich. They were not, despite some early enthusiasm noted above that had much less to do with the Germans and much more to do with what they saw as oppression emanating from Moscow.
|Ukrainian women of Sydir Kovpak's guerilla forces, date unknown; note Mosin-Nagant M1891 sniper rifles|
|General Vlasov meets with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.|
|Polina Gelman, 1919-2005, born in Berdychiv, Ukraine. She was a Soviet Air Force officer and the only Jewish woman decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union for her service in WW II. Gelman served as a navigator in the all-female night bomber regiment called "Night Witches".|
|This obvious (and somewhat odd) propaganda shot sort of sums up the Ukrainian experience: a Wehrmacht man assists an elderly Ukrainian woman while behind her what may well be her home or that of relatives burns to the ground.|
|A Ukrainian girl in Lviv, Ukraine being harassed by the Germans.|
However, there is a great deal of evidence that, early in the conflict, the locals were roughly as happy at the lifting of the Soviet yoke as they later were about the German withdrawal.
I have a page for collaborator girls in Western Europe here.