Photo Credit: Unknown author
Roman Shukhevych, Bataillon 201 (sitting, second from left), 1942.

“Diplomats should work to strengthen friendship and mutual respect between the Ukrainian and Israeli peoples, and not vice versa,” Oleh Nikolenko, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commented last Thursday on the demand of Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Joel Lion to cancel the decision to name a new stadium in Ternopil in western Ukraine after Roman Shukhevych.

Shukhevych, a.k.a. Taras Chuprynka (1907 – 1950) was a Ukrainian nationalist, who served in the Nachtigall Battalion as a Hauptmann (leader) of the German Schutzmannschaft 201 auxiliary police battalion, as a military leader of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) that fought the Red Army, and one of the organizers of the Halych-Volhynia massacre of between 50,000 and 100,000 Poles.

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Ambassador Lion condemned the decision of the Ternopil City Council to name the city stadium after—as they put it—”the Hero of Ukraine, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army Roman Shukhevych.”

Roman Shukhevych Ternopil city stadium (artist’s rendering) / Altukhovs

Spokesperson Nikolenko tweeted: “Preserving the national memory of the Ukrainian people remains one of the priorities of Ukraine’s state policy. Discussions in this area should be held at the level of historians. At the same time, diplomats should work to strengthen relations of friendship and mutual respect between peoples, and not vice versa.”

So, why not let the historians share their findings with the sports fans in Ternopil, who’ll be gathering in late April to watch the Ukrainian Cup final game in the new stadium in their city.

According to historian Per Anders Rudling, the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201 was a World War II Ukrainian Schutzmannschaft auxiliary police battalion formed by Nazi Germany on 21 October 1941, predominantly from the soldiers of the Ukrainian Nachtigall Battalion dissolved two months prior and the Roland Battalion. The battalion was part of the Army Group Centre that operated in Belarus. Nachtigall was an intelligence and diversion group of Abwehr, as well as a Security Police unit.

Historian Frank Golczewski says the Battalion fought against partisans and participated in the Jewish genocide in Belarus.

According to historian John-Paul Himka, the Germans routinely used the Schuma battalions in Belarus both to fight partisans and to murder Jews.

German-Polish historian Professor Frank Golczewski (University of Hamburg) describes the activities of the Schutzmannschaft Battalion 201 in Belarus as “fighting partisans and killing Jews.”

John-Paul Himka, a specialist in Ukrainian history during World War II, and Ivan Katchanovski of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies Harvard University, both note that while no one has studied the specific activities of the 201st battalion from this perspective, it is known that Schuma battalions such as the 201 in Belarus were used to fight partisans and murder Jews and that according to Katchanovsky there was a strong likelihood that the 201 Battalion was involved in the genocide of Jews and Belarusians.

Are these enough historians for you, Spokesperson Nikolenko?

Battalion 201 numbered 650 persons, most of whom belonged to Stepan Bandera’s wing of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. It served for a year in Belarus before being disbanded. Roman Shukhevych, the supreme commander of the UPA from 1943 to 1950 was an officer of the battalion. Many of its members, especially the commanding officers, would later be recruited into the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.

This formation was formed on 21 October 1941 with 4 companies. Their commanders were: 1st – Roman Shukevych (also the deputy commander of the battalion), 2nd – M. Brigider, 3rd – Vasyl Sidor, and 4th – Pavlik.

On July 2, 1941, after Ternopil was occupied by the Nazis, there was a pogrom in which several thousand Jews were murdered. By July 1943, the entire Jewish population of Ternopil had been murdered: 10,000 Jews were murdered in the city; another 6,000 were rounded up and sent to Belzec extermination camp; and a few hundred to labor camps.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.