The propaganda organs of the Communist Party attempted to put the blame of all the Jewish pogroms on Symon Petlura. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine prepared a special document which was meant to outline a complex of actions in order to compromise Petlura in the period before the Schwartzbard court case.
The Jewish community had undergone significant losses in the period of the Russian revolution. Many documents dealing with the pogroms however had not been made available and indeed had been deliberately concealed from the public in the Soviet era anti-semitic climate. These documents have remained hidden until recently - being discovered in the Special Archives by the Ukrainian historian Volodymyr Serhiychuk
Study of the archives of the Security Service of Ukraine (formerly the Ukrainian KGB) has shown that the government of the UNR directed by Petlura had no relationship to the organization of Jewish pogroms in Ukraine. In fact the Directoria from its very conception fought against pogroms, but its power was limited. In the study of pogroms in Ukraine one can see that the only benefactors from such actions were the enemies of the newly formed Ukrainian state which turned to this form of terror whenever Ukraine made movements towards independence.
During the reign of Pavlo Skoropadsky, whose government made inroads towards once again joining Russia, no pogroms were recorded. When Skoropadsky’s government was replaced by the Directoria and Ukraine once again launched itself in a direction towards independence pogroms once again erupted.
The Ukrainian government immediately reacted to the acts of violence which happened in January 1919 in Zhytomyr and Berdychiv. The instigators were shot, and the army squadron which took part in the action was disbanded. The Ukrainian government stated this to the leaders of the Jewish party and the government of Berdichev on January 10. The then head of the government Volodymyr Vynnychenko stated that the pogrom actions were initiated by the Black Hundred elements. He also stated: “that the Ukrainian government will actively fight anti-Semitism and all occurrences of Bolshevism”.
The Jews themselves stated that the pogroms were not the policy of the Ukrainian government but were organized as a provocation against it. The representatives of the Jewish party Poale Zion Drakhler told Petlura “We understand, having enough facts, that the Zhytomyr and Berdichev pogroms took place as acts against the (Ukrainian) government. Immediately after the Zhytomyr pogrom the Russian and Polish Black Hundreds boasted “The planned pogroms had worked extremely well, and will bring an end to Ukrainian aspirations”.
The pro-Bolshevik delegate of the Bund Moyshe Rafes, who initially stated that “the special detachment that was sent to Zhytomyr and Berdychev to fight the Soviets initiated a pogrom” later in a speech at the meeting of the Labour Congress of Ukraine on January 16, 1919 stated: “The Directoria states, that it is not to blame, that it is not to blame for the pogroms. None of us blames the Directoria for the responsibility of the pogroms”.
Symon Petlura made attempts to stop the occurrence of pogroms among Ukrainian detachments. When he discovered from the Minister of Jewish affairs of the UNR that the transiting squadron at the Yareska station had initiated violent acts against the Jewish population, he immediately sent a telegram to the military commendant of Myrhorod: “I command that the matter be investigated and reported back to me, and to use immediate measures so that similar excesses do not have a place and will be punished – 28 January – Head Otaman S. Petlura.
When Petlura took charge of the Directoria, at his initiative the government investigated the Jewish pogroms in Kamianets-Podilskyi and Proskuriv demanding the commanders “use decisive actions to totally liquidate the pogromish anti-Jewish actions, and the perpetrators are to be brought before a military tribunal and punished according to the military laws of war”.
Had Petlura’s policies been different, then the representatives of the Jewish population at a meting which took place July 17, 1919, would never have told Petlura that they support him and the building of a Ukrainian State. The representative of Poale Zion stated: “I am deeply convinced that not only we, but all Jewish democracy in its activities will take active participation in the struggle to free Ukraine. And in the rows of the army the Jewish Cossack hand in hand will fight, carrying its blood and life onto the altar of national and social freedom in Ukraine”.
At that meeting Petlura once again affirmed to the Jewish delegates that he will use “the strength of all my authority to remove the excesses against the Jews, which are obstacles to our the work of establishing our statehood”.
The attitude to the Jews and pogroms in Ukraine was totally different in the Volunteer Russian Army led by Denikin. In a special memorandum sent to the Central Committee for Jewish Aid who had suffered in the Pogroms at the end of 1919 he stated: “The politics of general Denikin regarding these deceitful people (all Jewish-Bolsheviks), is that they are in the dark, an invisible mass, responsible for the disgusting rows of cruelty and pogroms, which have no boundary”.
One document states in reference to the pogrom of Kyiv “When General Dragomirov, known for his liberalism, had to leave Kiev because of the Bolshevik offensive, turned to his officers (recorded in a stenogram) with the following words: “My friends, you know, as much as I do, the reasons for our temporary failures on the Kievan front. When you, my heroic and never dying eagles, retake Kiev, I grant you the possibility to take revenge on the grubby Jews”.
When the Denikin’s Volunteer army retook Kiev it inflicted robbery and murder on the civilian population. Over 20,000 people died in the violence in two days. After these events, the representative of the Kharkiv Jewish Community – Mr. Suprasskin spoke to General Skuro, who stated to him bluntly, that “Jews will not receive any mercy because they are all Bolsheviks”
The Government of the Ukrainian People's Republic in a communication with the governments of the Antanta dated October 7, 1919 stated: “Especially disgusting are the violent acts by the representatives of General Denikin on the Jews, which along the roads taken by his army, instigate unimaginable pogroms, which by their size, brutality and obscenity have surpassed all other excess that we have had at any time in any place on the Ukrainian terrain”.
Other historians have claimed that Petlura himself did not have any history of antisemitism, and that he actively sought to stop anti-Jewish violence on numerous occasions, finally introducing capital punishment for the crime of pogroming.
Historian Taras Hunczak of Rutgers University concludes in his study Symon Petliura and the Jews: A Reappraisal (1985): "...to convict Petliura for the tragedy that befell Ukrainian Jewry is to condemn an innocent man and to distort the record of Ukrainian-Jewish relations" (p 33). Because the USSR saw Petlura and Ukrainian nationalism as a threat, it was in its interest to blacken his reputation and mounted a propaganda campaign including accusing him of anti-Jewish crimes. Hunczak insists that "Petliura's own personal convictions render such responsibility highly unlikely, and all the documentary evidence indicates that he consistently made efforts to stem pogrom activity by UNR troops.
In 1921 Ze'ev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, the father of Revisionist Zionism, signed an agreement with Maxim Slavinsky, Petlura's representative in Prague, regarding the formation of a Jewish gendarmerie which will accompany Petliura’s putative invasion of Ukraine, and will protect the Jewish population from pogroms. The agreement did not materialize and Jabotinsky was heavily criticized by most Zionist groups. Nevertheless he stood by the agreement and was proud of it.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center alleges that between June 30 and July 3, 1941, in the days that the Battalion was in Lviv the Nachtigall soldiers together with the German army and the local Ukrainians participated in the killings of Jews in the city. The pretext for the pogrom was a rumor that the Jews were responsible for the execution of prisoners by the Soviets before their withdrawal from Lviv. The encyclopedia of the Holocaust states that some 4,000 Jews were kidnapped and killed at that time. It further states that the unit was removed from Lviv on July 7 and sent to the Eastern Front. On their way through Zolochiv and Ternopil to the area of Vinnytsya, Nachtigall troopers participated in pogroms against Jews.
Russian sources state: "That on June 30 in Lviv the German administration started mass repressions. the commander of the Einzatzgruppen C Dr. Rasch had incriminated the death of those incarcerated in the Lviv jails to the "Jews from the NKVD" which became the spark for the terror against the Jews and Poles of Lviv. In the bloody murder of the Jews the Einsatzgruppen under the command of brigadeerfuhrer SS Karl Eberhard Schenhardt took prominence, The sections of this group under the command of H. Kruger and W. Kutshman on July 4 murdered 23 Polish professors and their families. On July 11 2 more were killed, and later the former prime-minister of Poland, professor Bartel. In the Autumn of 1941 a ghetto was formed in Lviv.
Ukrainian sources state that none of the allegations have been proven by any documents, that they were too busy with their priority securing the radio station and newspapers and proclaiming Ukrainian independence.
Involvement of any members of the Nachtigall Battalion in the war crimes have not yet been established. The Canadian Commission on War Criminals in Canada (Deschênes Commission) that looks into allegations of war criminals residing in Canada, has not named any of the members of the Nachtigall Battalion. Moreover, it concluded, that units collaborating with the Nazis should not be indicted as a group and that mere membership in such units was not sufficient to justify prosecution.
An international commission was set up at The Hague in the Netherlands in 1959 to carry out independent investigations. The members were four former anti-Hitler activists, Norwegian lawyer Hans Cappelen, former Danish foreign minister and president of the Danish parliament Ole Bjørn Kraft, Dutch socialist Karel van Staal, Belgian law professor Flor Peeters, and Swiss jurist and member of parliament Kurt Scoch. Following its interrogation of a number of Ukrainian witnesses between November 1959 and March 1960, the commission concluded: