Recognition of Ukrainian WWII Victims in Germany

The absence of memorials in Germany for the over 10 million Ukrainian WWII victims has become painfully more apparent since russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The existing memorials are solely dedicated to the Soviet Union, neglecting countries like Ukraine and others that suffered under both Soviet and Nazi regimes. 

The Soviet Memorials in Berlin serve as stark reminders of this, displaying quotes from Stalin, a ruthless dictator responsible for mass murder, deportation, and labor camps. Despite the brutal war in their homeland caused by russia, the Ukrainian community in Germany is obliged to commemorate their fellow citizens and ancestors in a place that represents oppression, dictatorship, and pain. 

The atrocities of Stalin’s purges and the initial period of German occupation in Ukraine are often overlooked in the historical narrative. After the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Einsatzgruppen, specialized killing squads, were utilized by the Third Reich to carry out mass executions resulting in the deaths of over two million Jews. Ukraine was one of the countries most affected by this “Holocaust by Bullets.” 

In September 1941, for the first time in history, a major European city witnessed the premeditated murder of its Jewish population at the ravine of Babyn Yar on the outskirts of Kyiv. In just two days, German occupiers executed 33,771 Jewish residents and threw their bodies into a mass grave.

The Nazis continued to use Babyn Yar for mass executions during their occupation of Kyiv from 1941 to 1943. Among the estimated 100,000 victims, around two-thirds were Jewish, while the rest consisted of Roma, Soviet POWs, activists, nationalists, psychiatric patients, and religious figures. The Babyn Yar massacre, the largest mass killing of WWII, has been consistently suppressed in historical memory. 

The Soviet Union’s policies for Holocaust remembrance involved censorship, concealment of records, distorting facts, and repression of the events. This made it impossible to commemorate Babyn Yar post-war. The first memorial at Babyn Yar, was not created until 1976, and honored “Soviet citizens,” aligning with the Soviet practice of subsuming all victims under the umbrella of Soviet civilians. Germany’s historical memory landscape still reflects this stance, as Soviet memorials are primarily linked to russia and are legally maintained under an agreement between Germany and russia. 

The devastating effects of the German occupation in Ukraine included burned villages, deportations, forced labor camps, and mass executions. Ukrainian territory faced extensive destruction, while German aggression only affected approximately 3% of russian territory. Despite Ukraine’s contributions to the global victory against the Nazis, russia claims this triumph while erasing Ukraine’s vital role. Monuments that ignore Ukraine’s sacrifices, or the absence of monuments entirely, continue to perpetuate a cultural memory of denial and distortion.

As part of the Ukrainian community in Germany, we strongly urge Germany to promptly address its historical stance on the Second World War and the Soviet Union. We call on the German government to recognize Ukraine as a direct victim of the terrors of National Socialism and establish a memorial in Berlin to honor the sacrifices made by Ukraine during World War II.