The Odessa Massacre – How History repeated itself!

When Nazi-Germany attacked Europe, it had clearly separated strategies for Western Europe and Scandinavia on the one hand and Eastern Europe on the other hand. The Western European Nations were to be conquered and submitted under the rule of German Supremacy and cleansed of all unwanted populations, the so called “subhumans”. The strategy of Nazi-Germany for Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries was based on the believe that the population would rapidly accept the German rule and the Arian-supremacy. For Western Europe and Scandinavia, Nazi-Germany set out these objectives:

  • Cleans all countries of unwanted “subhuman” population.
  • Submit France, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Scandinavia in a Blitz-Krieg and place these countries under German ruling with focus on acceptance of being part of the 3rd Reich.
  • Defeat England within 6 months.

For Eastern Europe, Nazi Germany set out an entirely different strategy. Eastern Europe was what Nazi-Germany considered “Lebensraum”, badly needed place to extend the 3rd Reich eastwards and benefit from its fast agricultural potential, resources and workforce. After concurring the Eastern countries, the intention of Nazi-Germany was to have the Slavic race serve the Nazis as labor force. Hitler and his likes determined that to submit the Slavic populations and countries, they would have to achieve the following major objectives:

  • Cleans Slavic countries of unwanted “subhuman” population.
  • Reduce the Slavic population to the required amount as workforce.
  • Defeat the strongest opponent in Europe: The Soviet Union.

These different objectives explain the brutality with which Nazi-Germany and its Allies operated in Eastern-Europe and the parts of the Soviet Union it conquered in the first year of their eastbound quest. The further east the Nazi-German troops wend, the harder the unbridled brutality against the population became, reaching the climax in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. And puzzling in any way imaginable, the further east the Nazi-Germans and Allies conquered countries, the stronger the propaganda of “liberators from the Soviet Union” seemed to work. Especially in Western-Ukraine, the Nazi occupiers were welcomed and millions joined the armed forces as volunteers.

What we now all know is that armed forces in Nazi-Germany in reality meant those who were send to the front and those who operated in occupied territories to terrorize the population, cleans the “subhumans” and worked on what was required to create “Lebensraum”: reduce the Slavic population. In all these, the Western Ukrainian volunteer battalions were seen as the most devoted to the “Nazi cause” and as the most brutal. Historians from different sides have different views on the exact amount of Western Ukrainian volunteers but the lowest estimate is 4 million volunteers who joined the Nazi-German forces of which roughly 75% worked behind the front as “punishers”. No other county provided so much volunteers to the Nazi forces. This places Ukraine even above Italy and Romania which were direct Allies of Nazi-Germany before the war started!

An extreme and overwhelming excess of violence against the population of the occupied territories was demonstrated by what the Nazis called “burning cattle”. Armed Nazi units would encircle a village and drive the population into a large building, mostly a church in towns and villages or a barn in smaller settlements. After locking the building, it was set on fire using petrol and kerosene to torch the building and everyone in it. Ukrainian volunteer battalions, UPA but also Ukrainian SS units,  specialized in this method and considered it cheap and effective. In Eastern Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltics and the parts of Russia which was conquered, this was the preferred method to eliminate and punish the local population for being loyal to the Soviet Union, for being Jewish of otherwise unwanted or for simply being not wanted in the Nazi objective of creating “Lebensraum” with only the required amounts of workforce.

Let this sink in. The preferred method of eliminating and punishing the population was to drive them into a building and torch it with everyone in it. Drive them into a building and torch it. Torch everyone in the building. The brutality and inhumanity of these actions, let this really sink in. Imagine that your children and your loved ones are forced into a building, locked up and then torched until they are finally liberated from their suffering by death. This was a specialty of Ukrainian volunteer battalions in the Nazi forces! Nazi Headquarters appraised the Ukrainian units for their effectiveness of “burning cattle”…!!!

Odessa, that wonderful beautiful seaport city. 2 demonstrations. Pro and Contra. Escalation. Demonstration becoming violent, lives are lost. Pro-Kiev demonstrators outnumbering Contra-Kiev. Closed in from all sides, run to escape. Seek safety in the Trade Union Building, escape the escalating violence. Run, escape. Safety. In the building, safety. Masses in front the building, close the doors and windows. Violent chanting, hatred, threats. Seek safety, wait until it is over. Safety in the building. Fire. A Molotov cocktail crushes against the window. Stones to break the windows followed by Molotov cocktails. Another one and another one. Windows break, fire in the building. More fire, more windows crash, more fire. Fire everywhere. Shots are fired, there is no safety. Fire, more fire, fire in the building, fire everywhere.

Those who hoped to find safety in the Trade Union Building after being surrounded and had no other option then to seek safety inside the building, were torched. Locked inside the building with no option to escape. Torched to death, fighting their suffering until they were finally liberated by death. History repeated itself at the hands of those who admire the volunteers who specialized in this brutally generations before them.

Just like with the Nazi collaborators in World War II, Ukraine refuses to prosecute those who are responsible for the Odessa Massacre. Also in this, history is repeating itself. And just like in World War II, the world is looking away and instead of crushing Ukraine for its crimes against its own population, the world is making up excuses why Ukraine is the victim of all this. Once again, history repeats itself.

After World War II, most Nazis responded to the Holocaust and cleansing of Slavic population with the most hated sentence the German language has: “wir haben es nicht gewust”. The German propaganda of course never showed what the Nazis and their collaborating Allies were doing and even the press in the countries fighting Nazi-Germany barely paid attention to it during the war. At the risk of repeating myself, it is now once again history repeating itself. In Ukraine, there is hardly any attention for what happened in Odessa and the refusal to prosecute those responsible nor does the Western press pay much attention to it.

In love and war, all still seems to be allowed and nobody really cares because everyone one prefers to stick with the easy narrative. And by doing so, by not pushing for answers and justice, by not making what happened in Odessa a prime case on the front page every single day until justice is done, the Odessa Massacre is already almost forgotten. And by allowing the Odessa Massacre to be forgotten, the victims and their loved ones become forgotten. Forgotten victims on the battlefield of politics and agendas in which there is no place for the Odessa Massacre. And by allowing this to happen, by allowing our media and politicians to not act on the Odessa Massacre, we become collaborators. All of us!

Well, not completely and entirely all of us. There are exceptions. There is still hope for humanity because there are some politicians who have not forgotten about the Odessa Massacre and there are some reporters who continue to ask questions. Not only about the Odessa Massacre itself but also about Ukraine’s refusal to prosecute the guilty ones and finally bring justice to the victims and their loved ones.

One of these brave reporters is Anna Schalimova (Twitter @aschalimova). In her work focusing both on living conditions of common Ukrainians and the Odessa Massacre and aftermath, Anna boarded for a flight to Kiev to continue with her work as reporter in the country where she was born. The Ukrainian authorities however decided that the work done by Anna is unwanted and prohibited Anna to enter the country for a period of 3 years, as Anna stated even without providing a reason for this ban.

Free press and freedom of critical reporters are one of many requirements for democracy. If Ukraine has demonstrated and proven anything by the decision to prohibit Anna from entering the country and continue to do her work, then it is that Ukraine is by no means a democratic country and has no intention to be a democratic country.

It rarely happens that I feel the strong need to stand up. At this moment, I do feel the need to stand up even when I am not able to. To stand up in respect for the victims of the Odessa Massacre, to stand up for the few brave reporters who dedicate their time and effort to investigate and provide answer to those who care. To show my respect, I have put on the favorite hat of my late father and raise my hat for the victims, for their loved ones and symbolic for the reporters who keep investigation the Odessa Massacre, I raise my hat for Anna Schalimova!

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