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1941

Germans capture Lvov—and slaughter ensues

On this day in 1941, the Germans, having already launched their invasion of Soviet territory, invade and occupy Lvov, in eastern Galicia, in Ukraine, slaughtering thousands.

The Russians followed a scorched-earth policy upon being invaded by the Germans; that is, they would destroy, burn, flood, dismantle and remove anything and everything in territory they were forced to give up to the invader upon retreating, thereby leaving the Germans little in the way of crops, supplies, industrial plants, or equipment. (It was a policy that had proved very successful against Napoleon in the previous century.) This time, as the Germans captured Lvov, the Soviet NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB secret police, proceeded to murder 3,000 Ukrainian political prisoners.

Lvov had had a long history of being occupied by foreign powers: Sweden, Austria, Russia, Poland, and since 1939, the Soviet Union, which had proved especially repressive. The German invaders were seen as liberators, if for no other reason than they were the enemy of Poland and Russia—two of Lvov’s, and Ukraine’s, enemies. But release from the Soviet grip only meant subjection to Nazi terror. Within days, administrative control of Ukraine was split up between Poland, Romania, and Germany. Some 2.5 million Ukrainians were shipped to Germany as slave laborers, and Ukrainian Jews were subjected to the same vicious racial policies as in Poland: Some 600,000 were murdered. (Ukrainian nationalists also had blood on their hands in this respect, having gone on the rampage upon the withdrawal of Russian troops by scapegoating Jews for “Bolshevism,” killing them in the streets.)

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