Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 4 Comments
Ukraine's new President, President Yuschenko has been widely celebrated as a reformer, a courageous leader, a friend of democracy in his coming to power during the Orange Revolution. Bush called him "the courageous leader of a free Ukraine" and American money and direct intervention played a key role in bringing Yuschenko to power.
Today President Yuschenko signed an order commemorating the "eternal memory" of Simon Petlura as a Hero of the Ukranian people. A large memorial will be unveiled in Kiev on October 1st. To many Ukranians Petlura is indeed a hero, a Cossack leader who temporarily ruled an independent Ukraine. To Jews he is better known for the massacres of as many as a hundred thousand Jews across the Ukraine carried out by the Ukranian army and Ukranian gangs.
Among the many thousands dead across hundreds of towns were nineteen members of a watchmaker's family who had served in the French Foreign Legion during World War I. When Simon Petluria fled to Paris, that watchmaker followed him. He set up a shop in the city and waited.
On May 26th he confronted Simon Petlura and crying, "This for the pogroms; this for the massacres; this for the victims," he shot him three times. When the police came that watchmaker whose name was Shalom Schwartzbard turned over his gun to a police officer saying "You can arrest me, I've killed a murderer."
Shalom Schwartzbard was arrested and placed on trial. His defense was that acting "as an instrument of humanity's conscience" he had assasinated a mass murderer. The french court acquited him after only three weeks. He applied for the right to settle in Israel and was refused by the British, wrote Yiddish poetry and became a traveling encyclopedia salesman and only after death were his remains intered in the Heroes’ Acre at Netanya in Israel.
Ukranian nationalists meanwhile spent the rest of the century canonizing and memorializing Simon Petlura as a martyr to the cause of Ukranian nationalism. Some worked to prove that Simon Petluria had nothing to do with the massacres his own troops carried out. Others disdained deception arguing that all the Jews were Communists and got what they deserved.
In 'Free Ukraine' and among many American Ukranians Petlura and the cossacks are heroes. Among the Jews the hero was a short watchmaker who wrote poetry in his spare time and awaited the moment to avenge the murderer of his family. They remember their heroes, let us remember ours.
Whenever I read the chronicles of world history, my heart bleeds each time I
encounter human injustice. As long as there have been people on this earth,
the most pitiless enemy of any human being is another human being, wrote Shalom Schwartzbard in his memoir.
I cannot contain my tears when I recall the greatest suffering which our people endured the last centuries in the Ukraine, the vale of tears. For three hundred years Jewish blood flowed without halt on Ukrainian soil. In 1648, Hetman Bogdan Chmielnitsky and his Cossacks drenched the Ukraine with our blood. They slaughtered old people, tore little children limb from limb, raped women and strangled them afterward. This massacre lasted until 1654 and 500,000 Jews met their death in the severest agonies.
The Jewish people was destroyed with fire and sword in the Ukraine. A Polish memoirist describes this epoch:
When Kievan Ataman Charchevsky entered Kanev, the Cossacks massacred
all its Jews. It was their custom thus to entertain themselves. In Nemirov
an Ataman and his Cossacks lashed hundreds of Jews together and drowned
them. Little children were ingeniously severed in half. Six thousand Jews were murdered in Nemirov.
They desecrated synagogues, ripped apart Torah scrolls, and sent entire towns up in flame and smoke. The Jewish communities of Pereyaslav, Borisovka, Piryatin, Boryslaw, Dubno, Lachowicze, and many others were destroyed. Streams of blood flowed over the Ukrainian roads. In Tulchin all the Jews were assembled and ordered to be baptized. With one voice they cried out, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One."
The gruesome massacres, the ghastly acts committed by the Haidamacks of
Ataman Petlura in 1918, 1919, and 1920, in their cruelty and evil surpassed the earlier deeds of the Ukrainian heroes. I need only recall the dreadful time for a shudder to pass over my body. The hideous visions pursue me always, though I strive to ward them off. Though I seek to expunge them from my memory, they remain always fresh and fearful. Pogrom scenes I witnessed float before my eyes and at night keep
me awake. I jump up from my sleep and cannot shake off the bloody nightmares.
At the end of July 1919 I arrived in Zhidowska-Grebla, two days after the Haidamack pogrom. The first Jewish home I entered looked as if it had suffered an earthquake. Two old women sat on the ground and lying next to them an old man, his face bloodied, his eyes bloodshot, blood still running from his bandaged head, and from him issued one lament, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
In that town, eight of fifteen families were completely annihilated. A widow
with six children, whose husband had fallen at the front, was violated and
In Cherkassy on the Dnieper, the first Jew I encountered told me, "We have just buried a thousand victims of the last pogrom. All lie in one mass grave. One gets accustomed to calamity. It is Providence."
At the end of August, when I was in Kiev, Petlura's advance guard entered.
They murdered all the Jews they met on their way. In the center of
Bolshaya Vasilkivskaya Street, I saw the corpse of a young man stretched out on the pavement, and, her head on his dead body, a woman lamenting for her one and only son. Hoodlums shouted obscenities, mocking her despair. One sermonized: "This is good. We'll show you, damned Jews, we'll slaughter you
Kozyr-Zyrko, Petlura's aide, the hero of the massacre in Ovruch, selected thirty
old Jewish men for his amusement. Haidamacks encircled them and ordered
them to sing and dance. The Haidamacks were free with their whips and
revolvers, mocking, deriding, goading the dancers. When one Jew or another
broke out in lament, the torturers beat them, ordering them to continue dancing
and singing, and they shouted "Long live our Father Kozyr-Zyrko." Then they
shot all the old men and piled the bodies in a heap.
Palenko, another of Petlura's aides, told a Jewish delegation in Kiev: "I will not
listen to you. Do you think that for a few damned Jews I would disrupt my
In Tripole on the Dnieper, Petlura's birthplace, after the fifth pogrom, forty-seven
corpses of the old, the sick, and the children were left lying in the street, and
no living soul remained after them. Dogs began to pick at the bodies and pigs
to nibble. Finally, a Gentile who used to work for Jews, out of pity dug a grave
and buried them. The Haidamacks learned of it and for that they murdered him.
Intoxicated with blood and uncontrolled hatred, the twentieth-century
descendants of Bogdan Chmielnitsky, Gonta, and Zheleznyak completed
the mission of their ancestors. Are these the flag-bearers of the New
Testament, of civilization and of hope for a nobler mankind?
Judge me, my judges.