THE UKRAINIAN DIVISION "GALICIA".
The History of Its Formation and Military Operations (1943-1945).
MEMOIRS OF THE SHEVCHENKO SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY Vol. 188.
© 1970, by Brotherhood of Former Soldiers of the 1st Ukrainian Division UNA.
Kiev Printers Ltd., 860 Richmond St. W., Toronto 3, Ontario, Canada.
THE UKRAINIAN DIVISION "GALICIA"
THE HISTORY OF ITS FORMATION AND MILITARY OPERATIONS
The "History of the Ukrainian Division" was written by its Chief of
Staff, Major Wolf-Dietrich Heike. In his book, the author depicts the
history of the formation and battle experiences of this largest organized
Ukrainian military unit on the German side during the Second World War.
The Ukrainian Division came into being in the Spring of 1943 on the initiative
of Dr. Otto Waechter, the Governor of Galicia – that part of the Ukrainian
territory which was incorporated during the years 1941 to 1944 in the so-called
Government-General. It was the intention of Governor Waechter to reactivate
the Ukrainian question in Germany and to induce the Ukrainians to closer
collaboration with the Germans by means of this Division. Because of the
lack of military success on the Eastern Front, Waechter saw a possibility
of changing German policy towards Ukraine if the Ukrainians would take
part in the armed conflict against Communism on the side of the Germans.
Military successes of the Ukrainians on the front line would provide the
grounds for demanding political concessions from the Germans. After lengthy
negotiations, Waechter was granted permission from the highest German quarters,
including the Reichsfuehrer of the S.S., Heinrich Himmler, to commence
preparatory work on the formation of an S.S. Division under the name of
"Galicia", to be composed of volunteers. Himmler, however, made it plain
that the Division was not even to think of political independence for Ukraine
and the words "Ukraine", "Ukrainian", in the noun or adjectival form, were,
to be completely prohibited. Indeed, the official view was to be that the
soldiers of the Division were not Ukrainians but "Galicians." Despite these
limitations, the initiative of Governor Waechter was supported by the majority
of Ukrainians in the Government-General as well as by the Chairman of the
Ukrainian Central Committee, the only legal organization on the territory
of the Government-General whose aim was to protect the interests of the
Ukrainians. Thus, with Governor Waechter's official proclamation of April
28, 1943, constituting the Division "Galicia", the Chairman of the Ukrainian
Central Committee, Prof. Dr. Wolodymyr Kubijowytsch appealed to the Ukrainian
population to volunteer for service in the Division.
The Division received general support, especially from the young people
and the former officers of the Ukrainian army of the First World War, and
the Ukrainians saw in the creation of such a Division the first nucleus
of a future Ukrainian Army which, with the end of the war, could play a
decisive role in the restoration of a Ukrainian Independent State. In his
conferences and negotiations with Governor Waechter, Prof. Kubijowytsch
presented demands that the Division have a Ukrainian character mirrored
in its name, badges and rank designations, and its own Ukrainian commanders;
that it would be treated as a separate entity, and would be used only on
the front against the Bolsheviks; that the soldiers would be assured of
spiritual care from their own Ukrainian chaplains; and, finally, that whole
cadres of young Ukrainian officers and non-commissioned officers be created
through special training programs. An additional demand was made that a
military committee be formed to handle all matters pertaining to the Division
and to maintain close liaison with the Ukrainian Central Committee.
The German authorities in Berlin accepted only a part of these demands
and promised to solve the other questions raised at a later date; but,
as it turned out, the promises were never fulfilled. The commanders of
the Division were Germans and the emblem of the Division was not the Trident,
the symbol of Ukrainian Statehood, but the coat of arms of Galicia, a lion
rampant. A military committee was formed, headed by Colonel Alfred Bisanz,
a German born in Western Ukraine, who had been a Colonel in the West Ukrainian
Army during the First World War, and who was subordinated to the Governor.
The ignoring of the Ukrainian demands, and later the failure to keep the
promises made, were the basis of a continuous state of dissatisfaction
in the Division for the entire period of its existence.
In the month of May, 1943, nearly 80,000 Ukrainians volunteered for
service in the Division, not only from the territories of Galicia but from
all parts of the Government-General. Amongst these were a large number
of former officers of the World War I West Ukrainian Army. Out of this
number, 27,000 were found to be fit for military service, 19,000 were enlisted,
and 13,000 actually reported for duty in the Division. The first group
of volunteers were sent to training camps on the 18th of July, 1943: 350
to officers' schools in the Reich, 2,000 for non-commissioned officers'
training, and 2,000 more to the training camp in Heidelager. Others were
sent to various training centres, mostly to the so-called police regiments.
In the fall of 1943, the Commanding Officer of the Division was appointed,
S.S. Oberfuehrer Fritz Freitag (later promoted to Brigade Fuehrer and Major
General of the Waffen S.S.). But it was only with General Freitag's arrival
in Heidelager and the appointment of Major Heike as Chief of Staff to the
Division that the training began in earnest. It is only from this point
that the author records the history of the Division in great detail, chapter
after chapter. The earlier days are treated briefly.
The author of this book was a professional German soldier and a staff
officer (he was the only staff officer in the Division who had never belonged
to any S.S. or police formation). He portrays, in chronological order factual
matters dealing with the training and the combat duty of the Division based
upon his diary, salvaged military maps and his memory. The book was completed
in 1947 while he was still in an English prisoner of war camp. Twenty years
later, it was translated into the Ukrainian language in somewhat abbreviated
form with the permission of the author. The book is illustrated with military
and tactical sketches, prepared on the basis of materials in the possession
of the author, photographs collected by the Central Executive of the Brotherhood
of Former Soldiers of the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army
which is also responsible for the publication of this book. An introduction
was written by Prof. W. Kubijowytsch who also edited it. The first chapter
in the book is devoted to the formation and training of the Division. Until
the month of March, 1944, this took place in the camp in Heidelager near
the Polish town of Dembica, and later in the training camp in Neuhammer
in Silesia. The Division was formed as a "Grenadier division." Officer
and N.C.O. canditates were trained at various schools and courses in Germany
and on completion of their training, were returned to the Division. A great
number of the soldiers received training in Germany and France in the so-called
police regiments, and it was only through persistent efforts on the part
of the Ukrainian Central Committee, Governor Waechter and the commanders
of the Division that these were finally transferred to the Division.
From the very beginning of the training period, difficulties arose:
lack of Ukrainian officers and non-corns (former officers and non-commissioned
officers of the Ukrainian Army of the 1917 to 1921 period were, in the
great majority of cases, unsuited for military service because of their
age and lack of experience and knowledge of new military techniques and
tactics) ; the unfortunate choice of the Commanding Officer of the Division
in the person of General Freitag; the absence of good German instructors
and, finally, inadequate arms and unsatisfactory living quarters. General
Freitag "was a preening bureaucrat who did not trust anyone, and in failing
to understand and appreciate the political role of the Division and the
psychology of the Ukrainian soldier, attempted to create just another German
military unit, which happened to be composed of Ukrainian soldiers. He
did not allow Ukrainian officers to be appointed to the staff and command
positions, and even tried to fill the positions of company and platoon
commanders with Germans. The author characterizes the Ukrainian officers
and non-commissioned officers and compares them to their German opposites,
stresses the complete lack of understanding of the psychology and customs
of the Ukrainians by Germans and criticizes German training programs based
on the principle of "obedience unto death" which was not suited to Ukrainians.
The political counsellor to General Freitag in Ukrainian matters and spokesman
for the Ukrainian officers was Captain Dmytro Palijiv who also fulfilled
the unofficial function of liaison officer between the Division, the Ukrainian
Central Committee and the Military Committee. He died in the battle of
Among many episodes, the author mentioned the activities of a combat
group of the Division under the command of Colonel Beyersdorff which, in
the month of February, was assigned the task of combatting Soviet partisans
in the Kholm region, even though the Division had not as yet completed
its military training. Another episode in the life of the division described
the visit of Reichfuehrer Himmler to Neuhammer. One short chapter is devoted
to the portrayal of a typical day in the military training course of the
division in Neuhammer before it was sent to the front.
The Staff of the Division and its protector, Governor Waechter, managed
to obtain approval from the German High Command through its Commander-in-Chief
of the Army Group "Northern Ukraine", Field Marshall Model, that the Division
would be assigned to a relatively quiet portion of the front in Western
Ukraine, near the City of Stanyslaviv, occupied by the First Panzer Army,
where it would complete its training and gradually acquire battle experience.
Unexpectedly, this decision was altered towards the end of June and
the Division was assigned a sector of the front lines held by the army
group "Northern Ukraine", in the very center of the expected main enemy
thrust. It was incorporated into the 13th Army Corps consisting of three
Wehrmacht divisions and the Ukrainian Division. At first, the Division
was held in reserve but later found itself at the point of greatest pressure
from the advancing Red Armies. On the 18th of July, both the Division and
the 13th Army Corps were encircled at Brody, and practically annihilated.
The Red Army enjoyed a tremendous superiority in the number of troops,
tanks and air power. Of the 11,000 soldiers in the Division, only 3,000
managed to break out of the encirclement. The Division had been given the
most difficult task of containing the assault of the Red Army to permit
the other units to escape. At this point, the Division Commander, Freitag,
relinquished his command. The author not only describes the battle, factually
illustrating it with drawings, but analyzes the root causes of the catastrophe.
A separate chapter is devoted to his personal experiences in this tragic
battle and the escape of the survivors from the circle of death. Of the
8,000 who did not break out, the largest number were battlefield casualties,
some were taken as prisoners of war and others were able to join the Ukrainian
Insurgent Army (U.P.A.) which had begun its struggle in the autumn of 1943.
The survivors of the Division passed, on foot, through Sambir and the Uzhotsky
Pass in the Carpathian Mountains onto the territory of Carpatho-Ukraine,
which, since 1939, had been occupied by Hungary. Here, at Seredne, they
camped for a breathing spell. Despite the un-complimentary and biased reports
of General Freitag about the behaviour of the Ukrainians during the battle,
Himmler accepted other favourable reports about the Division; motivated
by political considerations, he ordered Freitag to form a new division,
again in Neuhammer. The ranks of the new Division were filled by the 3,000
survivors of the battle at Brody, 8,000 soldiers from the reserve training
regiment, and several companies, of Ukrainian officers and non-commissioned
officers who had by then completed their various courses. The position
of liaison officer was filled by Captain Makarushka, replacing Captain
Palijiw, who had been killed in the battle at Brody. But now, even more
than earlier, General Freitag appointed young, often inexperienced German
officers to command posts in the Division. This only increased the frustration
and dissatisfaction of the Ukrainians. Shortly thereafter, a combat group
under the command of Lt. Colonel Wildner was detached from the Division
and sent into Slovakia to combat the Slovak partisans who, under the leadership
of Soviet partisans, were fighting against the pro-German Government of
President Joseph Tiso. At the beginning of October, 1944, the rest of the
Division was sent to Slovakia. In the region of Zilina it was completing
its combat training, maintaining order and clearing the region of the remnants
of the partisans. In these forays the Division got the weapons, including
artillery, which it sorely lacked. During its stay in Slovakia, the Division
was subordinated to the Commander-in-Chief of the German forces in Slovakia,
General Hoefle, whose headquarters were in Bratislava. The attempts of
Governor Waechter to change the Commander of the Division were not successful.
With the approach of the Eastern Front in the middle of January 1945,
the Division was ordered to move to Southern Steiermark and Slovenia, which
was annexed to the German Reich. After a forced march through snow-covered
secondary roads, the Division arrived at its destination towards the end
of February, taking up positions on both sides of the former international
boundary line between Austria and Yugoslavia. It was immediately ordered
into battle against the Tito partisans. Its order were to secure this region
and to complete its training. As in Slovakia, so in Slovenia, Ukrainians
maintained the most cordial relations with the local population.
As the front again drew nearer, an order was received on the 20th of
March to disarm the Division "temporarily." The disarming of the Division
would have spelled a tragic ending for the Ukrainians, but this order as
well as other senseless orders, i. e., to transform the Division into a
paratroop division with a new Commander, were not carried out, mainly because
the Red Army had broken through the front in the region of Gleichenberg-Feldbach.
On the 31st of March 1945, the Division was put under the command of the
Second Tank Army and ordered into the front lines along the Austro-Hungarian
boundary, where it distinguished itself. A sector of this front was held
by the Division until Germany capitulated.
During these battles at the front, towards the end of April, General
Pavlo Shandruk arrived. He had just become the head of the Ukrainian National
Committee, recognized by the German Government as the official representative
of Ukrainians in Germany, and had been appointed the Commander of the Ukrainian
National Army. His first act was to incorporate the Division into the Ukrainian
National Army as, its First Ukrainian Division. The swearing-in ceremony
was conducted and the soldiers of the Division swore loyalty to the Ukrainian
nation. From this point, the soldiers of the Division wore the Ukrainian
National emblem, the Trident, on their headgear.
In the following chapters, the author describes the last days of the
existence of the Division: its negotiations with the British Army and retreat
from the front across the mountains into a region agreed upon by the British.
A small number surrendered to the American Army. Facing the internment,
General Freitag ended his life by suicide, and the German officers [eft
In his concluding observations, the author summarizes the mistakes made
by the German authorities in organization, training and committing the
Division to combat. He brings out these points:
In accordance with the initial plans,, the Ukrainian Division should
have been a foreign military unit, and not a German unit composed of Ukrainians.
An utterly senseless policy regarding command posts in the Division had
adverse effects on the Ukrainians for the whole period. The Ukrainian officers
of the Division should have been appointed to the command posts and given
a greater responsibility in tactical planning;
at least they should have been given an opportunity to receive staff
training. It must be marginally noted that the Ukrainian officer and non-commissioned
officer cadres fulfilled their assigned tasks and duties well.
The ordering of the Division in the front lines was a mistake; more
heed should have been paid to the reports of the Staff of the Division
about its specific characteristics and the unique traits, of character
of the Ukrainian soldier. Despite this, the Division was thrown without
adequate training and battle experience into a main enemy thrust where
even battle-tried veteran German divisions succumbed. The High Command
of Infantry and the Army Group "Northern Ukraine" ignored great political
significance of the Division. The developments at the front in the sector
east of Lviv could have been foreseen. The order to send the Division into
battle resulted from a typically German way of thinking without taking
into account its peculiarity. The sending of the Ukrainians to the most
dangerous point at the front without providing them with experience in
modern warfare, was doomed from the outset to failure.
This important military unit also lacked of good commander who should
have been a talented and politically oriented soldier. Instead, it had
the self-seeking, unpleasant and bureaucratic General Freitag.
Permission to use Ukrainian emblems, the Ukrainian anthem, and an oath
of loyalty to Ukraine came too late. The creation of the Ukrainian National
Committee and the Ukrainian National Army headed by General Pavlo Shandruk
came even later, only two months before the end of the war.
READ THIS BOOK
PAVLO SHANDRUK: ARMS OF VALOR
WASYL VERYHA: ALONG THE ROADS OF WORLD WAR II:
UKRAINIAN DIVISION 'GALICIA' IN POLISH AND SOVIET LITERATURE