The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

The Crime of Moscow In Vynnytsia

  • The Crime of Moscow In Vynnytsia, Introduction by John F. Stewart, Preface by Lewis Brandon, Institute for Historical Review, 1980, 48 pp. paperback, $3.00 frown IHR. ISBN: 0-911038-90-6.

Reviewed by Lewis Brandon

In 1943 the German occupation authorities in Ukraine discovered the bodies of 9,439 victims of the Soviet NKVD. The victims were all Ukrainian dissidents, who had been rounded up by the Soviets during 1937-39; before the German invasion. The Germans discovered their bodies under an orchard, under a children’s playground, and in a park.

The Germans brought together an International Commission of forensic experts from eleven different European countries; Allied, Axis and neutral. The forensic experts examined the bodies, and found as follows:

  • All male corpses had their hands tied behind their back, and had been shot in the back of the head.
  • 60 corpses had also been bludgeoned, indicating that the original gunshot had not killed them outright.
  • Three female corpses were nude, and did not have their hands tied, indicating probable sexual interference.
  • The clothing on the victims indicated that they were all working class or peasants.
  • One victim, at least, had soil in his stomach, indicating that he had been buried alive.

In an uncanny re-enactment of the German discovery of the Katyn Forest murders of 14,500 Poles, the Germans had to hastily rebury the bodies and retreat before advanced Red armies. As with the Katyn affair, the Bulgarian member of the International Commission was captured by the Soviets. However, in this case the Bulgarian did not renege on his testimony; he was executed. Neither did the Soviets try to pin the blame for the Ukrainian deaths on the Germans; there was no way that even the double-talking Communists could have construed such a lie.

In the end, the entire affair was covered over, along with the corpses themselves. It was not until 1951 that a brave group of Ukrainian expatriates and sympathizers in the West published this 48-page booklet exposing the atrocity for all to witness. But even this brave voice crying in the detente wilderness would have faded away, had it not been for the efforts of the Institute for Historical Review. Thanks are due to the Vynnytsia Remembrance Committee, headed by Dr. Jaroslaw Sawka, for their encouragement and guidance in the bringing about of this much-need production.

From The Journal of Historical Review, Winter 1980 (Vol. 1, No. 4), page 376.