Go to Part 1

Petliura had to lie when he claimed nationhood for Ukraine was widely supported by the Jewish community. He constantly tried to get Ukrainians to care as deeply for Jewish issues as he did. Jewish parties were willing to work with the Ukrainians, but they abstained from coming out for or against independence. Or, if they did have a firm stance on the matter, it was decidedly against independence.[i] Yet, throughout his time in power, Petilura would again and again make public statements in favour of Jews. Take for example, the following statement to what remained of his army in August of 1919,

It is time to know that the Jews have, like the greater part of our Ukrainian population, suffered from the horrors of the Bolshevist-communist invasion and now know where the truth lies. The best Jewish groups such as the Bund the Faraynigte [United Socialist Jewish Workers’ Party], the PoaleiTsion [Workers of Zion], and the Folkspartey [People’s Party] have come out decidedly in favor of an independent Ukrainian state and cooperate together with us. The time has come to realise that the peaceable Jewish population — their women and children — like ours have been imprisoned and deprived of their national liberty. They are not going anywhere but are remaining with us, as they have for centuries, sharing in both our happiness and our grief. The chivalrous troops who bring equality and liberty to all the nationalities of Ukraine must not listen to those invaders and provocateurs who hunger for human blood. Yet at the same time they cannot remain indifferent in the face of the tragic fate of the Jews. He who becomes an accomplice to such crimes is a traitor and an enemy of our country and must be placed beyond the pale of human society. … I expressly order you to drive away with your forces all who incite you to pogroms and to bring the perpetrators before the courts as enemies of the fatherland. Let the courts judge them for their acts and not excuse those found guilty from the most severe penalties of the law.[ii]

If Peltiura was guilty of anything, it was that he had almost no control over many of his generals, who essentially did as they pleased. He actually tried to set up Jewish militias in response to the growing number of accounts of pogroms. These militias would be tasked to defend Jewish communities from anyone, including those supposedly under Petliura’s command. However, they were never created because, interestingly enough, the Jewish parties were against any such units being created.[iii] He passed laws which were meant to stop pogroms: reformation of the army, extraordinary courts to deal with pogromists and funds to be used to assist victims of pogroms.[iv] (more…)