Master of Arts (MA)
Faculty of Arts
The issues of the Second World War have always been an important motive in state propaganda in the former USSR. Growing up in the Soviet Union I learned to associate my patriotic feelings with heroism and sacrifice of Soviet people during the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945. Moreover, personal accounts of the war and occupation that I heard from the members of my family almost completely agreed with the official version of wartime history of the USSR. The Soviet accounts stressed that the struggle against invaders was almost unanimous, and many cases of passive responses to the war or collaboration were mentioned only briefly. During my university studies in Canada I discovered a number of studies by western historians dealing with collaboration in the USSR during the war. I became interested in this subject and decided to study it in more depth. From one of the colleagues who also studied the German occupation of the USSR I learned that the village of Khatyn, which was made a symbol of all the burnt villages in Belrussian SSR by the Soviet propaganda, was in fact destroyed not only by the Germans, but by ethnic Ukrainians. This intrigued me, and I decided to investigate this case further. Most of the primary materials on the subject came from the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum Archive, which contained records from the October Revolution State Archive in Minsk concerning Khatyn. The battalion that was involved in burning of the village was Schutzmannschaft 118, or Ukrainian Schuma. The collection contained records of other activities of the battalion during the war. After reading these records I decided to look at wartime collaboration and issues associated with it through a case study of this unit. This investigation did not provide me with definite answers as to why and how people became collaborators. Through my study I have discovered that this issue involves a number of different motives, reasons, and circumstances that determine people’s choices in conditions of the war. The most important thing I learned was that generalizations about collaboration or other social phenomena limit our understanding of complexity of peoples’ responses in any given circumstances. Without taking into account such motives as nationalistic of anti-Soviet sentiments, pursuit of personal gain, or satisfaction of survival needs it is impossible to fully understand the issue of wartime collaboration. Study of those factors, in turn, would lead to reevaluation of other related issues, for example, our understanding of war crimes, and help us reconstruct a fuller picture of the events of World War II.
Petrouchkevitch, Natalia, "Victims and criminals: Schutzmannschaft battalion 118 (Belarus, Ukraine)" (1999). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive). 35.