Yaroslav Stetsko (Ukrainian: Ярослав Стецько; born 19 January 1912 in Ternopil, Austria–Hungary; died 5 July 1986 in Munich, Germany) was a nationalist Ukrainian paramilitary leader. In 1941, during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, he had proclaimed himself temporary head of an ostensibly independent Ukraine. After the war Stetsko became the head of the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations from the time of its foundation until his death in 1986, upon which his wife Yaroslava ("Slava") Stetsko assumed his office. From 1968 until his death he was also the leader of the Stepan Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN-B), which collaborated with the Nazis, and after WWII with German and American secret services.
Yaroslav Stetsko was born on January 19, 1912, in Ternopil, Austria–Hungary (now Ukraine), into a Catholic family.1 His father, Semen, a Catholic priest, and his mother, Teodoziya, née Chubaty, encouraged him to pursue a higher education. Yaroslav graduated from high school in Ternopil, and studied law and philosophy in Kraków and Lwów, graduating in 1934.2
Already at a young age Stetsko was already active in Ukrainian nationalist organizations, among them the
- Ukrainian Nationalist Youth (Ukrainian: Українська Націоналістична Молодь; "Ukrayinska Natsionalistychna Molod") where he became a member of the National Executive in 1932,
- Ukrainian Military Organization (Ukrainian: Українська Військова Організація, UVO),
- Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Ukrainian: Організація Українських Націоналістів, OUN).
Because of his anti-Polish activities and the assassination of the Polish minister of internal affairs, Bronislaw Piernacki,3 by OUN members, Stetsko was arrested by Polish authorities in 1934, and sentenced to a 5-year prison sentence,2 but was prematurely released in 1937 in a general amnesty.
After the assassination of the OUN leader Yevhen Konovalets in 1938, Andriy Melnik was elected leader of the group. Melnik belonged to the older generation of OUN sympathizers, and was challenged by his younger competitor Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), who wanted to militarize the OUN.
The OUN collaborated with the Germans right up from the Polish invasion in September 1939. In December 1939,4 the Gestapo trained Mykola Lebed and other OUN supporters in sabotage, guerrilla warfare and assassination techniques in Zakopane. Lebed personally supervised the torture and execution of Jews to harden his men.5
On February 10, 1941, Bandera organized a conference in Krakow to decide over the future leadership of the OUN, when Bandera was elected leader. This caused the to OUN to split into two factions in the spring of 1941: the so-called OUN-B was following Stepan Bandera, while the other adhered to Andriy Melnyk, who would subsequently lead the OUN-M.6
This did not hold both factions back to further collaborate with the Germans:
The OUN-M provided personnel for the Ukrainian social institutions the Germans permitted in occupied Poland. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the invasion force included two battalions of Ukrainian nationalists.7
On February 25, 1941, following negotiations with the leader of Abwehr, Wilhelm Canaris, Stepan Bandera received on behalf of the OUN-B two and a half million marks to form the corps of the future independent army of Ukraine. In April 1941, this "Legion of Ukrainian Nationalists", composed of 600 Banderites incorporated into the Roland and Nachtigall battalions, both equipped by the Abwehr, was created ad hoc with the aim of fighting the Soviets on behalf of the Third Reich. It was one of the units of the Brandenburg School Regiment, which then included all the commandos of the Wehrmacht.
OUN-B leader Stepan Bandera held meetings with the heads of German intelligence regarding the formation of an Ukrainian army. On February 25, 1941, the head of Abwehr, Wilhelm Canaris, sanctioned the creation of the “Ukrainian Legion” under German command. The OUN-B expected that the raised units would become the core of a future Ukrainian army.
Eight days after Germany's invasion of the USSR, on June 30, 1941, the OUN-B proclaimed the establishment of a Ukrainian state in Lviv with Yaroslav Stetsko as premier, which promised to "closely cooperate with the National-Socialist Greater Germany, under the leadership of its leader Adolf Hitler which is forming a new order in Europe and the world" – as stated in the text of the “Act of Proclamation of Ukrainian Statehood.”8
According to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and other sources, OUN leaders had meetings with the heads of Nazi Germany's intelligence, regarding the formation of the "Nachtigall" and "Roland" Battalions. In spring the OUN received 2.5 million marks for subversive activities inside the USSR.9
Gestapo and Abwehr officials protected Bandera followers, as both organizations intended to use them for their own purposes.10
Bandera and Stetsko proclaiming an independent Ukraine in July 1941. Source: https://www.historyanswers.co.uk/history-of-war/stepan-bandera-the-holocaust-1939-1943/
On 5 July, OUN-B leader Bandera was placed under honorary arrest (Latin: custodia honesta) in Kraków, and transported to Berlin the next day. On July 14, he was released, but required to stay in Berlin. On July 12, 1941, he was joined in Berlin by his deputy Yaroslav Stetsko, whom the Germans had moved from Lviv after an unsuccessful attempt by unknown persons to assassinate him.11 During July–August both of them submitted dozens of proposals for cooperation to different Nazi institutions (OKW, RSHA etc.), and gathered their followers.12
In August of 1941 Stetsko wrote his autobiography. It was addressed to the German authorities, and contained several notable antisemitic passages, in particular he stated that he considered Marxism a product of Jewish thought, that was put into practice by the Muscovite-Asiatic people with Jewish assistance; that Moscow and the Jewry are the carriers of the international ideas of the Bolsheviks. He stated that although he considers Moscow, rather than Jewry, to be the main enemy of imprisoned Ukraine, he absolutely endorses the idea of the indubitable harmful role of Jews in the enslavement of Ukraine by Moscow. He finally states that he absolutely endorses the extermination of Jews, and the rationality of the German methods in that regard, instead of assimilating them.13141516
After the assassination of two key members of the OUN-M, said to have been committed by members of the OUN-B, on September 15, 1941, Bandera and Stetsko were detained in Berlin's central prison in Spandau, and, in January 1942, were transferred to a special barrack for high profile political prisoners (Zellenbau) at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.17
In April 1944 Stepan Bandera and his deputy Yaroslav Stetsko were approached by Otto Skorzeny to discuss plans for diversions and sabotage against the Soviet Army.18
In September 1944 Stetsko and Bandera were released by the German authorities in the hope that they would be able to rally their countrymen to fight the advancing Soviet Army. With German consent Bandera set up headquarters in Berlin.19 Germans supplied the OUN-B and UVA by air with arms and equipment. Assigned German personnel and agents trained to conduct terrorist and intelligence activities behind Soviet lines, as well as some OUN-B leaders, were also transported by air until early 1945.2021
In April 1945 Stetsko was seriously injured during an Allied air-attack a convoy of Nazi military vehicles in Bohemia.22
After the war
Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations
After World War II Stetsko continued to be very active politically. In 1946, Stetsko spearheaded the creation of a new anti-soviet organization, the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations (ABN). In 1968 he became the supreme leader of the OUN-B. He also became a board member of the World Anti-Communist League.
Stetsko was president of the ABN until his death.23 The ABN, officially founded on April 16, 1946, and headquartered in Munich, functioned as an umbrella organization of fascist and collaborationist paramilitary exile organizations, among them the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists - Bandera (OUN-B), the Croatian Ustase, the Rumanian Iron Guard, and the Slovakian Hlinka Guard,24 and guaranteed the survival of their legacy at least until the end of the Cold War. According to the Institute for Policy Studies, the ABN was "the largest and most important umbrella organisation for former Nazi collaborators worldwide."25 The headquarters and cells of the ABN organized anti-Soviet rallies and demonstrations, international conferences and congresses, and the distribution of various anti-communist propaganda publications.
In 1947 a split occurred among the ranks of the Ukrainian Supreme Liberation Council. According to Breitman and Goda:
A feud erupted in 1947 between Bandera and Stetsko on the one hand, and [Ivan] Hrinioch and Lebed on the other. Bandera and Stetsko insisted on an independent Ukraine under a single party led by one man, Bandera. Hrynioch and Lebed declared that the people in the homeland, not Bandera, created the UHVR, and that they would never accept Bandera as dictator. At an August 1948 Congress of the OUN Foreign Section, Bandera expelled the Hrinioch-Lebed group from the party and ordered his own followers in their organization to resign. Bandera still controlled 80 percent of the party and claimed exclusive authority to direct the Ukrainian national movement at home and in the emigration. He also continued terror tactics against anti-Banderist Ukrainian leaders in Western Europe and maneuvered for control of Ukrainian émigré organizations. U.S. intelligence officials estimated that up to 80 percent of all Ukrainian DPs from Eastern Galicia were loyal to Bandera. But Lebed, Hrinioch, and [Yury] Lopatin[s]ky remained the official UHVR representation abroad.26
According to Jonathan Levy:
By 1948, the ABN was well on the way to becoming the premier anti-Communist exile organization. But not because of its popularity, more so due to its intimidation of rivals through political in fighting and bully boy tactics that included killings and beatings administered by the dreaded internal security wing of OUN/B, the SB. CIC confirmed that by 1948 both the “Intermarium” and the UPA (Ukrainian partisan command) reported to the ABN president, Yaroslav Stetsko. The UPA in turn had consolidated all the anti-Soviet partisans under its umbrella. Yaroslav Stetsko was also Secretary of OUN/B and second in command to Bandera, who had the largest remaining partisan group behind Soviet lines under his direct command. Thus, OUN/B had achieved the leadership role among the anti-Communist exiles and was ascendant by 1950 while the more moderate and Madisonian-oriented platforms and groups, the Prometheans, Central European Federal Club and the others had been fused with the ABN or abandoned.27
With the creation of the World Anti-Communist League, the ABN became an integral structure of its international paramilitary network.
On 5 July 1986, Yaroslav Stetsko died in Munich, Germany. He was 74 years old.
Stetsko's book Two Revolutions, written in 1951, is the ideological base of the political party All-Ukrainian Union "Svoboda".2829 The essence of its doctrine is: "the revolution will not end with the establishment of the Ukrainian state, but will go on to establish equal opportunities for all people to create and share material and spiritual values and in this respect the national revolution is also a social one."28
- Birkholz, Stefanie. Die stärksten Verbündeten des Westens. Der Antibolschewistische Block der Nationen 1946-1996, Konkret Texte 71, 2017. (German)
- Rudling, Per Anders. “The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in Manufacturing of Historical Myth.” The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies 2107 (2011). http://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/164.
- Levy, Jonathan. The Intermarium: Wilson, Madison, & East Central European Federalism. Dissertation, University of Cincinatti, 2006. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ucin1147397806&disposition=attachment.
- 1. John Armstrong (1963). Ukrainian Nationalism. New York: Columbia University Press, pg. 54
- 2. a. b. http://cun.org.ua/ukr/content/view/1513/31/
- 3. His death gave the Sanacja government an excuse to the creation of the Bereza Kartuska Detention Camp, which was established only two days after Pieracki's assassination. The first detainees consisted of almost whole leadership of the Polish nationalist far-right National Radical Camp (ONR), arrested on 6–7 July 1934.
- 4. Tadeusz Piotrowski. "Genocide and Rescue in Wołyń: Recollections of the Ukrainian Nationalist Ethnic Cleansing Campaign Against the Poles During World War II," McFarland, 2000. https://books.google.fr/books?id=Mfy2IZcbmHgC&pg=PA229&dq=gestapo+bandera&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=TA3BVL6RApDKaOqYgegM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=gestapo%20bandera&f=false.
- 5. Rashke, Richard L. Useful Enemies America’s Open-Door Policy for Nazi War Criminals. Harrison, New York: Delphinium Books, 2015.
- 6. Alexander Motyl (Ed.), "Encyclopedia of Nationalism", Two-Volume Set, Volume 2, p. 40. https://books.google.com/books?redir_esc=y&hl=nl&id=pvHRNNk9hHEC&q=bandera#v=snippet&q=bandera&f=false.
- 7. Thomson Gale, Encyclopedia of Modern Europe: Europe Since 1914: Encyclopedia of the Age of War and Reconstruction, 2006. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ounupa.
- 8. Per Anders Rudling, “The OUN, the UPA and the Holocaust: A Study in Manufacturing of Historical Myth,” The Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies 2107 (2011). http://carlbeckpapers.pitt.edu/ojs/index.php/cbp/article/view/164.
- 9. - Організація українських націоналістів і Українська повстанська армія. Інститут історії НАН України. 2004, Раздел, стр. 17-30. http://www.history.org.ua/LiberUA/Book/Upa/1.pdf. “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.” Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, 2004. pp. 17-30. http://www.history.org.ua/LiberUA/Book/Upa/1.pdf. (not checked) - І.К. Патриляк. Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках. — Університет імені Шевченко, Ін-т історії України НАН України Київ, 2004 (No ISBN) (not checked)
- 10. p.15 ОУН в 1941 році: документи: В 2-х ч Ін-т історії України НАН України К. 2006 ISBN 966-02-2535-0 – У владних структурах рейху знайшлися сили яки з прагматичних міркувань стали на захист бандерівців. Керівники гестапо сподівалися використовувати їх у власних цілях а керівники абверу а радянському тилу. (not checked)
- 11. Після проголошення держави й уряду наложили на нього дня 5.7. почесний арешт (Еренгафт) та перевезли його до Берліна. Дня 14.7 провідника організації звільнено із забороною опускати Берлін. p.420 ОУН в 1941 році: документи: В 2-х ч Ін-т історії України НАН України К. 2006 ISBN 966-02-2535-0 (not checked)
- 12. p.16 Голова уряду Я.Стецько майже до кінця серпня вільно проживав у Берліні і закидав посланнями відомства Розенберга, Ріббентропа,Гіммлера і Кейтеля) ОУН в 1941 році: документи: В 2-х ч Ін-т історії України НАН України К. 2006 ISBN 966-02-2535-0 (not checked)
- 13. (Ukrainian) "Тому я підтримую знищення жидів та доцільність впровадження німецьких методів винищення жидівства в Україні, а не лише їхню асиміляцію і тому подібне" http://www.istpravda.com.ua/research/2012/12/20/93550/
- 14. John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd ed. (Littleton, CO.: Ukrainian Academic Press, 1980) 77–84.
- 15. (Ukrainian) Orest Dzuban "Українське державотворення. Акт 30 червня 1931. Збірник документів і матеріалів" (Львів-Київ: Піраміда, 2001) p.153
- 16. (Ukrainian) "Події на західноукраїнських землях (інтерв’ю з доцентом др. Г.І.Байєром)", Краківські вісті, 6 липня 1941.
- 17. K.C. Berkhoff and M. Carynnyk, "'The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Its Attitude toward Germans and Jews: Iaroslav Stetsko's 1941 Zhyttiepys," in: Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 23 (1999), Nr. 3/4, pp. 149—184.
- 18. Завдання підривної діяльності проти Червоної армії обговорювалося на нараді під Берліном у квітні того ж року (1944) між керівником таємних операцій вермахту О.Скорцені й лідерами українських націоналістів С.бандерою та Я.Стецьком» D.Vyedeneyev O.Lysenko OUN and foreign intelligence services 1920s–1950s Ukrainian Historical Magazine 3, 2009 p.137– Institute of History National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine http://www.history.org.ua/JournALL/journal/2009/3/11.pdf
- 19. "West Germany: The Partisan," Time magazine (Monday, 2 Nov. 1959).
- 20. Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, p.338
- 21. D.Vyedeneyev O. Lysenko, "OUN and foreign intelligence services 1920s–1950s," Ukrainian Historical Magazine 3, 2009, p.137– Institute of History National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine http://www.history.org.ua/JournALL/journal/2009/3/11.pdf
- 22. Вєдєнєєв Д. Проблеми історії України: факти, судження, пошуки. – Київ: Інститут історії України НАН України, 2003. – №10. ISSN: 0869-2556 – p. 405
- 23. Stetsko, Yaroslav, in: Encyclopedia of Ukraine. Volume 5. St - Z. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993, p.55
- 24. Birkholz, Die stärksten Verbündeten des Westens, 21.
- 25. "World Anti-Communist League," Institute for Policy Studies, January 9, 1990. Archived version of March 3, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20160303235651/http://rightweb.irc-online.org/articles/display/World_Anti-Communist_League.
- 26. Breitman & Goda, Hitler's Shadow, 78.
- 27. Jonathan Levy, The Intermarium: Wilson, Madison, & East Central European Federalism (University of Cincinatti, 2006), 318. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=ucin1147397806&disposition=attachment.
- 28. a. b. The Extreme Right in Ukraine by Mridula Ghosh, Friedrich Ebert Foundation (October 2012)
- 29. (Ukrainian) "Всеукраїнське об’єднання «Свобода»" (not checked)