SURVIVING THE HOLOCAUST IN EASTERN GALICIA: THE RESCUE INITIATIVES OF THE GREEK CATHOLIC CHURCH IN THE TESTIMONIES OF RABBI DAVID KAHANE AND KURT LEWIN
Eastern Galicia, a part of the Second Polish Republic during the interwar period, in September of the 1939 was annexed by the Soviet Union. The collapse of the Polish state and the subsequent German occupation of Galicia (1941–1944) strained the relations between the region’s main ethnic groups, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews.
Most of Ukrainians in Eastern Galicia belonged to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), headed by Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. Attempting to prevent the anti-Jewish violence, the head of the UGCC addressed the government of a short-lived Ukrainian state, Nazi authorities, Greek Catholic clergy and their congregants. Sheptytsky’s pastoral letters “On Mercy” (June 1942) and “Thou Shalt Not Kill” (November 1942) contain anti-Holocaust undertones. Moreover, at least 200 Jewish men, women and children survived the Second World War due to the rescue initiatives of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, his brother Clement Sheptytsky, the superior of Univ lavra, and their entourage. Among the rescued were the representatives of two rabbinical families in Lviv, those of Dr. Ezekiel Lewin, the Progressive Chief Rabbi of Lviv, and Rabbi David Kahane. Whereas Rabbi Lewin, his wife and the youngest son perished during the Holocaust, his two older sons, Kurt and Nathan, as well as Rabbi Kahane together with his wife and daughter, were rescued by Metropolitan Sheptytsky and the Greek Catholic monks of the Studite order.
This paper looks at the rescue initiatives of the Greek Catholic hierarchy and Studite monks as narrated by the rescued. The study is based primarily on David Kahane’s “Lvov Ghetto Diary” as well as Kurt Lewin’s memoirs, documents from the collection of the Righteous among the Nations Department at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and Lewin’s interview from the Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation.
This paper aims to explore the rescue initiatives of Sheptytsky brothers and the Studite monks during the German occupation of Galicia (1941–1944) as remembered and narrated in the ego-documents by the Holocaust survivors. While admiring Greek Catholic rescuers for their courage and kindness, both Lewin and Kahane note, however, that similar behavior was rather exceptional among Ukrainians.
Keywords: Greek Catholic Church, Holocaust, rescue of Jews, Metropolitan Sheptytsky, Studites, Eastern Galicia.