Dissertation Prospectus:

"The Communities of L'viv / Lwów / L'vov / Lemberg, 1939-1953"

[Christine Kulke, UCB Dept. of History]

[Note: Generally I will refer to the region by its present-day Ukrainian name, L'viv. Its other names include the Polish Lwów, Russian L'vov, or Yiddish and German Lemberg.]

As a case history, my dissertation will investigate an episode of the larger story of military and ideological struggle that shaped the demographic, political, social and cultural structures in post-World War II East Central Europe. Its geographical focus will stay on the city and region of Líviv, the administrative and cultural center of the area that is now western Ukraine. Chronologically, it will concentrate on the years between Hitlerís invasion of Poland in 1939 and Stalinís death in 1953. This was a period defined by total war and extreme policies of social engineering. The clash of three powerful, ideology-bearing armies Ė Soviet, Nazi, and Ukrainian Nationalist Ė dominated the scene, to which the smaller, but by no means insignificant, Polish resistance movement added further complexity.

An episode in one cityís history occurs as part of a larger historical narrative encompassing decisions and events elsewhere. The city itself serves as center stage for actions that, in turn, direct an impact outward. The sources for my dissertation will include policy discussions and directives from administrative centers such as Berlin and Moscow, as well as government documents and personal narratives originating in Líviv itself. One of my guiding questions will be to ask how Lívivís story fits into this larger narrative.

At the center of this study will be Lívivís communities and the individuals within them. I will analyze how they interacted with the Soviet and Nazi systems that governed the city between 1939 and 1953. At different times during this period, what motivated people to coalesce into groups that one might define according to certain patterns of belief and behavior? Can one even refer to "communities" within a population of ever-changing composition, and one that was largely divided against itself? Were there shared conceptions of what it meant to be "from Líviv [or Lwów, Lívov, or Lemberg]"?

The history of Líviv illustrates well how ethnicity served as a catalyst for dividing populations of East Central European regions after the First World War. The city's prewar "polyglot colorfulness," celebrated by the writer Joseph Roth, increased its susceptibility to the violent and exclusionary political practices that arose throughout Europe during the 1920s and 1930s. Its Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish communities were large enough for many competing political movements to take root, and for ruling powers to play these communities off of each other. Between 1939 and 1953, Soviet, Nazi, and Ukrainian nationalist forces dominated the military and ideological framework within which a massive demographic change took place. The physical removal of Poles, Jews, and Germans, along with the Red Army's defeat of Ukrainian nationalists, led to the creation of a Ukrainian region under Soviet auspices. Russians and Soviet Ukrainians from the east brought their own traditions to this area. My study will investigate the idea of "community" in Líviv, and will analyze how and why patterns of belief and behavior evolved along certain trajectories during this period of intense transformation.


Although important studies have highlighted aspects of L'viv's history between 1939 and 1953, there is still no work that defines the larger system into which these episodes fit. Several books include useful but brief essays, while detailed studies typically focus on one ethnic group and/or one chronological phase of the 1939-1953 period, thus leaving important facets of society in soft focus. My dissertation will cross traditional chronological and thematic boundaries in order to emphasize the role of ethnic relations in shaping policy and everyday experience.

A second justification for moving beyond conventional limits is the need to bring the separate historiographies of the region together. Scholars have pointed out that the historiographies of Germany and Russia tend to bypass each other, as do those of Ukraine, Poland, and East European Jewry. There are notable exceptions, however, that signal the beginning of an effort to fill that gap by sharing methods and approaches. I will contribute to this effort by drawing upon each of the five historiographies.


L'viv serves as a useful framework for this project because its Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish populations were substantially large by 1939, if not evenly distributed. The city was predominantly Polish and Jewish, whereas the surrounding countryside was mostly Ukrainian. L'viv came under direct Polish governance after the First World War dismantled the Habsburg Empire, to which the region had belonged since 1772. Nationalist movements had already destabilized this society when the Soviets invaded eastern Poland in September 1939 and intensified the process of segregation. During the Nazi occupation of 1941-44 and the early years of postwar Soviet rule, genocide, migration, and deportation drastically reshaped the ethnic composition and political culture of Líviv. My study will end in 1953, when Stalin's death heralded a significant change in Soviet policy.

While writing the history of fourteen years in a single region may seem "microhistorical" enough, I anticipate uniting the many strands of this project around foci smaller than L'viv itself. Personal histories, woven into the narrative, will illustrate how different "types" in L'viv evolved under changing circumstances. In order to determine what needs were met by the competing ideologies of the time, it will be necessary to hear the people of L'viv identify themselves and each other on their own terms. Published sources include the memoirs of Rabbi David Kahane, the Ukrainian writer Ostap Tarnavs'kyi, and the Pole Zygmunt Sobieski, to name but a few, while unpublished autobiographical materials lie in designated personal collections and probably are "hidden" among other collections in the archives I will visit. As I analyze autobiographical statements, I will look for both contradictory and corroboratory evidence that will enable me to discern the interplay between experience, memory, and myth.

In another respect, my dissertation will constitute a biography of the city itself. In its description and analysis of events, the narrative will travel from specific people to certain geographical sites and symbols. In 1924, the writer Joseph Roth commented that the city's main boulevard, formerly Karl Ludwig Strasse, had become Ulica Legionów, bearing a Polish name that reflected the presence of Polish-speaking officers where German-speaking officers once strolled. Which other streets, monuments, or buildings in both urban and rural L'viv were particularly meaningful to certain groups, and where did the representations of different identities intersect? What was the symbolic value of names? L'viv's newspapers from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, as well as period maps and city guides, will assist me in my search for especially significant locales and symbols.

Outline and Sources

The spectrum of sources for my project encompasses the traditional historical categories of both "state" and "society," and as I approach these materials I will be asking what, if anything, separated these spheres from each other. Official Soviet and Nazi policies, and the details of their implementation, outline the range of options available to the inhabitants of L'viv, including the authorities themselves. Autobiographical writings, as well as documents from both official and underground organizations -- e.g., intelligence reports -- offer insights into why individuals made certain choices. Conflicting answers will illustrate the extent to which ideologies competed and everyday practices varied. The following outline describes how I will integrate materials from specific archives into my narrative.

The introduction to my dissertation will survey the political, socioeconomic, and cultural hierarchies within L'viv during the interwar years. It will describe how Polish policies, as well as the inhabitants themselves, contributed to the creation or modification of these structures, partly drawing upon traditions from the Habsburg period. After the First World War and the 1918 Polish-Ukrainian conflict, an atmosphere of exclusion closed in upon those who wished to retain mixed or combined identities. For example, in the 1920s a certain Wiktor Chajes not only contributed to Zionist journals but also organized patriotic readings of the Polish poet Mickiewicz; in the 1930s, however, his friends told him that he could not be both a Jew and a Pole. Memoirs such as his, in addition to newspapers and valuable secondary materials, will allow me to characterize the local dynamics that the Soviets confronted when entering L'viv in 1939.

Before turning to the 1939-1941 occupation, I will address the pre-1939 development of both Soviet and Nazi approaches to ethnicity. This second chapter will lay the foundation for a subsequent discussion of each regimeís ability to develop or alter its policies in response to local pressures. A look eastward at Soviet Ukraine of the 1930s, for example, can offer insights into Soviet policies when the Red Army moved further west. In addition to the rich secondary literature on Soviet nationality policy and Nazi racial thought, my sources for this section will include the writings of Soviet and Nazi officials.

The third section of my dissertation, on the 1939-41 Soviet period, will draw upon materials that include the records of the army headquarters in L'viv, as well as records of various divisions deployed in the region through 1940. Of particular value for identifying the outlooks of both troops and residents will be dispatches on the "political situation" and "morale" in the L'viv region, as well as intelligence reports from the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Documents from the highest levels of government in Moscow will address the social engineering of later months, including collectivization, nationalization, and education. I will discuss these directives in conjunction with their local counterparts in L'viv, which, like the military reports mentioned above, have so far generally escaped historians' attention.

Soviet occupiers between 1939 and 1941 contended with local opposition from the Ukrainian nationalists and the Polish resistance. Both of these movements -- and factions within them -- contributed to the clash of competing ideologies in this region. Using materials from both underground armies, in addition to Soviet intelligence reports, I will attempt to discern the movementsí physical and psychological impact on the inhabitants of Líviv. How and why did they draw support, or provoke dissent? Published memoirs and newspapers will furnish additional perspectives and details of everyday life in the months before the Nazi invasion.

The local effects of Nazi policies from 1941 to 1944 will be the subject of my dissertation's fourth section. I will look at documents from Berlin together with those that originated in or nearer to L'viv, in order to investigate the relationship between theory and practice. Official materials outline Nazi strategies for delineating the "races" of the Generalgouvernement (to which L'viv belonged) and reordering the area, while situational reports from L'viv, as well as records of the L'viv armaments command, describe labor hierarchies in the region, and thus shed some light on how such reordering actually played itself out. Other documents, such as appeals from young people requesting the Líviv City Chiefís permission to switch music schools in 1942, offer additional perspectives on what certain individuals cared about at that time.

Like the Soviets who preceded them, the Nazis faced local opposition from both Ukrainian and Polish forces. An increasingly powerful Soviet partisan movement also weakened their grip on the L'viv region. Reports from all sides of the fighting, and from the Nazi administration itself, describe the violence of everyday practices. The details of daily life, and particularly those of the Holocaust, emerge further from newspapers, from the transcribed interviews conducted by the Soviets both during and after the war, and from written testimonies. Judicial inquiries into crimes of Nazi officials in L'viv include copies of specific policy directives, as well as witnesses' statements and biographies. Recent works have focussed solely on the Eastern Galician Holocaust, and I will not presume to match their level of detail or depth of analysis. My study of both Soviet and Nazi approaches to ethnicity will require the broader chronological and thematic framework that I have chosen. However, the Holocaust will be one focal point of my investigation, since it raises crucial questions about the similarities and differences between the two regimes' methods of targeting specific ethnic groups.

The fifth section of my dissertation will analyze the dynamic between the postwar Soviet regime and a population that hardly resembled what the Soviets encountered in 1939. The comparative aspect of this section will be twofold, setting this postwar Stalinist era not only against the Nazi period, but also against the 1939-41 Soviet occupation. After 1944, the Soviet campaign to reshape L'viv first involved defeating the Ukrainian nationalist movement and ending the Polish-Ukrainian violence that devastated entire villages. Records of the evacuation of Poles from L'viv describe how the major postwar transfers of populations affected this region. Oral histories voice these events from the perspectives of Ukrainians.

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw the reconstruction and "Ukrainianization" of L'viv, Soviet style. Ukrainians, once the urban minority, now dominated the ethnic mosaic of the city. However, many recent arrivals from the eastern territories had already experienced the transformative Soviet policies of the interwar period. Russians, too, began to arrive in greater numbers. What did it mean to be "Ukrainian" in this newly united republic, where easterners and westerners had lived under different rulers for centuries? How did Russians fit into L'viv society? To what extent did members of this society adapt the Soviet industrial, agricultural, and cultural campaigns to their own needs, or adjust those needs to fit the conditions around them? As in previous sections of the dissertation, I will compare Moscow directives with those that originated in Kiev and in L'viv itself. Issues of the L'viv newspaper Lud, as well as autobiographical statements, will help me re-create scenes from the city's reconstruction between 1944 and 1953.


At the time of Stalin's death, the threads holding together the political, social, and cultural fabric of L'viv resembled those of many other East Central European regions. The ethnic composition of L'viv had radically changed between 1939 and 1953, and new patterns of belief and behavior had evolved in conjunction with that transformation. My dissertation will demonstrate how the postwar identities of these regions developed out of the dynamic interaction between ideologies and everyday practices during the years of war and totalitarianism.


Summary of main collections and resources:


RGVA (Russian State Military Archive)

ff. 35077, 35084, 37928, 1454, 24235, 31820 [re: 1939-41]

GARF (State Archive of the Russian Federation)

f. 9401 [re: 1939-53]

f. 9478 [re: 1939-41, 1941-44]

f. 9479 [re: Ukrainian nationalist movement]

f. 7021 [Líviv Extraordinary State Commission interviews]

RTsKHIDNI (Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Records of Contemporary History)

f. 17 (Central Committee), various opisy including 112-121 (Orgbiuro, Sekretariat); 123 and 138 (agriculture); 134 (industry); 132 (propaganda and agitation); 125 (Ukrainian nationalist movement)

f. 69, op. 1-4; f. 644, op. 1 [re: 1941-44]

RGAE (Russian State Archive of the Economy)

ff. 1562, 8040, 8543 [re: 1939-41, postwar reconstruction]

f. 9476 [re: postwar reconstruction]


TsDAVOU (Central State Archive of the Highest Organs of Authority and Government of Ukraine)

f. 4329, op. 1; f. 3971, op. 1, 41; f. 4217, op. 1, spr. 430; f. 3833 [re: 1941-44]

f. 4620 [Líviv Extraordinary State Commission interviews]

f. 582, op. 3, 9, 10; f. 4915, op. 1; f. 2605, op. 8; f. 2, op. 7-8; f. 337, op. 3 [re: postwar reconstruction]

TsDAHOU (Central State Archive of Civic Organizations of Ukraine)

f. 1, op. 1, 16, 22, 23, 50, 84; f. 57, op. 4, spr. 189-287 [re: 1941-44, postwar reconstruction]

f. 62, op. 1; f. 63 [re: 1941-44]


DALO-PA (Party Archive of the L'viv Oblast Committee CPU)

f. 3, op. 1; f. 5001, op. 1 [re: 1939-41]

f. 1; f. 3, op. 3; f. 183; f. 5001, op. 6 [re: 1941-44]

f. 3, op. 3; f. 5001, op. 13; f. 221, op. 2, f. 363, op. 1, f. 360, op. 1-2, f. 1519, op. 1, f. 1922, op. 2 [re: postwar reconstruction]

DALO (State Archives of L'viv Oblast')

ff. 3 (op. 1, 1s, 2, 2s), 11, 12, 15, 16, 24, 30, 31, 35, 36, 37, 56, 59, 62, 66, 77, 85. [re 1941-44] ff. R-6, R-164, R-194, R-335, R-402, R-424, R-1338, R-1701, R-256 [postwar reconstruction]

Stefanyk Library, Manuscript Division [personal collections]

Institute for Historical Research, Oral History Collection [especially re: postwar Polish-Ukrainian conflict]


AAN (Archiwum Akt Nowych)

Paderewski and Sikorski collections

sygn. 46 [Lwów Committee for Polish Aid, 1939-41]

Zespo∏y 111, 119, 689, 540 [office of the Lemberg city chief, 1941-44]

Rejonowi Pe∏nomocnicy Rzàdu RP do Spraw Ewakuacji LudnoÊci Polskiej z UkraiÉskiej SSR, we Lwowie 1944-46.

[Warsaw, contíd]

Jewish Historical Institute

Yiddish press collection

Zespó∏ 212 [Judenrat, Lemberg 1941-44]

Biblioteka Narodowa


Jagiellonian Library:

Newspaper collection includes, for Líviv, fairly regular editions of the following:

For the 1930s, numerous Polish newspapers, as well as the Ukrainian L'vivsko archieparchijal'ni vidomosti.

For 1941-44: Lívivís official Polish- and Ukrainian-language newspapers. (Note: several copies of the Polish newspaper Gazeta Lwówska are located in Przemys∏.]

For 1946-51: Lud .



On racial research and policy, NS 2; R 165; R 49; R 59

On administration of the Generalgouvernement, R 70; R 102; R 52

Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung, Technische Universität

Berlin and Munich:

Institut für Zeitgeschichte



RW 23/13-15 (Kriegstagebuch des Rüstungskommandos Lemberg)

RW 4/v. 730 (Lageberichte GG)

RH 53-23/Nr. 24-97 (Militärbefehlshaber im GG)


Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes

Politische Abteilungen IV, V, and XIII (Polen, Ukraine) re: 1941-44


Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen

208 AR-Z 294/59 [judicial inquiries, Lemberg]


Polish Institute

personal collections: KOL 269, 165, 166, 171, 218, 173, 214, 187, 273

A.5, A.9, A.10, A.48 [re: 1939-41]

A.48 [postwar evacuation of Poles]

Underground Poland Study Trust

Akta AK; Akta Delegatury [re: 1939-41]


Yad Vashem (testimonies)

Stanford, CA:

Hoover Institution Archives Ė especially Polish collections


Peter Potichnyj Collection on Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Ukraine, University of Toronto

Litopys UPA

Polish Ministry of Public Security 1945-58


Ukrainian Canadian Research and Documentation Centre (works with Líviv Institute for Historical Research)

Ė oral histories

New York City:

YIVO, New York Public Library

Gazeta ˚ydowska and Yiddish press from Líviv and western Ukraine

Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences

personal papers re: Líviv

Washington, DC:

National Archives and Library of Congress

Captured German Document collections

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

videorecorded interviews re: Líviv

issues of "Soviet War News" 1944

copies of selected materials from archives in Moscow and Líviv