The press for sale… information, propaganda, ideology:

ID: 225
Role of the occupation press in the anti-Semitic and anti-Soviet propaganda. The underground press.

This story elaborates on the theme Collaboration, that was prepared as a part of the program The Complicated Pages of Common History: Telling About World War II in Lviv.

Before World War II, Lviv was one of the largest publishing centers in pre-war Poland, where the press was published regularly, represented various political positions and various communities of the city, had an interesting journalist school and tradition. Newspapers and magazines could be read by a pre-war resident of Lviv, whether a Pole, a Ukrainian or a Jew, in Polish or, if desired and possible, in Ukrainian and in Yiddish as well as in German; if necessary, it was possible to order and read the press published in many European countries.

After World War II broke out, Lviv daily newspapers, being one of the main legal and accessible sources of information, became a powerful tool of Nazi propaganda and the occupying regime’s policy.

The press was closely monitored by Georg Lehmann, the press commissioner in the District of Galicia. The Reich's national policy provided for different opportunities for Lviv's national groups. Therefore, the legal press was represented by three daily newspapers: for the Germans, Lemberger Zeitung; for the Poles, Gazeta Lwowska, which was actually a reprint of the Zeitung; and the Lvivski Visti for the Ukrainians.

In Polish, there is an interesting phrase — "prasa gadzinowa", which can be literally translated as "reptile press"; this was the term used in relation to the press, which was in the service of the occupiers or any totalitarian regime, i.e. "venal press." In Lviv, the local Poles awarded the title of "venal newspaper" to the only daily Polish-language newspaper, the first issue of which was published in Lviv on August 9, 1941, the Gazeta Lwowska, also known as the Lembergerka. Despite this disapproving title, the newspaper was extremely popular, and in the early years of the Nazi occupation, according to German secret reports, the newspaper was readily read and distributed because it did not contain "constant criticism of the Polish past" like the Soviet Chervony Prapor, and there was a lot of anti-Soviet propaganda dear to "every heart." This daily also contained a lot of very biased but diverse international information, as well as a lot of material on historical and literary topics. The popularity of the Lembergerka was also due to its low price — 20-25 groszy per copy. However, it was sold out quickly, and then one had to pay for the newspaper from 60 groszy to 1 zloty.

Apart from the Gazeta Lwowska, a wide range of readers liked the Polski Kurjer Ilustrowany, while young people were eager to read the so-called entertainment press.

This interest in the "venal press" was of great concern to the Polish underground, whose members understood its negative impact on Polish society. To minimize the influence of Nazi propaganda, the idea of a partial boycott of the "poisonous mendacious filth" — the occupation press — began to be promoted in Lviv in early 1942, following the example of other cities  and towns of the General Government. According to the Polish underground, from May 1, 1942, Polish society was to refrain from buying German-language and Polish-language "venal press" on every Friday. The call to abandon the entertainment press was even more categorical, as its reading "could be justified in no way." However, in spite of constant calls for a boycott in the underground press, the practical implementation of this call had little chance of success.

But then again it was not only the official press that was published in Polish in Lviv. The underground press flourished in 1943–1944, when the number of illegal Polish-language newspapers exceeded 30 titles, making Lviv one of the largest centers of the Polish underground press. Political and informational publications predominated. The Home Army was the most active in publishing and distributing illegal publications. These were bulletins or newspapers printed on poor quality paper, usually once every two weeks. The most known among them were the Słowo Polskie, the Wytrzymamy, and the Biuletyn Informacyjny Ziemi Czerwieńskiej. Several underground newspapers were also published by the Lviv communist environment, such as the Głos Swobody, the Partyzant, the Wiadomości Dnia, and others.

The first Ukrainian magazine published in the eastern Galician lands under the Nazi occupation was the Ukrainski Shchodenni Visti, a press organ of the Lviv City Administration. Its first issue was published on July 5, 1941. Nevertheless, with the advent of the special "Publishing House of Magazines and Newspapers for the District of Galicia", the Lvivski Visti began to be published instead of the Ukrainski Shchodenni Visti, becoming the only Ukrainian daily published under government control, along with the German daily Lemberger Zeitung and the Gazeta Lwowska.

The editor-in-chief of the Lvivski Visti, a Ukrainian-language daily for the District of Galicia, was initially Yevhen Yavorivsky; after the daily of the city administration, the Ukrainski Shchodenni Visti, was closed, the Lvivski Visti was edited by Osyp Bodnarovych, who held this position until his death on June 27, 1944. Yavorivsky became his deputy. All employees of the Ukrainski Shchodenni Visti moved to work for the Lvivski Visti, but not for long, as most of them moved later to the Ukrainian Publishing House. Ostap Tarnavsky, Stepan Konrad and Yaroslav Shavyak remained in the editorial office of the Lvivski Visti. After Bodnarovych's death, Myroslav Semchyshyn acted as editor-in-chief, who, together with journalist Volodymyr Barahura, worked in the office of the press commissioner of the District of Galicia, Georg Lehmann.

Unlike the Polish community, the Ukrainians were allowed to have their own legal publishing house, known as the Ukrainian Publishing House. The publishing house was founded in Krakow, but later a branch was opened in Lviv, which performed the most important part of work. It was a commercial enterprise, all profits were used for publishing and projects. The main activity was aimed at publishing books, magazines, newspapers and sheet prints, including the literature and art magazine Nashi Dni, the monthly children's magazine Mali Druzi and the youth magazine Doroha. The publishing house operated under the supervision of the Ukrainian Central Committee and under the watchful eye of Nazi censorship. Demand for Ukrainian Publishing House's products exceeded supply, but, in addition to censorship, its production was limited by the amount of paper allotted for the publishing house.

One of the most known newspapers of the Ukrainian Publishing House was the daily Krakivski Visti, whose circulation, according to Kost Pankivsky, the deputy chairman of the UCC, reached 18,000-24,000 in 1943. Despite the publishers' great desire to take the daily Lvivski Visti "under their wing", their efforts were in vain, and the Lvivski Visti was published by the German Publishing House of Magazines and Newspapers until the end of the Nazi occupation.

As for the materials that appeared on the pages of the Lvivski Visti, there are several aspects worth mentioning.

The obligatory source of information about political and military events was the German state news agency Telepress. The essence of the German censorship’s requirements was to argue the verity of Nazi policy, anti-Soviet and anti-Jewish propaganda, coverage of events at the fronts from a perspective favourable for the government, as well as a ban on topics associated with the future of Ukraine. The legal Ukrainian press tried to cover the lives of Ukrainians under the Nazi occupation, but these topics revolved around the OUN's activities in the General Government and the spread of their influence further east, the new laws of the occupying regime to be obeyed by the local population: German, non-German and Jewish, as well as around industrial production, the Ukrainian cooperation movement, education and upbringing, church affairs, the situation of prisoners of war; also much attention was paid to the exportation of Ukrainians to work in Germany.

Laws, decrees, orders, and announcements published in the legal press were, in general, reduced to two points: absolute obedience and cruel punishment. At the same time, as for the actions of the occupying authorities themselves, the rule was that the laws of wartime justified any actions of the occupiers, including the extermination of the Jewish population.

Anti-Semitic rhetoric in official newspapers often went hand in hand with anti-Soviet propaganda, linking the Jewish theme to Bolshevik ideology. Here is what was written in the Lvivski Visti of July 13, 1944:

A "white book" with protocols of experts in medicine, criminology and law has appeared about the mass murders of Ukrainians in the Vinnytsia NKVD. It is stated there that the victims of the Red Terror belonged to the working population. The responsible leaders of the NKVD, Jews, of whom there were 18 people, have been all named. The Kremlin's assertion that the Bolsheviks are not persecuting the church is covered there too; the last priests of the Vinnytsia region fell victim to terror, many peasants died only because they were faithful Christians. Around 10,000 corpses of tortured Ukrainians were found in Vinnytsia.

All the materials that mentioned Jews were intended to substantiate the right of Nazi Germany to destroy an entire ethnic group, and the articles published in the daily were intended to emphasize the idea of their inferiority among other peoples.

As part of anti-Soviet propaganda, many topics in history were covered in the Ukrainian press during the Nazi occupation, such as the "Katyn tragedy", mass executions in prisons, the Holodomor, and so on. Much attention was paid to the activities of the UCC and the creation of the Division SS Galizien, as well as to encouraging Ukrainians to go to work in Germany.

So, one of the main sources of information for the inhabitants of Lviv during the Nazi occupation was the legal press, which was published in German, Polish, and Ukrainian. In addition to information about events in the region and in the world, these printed materials were a rather powerful tool of Nazi propaganda conveying the German point of view on military and political events, were anti-Semitic in nature and tried to justify the Reich's actions to exterminate Jews and other groups of population. At the same time, it was for the first time that materials appeared in the press about the mass extermination of people by the Soviet authorities.

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Inna Zolotar
Translated by Andriy Masliukh

1. Grzegorz Hryciuk, Polacy we Lwowie 1939-1944, Życie codzienne (Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza, 2000), 430.
2. Костянтин Курилишин, Українське життя в умовах німецької окупації (19391944 рр.) за матеріалами україномовної легальної преси (Львів: Національна Академія Наук України, Львівська Національна Наукова бібліотека України імені Василя Стефаника, Львівське відділення Національного Інституту Археографії та Джерелознавства імені Михайла Грушевського, 2010), 329.
3. Кость Панківський, Роки німецької окупації (Нью-Йорк — Торонто: Видавництво Ключі, 1965), 480.