The Wehrmacht are welcomed in Busk
30th June 1941: German forces invading eastern Poland are greeted by some
Wilhelm Pruller's ‘Diary of a German Soldier’ was one of the first German soldier’s records published in English after the war. It gained attention as providing an insight into the mind of an ordinary German soldier, someone who was both a Roman Catholic and a committed Nazi:
In June 1941 he had an administrative role and had the opportunity to write his diary as the Army pushed further east.
Monday, 30th June 1941
At 5.45 we're up again. Our major is to report to Regiment Headquarters. The road is the worst imaginable: deep sand and then huge craters right across the whole road, and this mile after mile. I write the orders on the road.
My eyes ache from looking at so many vehicles, one after the other as far as you can see. We arrive about 15.00, after travelling along these impossible roads, in Busk, where there's still fighting going on. The western entrance of the town is jammed full of our vehicles, and all you can see there is dust, but the Russian guns are still barking away at the eastern end.
On the other side of the bridge an armoured scout car is burning; the bang of its ammunition covers the noise of our motored columns. They are hauling some Russians out of the houses - disgusting creatures.
Our colonel sits at a table, completely calm, and gives his orders. Among a batch of Russians who are in the process of surrendering we catch sight of a wounded, uniformed Russian woman. She's the first skirt in uniform we've seen in Russia so far. Neither Red Cross nurses, nor anything else, but actually soldiers!
This region has quite a lot of Ukrainians. In every village we're showered with bouquets of flowers, even more beautiful ones than we got when we entered Vienna. Really! It's true! In front of some villages they have erected triumphal arches. Some have the following inscription in Russian and German: 'The Ukrainian peoples thank their liberators, the brave German army. Heil Adolf Hitler!'
The people here are overjoyed, and it's a special piece of luck for us to be here, too. For we're fighting this battle not only against the world's poisoners, but in the case of the Ukraine we are liberating a people from an almost unbearable yoke. We are so proud, so happy!
Busk had been a city in eastern Poland until 1939, then, as the country was divided up between Hitler and Stalin, it fell under Soviet control. So for some parts of the population who had suffered under Soviet tyranny there was a reason for seeing the Germans as liberators.
It is possible that another invading army might have been genuinely welcomed by a wider population. But the Nazis were engaged in a racial war and saw the Slavic “non Aryans’ as inferior and only suitable for exploitation. So the welcome was short lived even amongst many Ukrainians.
Busk, a city of around 8,000, had substantial communities of ethnic Poles, Jews and Ukrainians.
The Jews, around 3,000 in number at the time, were soon forced into a ghetto. A group of Jews considered to be from the ‘intelligentsia’ were shot almost immediately, along with their families. Another group of ‘beautiful’ young Jewish girls were taken as ‘house-servants’ by German officers - when they fell pregnant they were taken away and murdered. The remaining Jewish population became victims of the ‘holocaust by bullets’ - almost every single one had been shot within the next two years.1