How Ukrainians were Treated in US Media (Until Recently) #60 minutes

From the Ukrainian Weekly in the 80s (or maybe early 90s):

’60 Minutes’ reports on ‘Ugly Face of Freedom’ in Ukraine

Broadcast reaches 17.5 M households

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – “Ukraine barely acknowledges its part in Hitler’s Final Solution.” Western Ukraine “is on a binge of ethnic nationalism” and “is fertile ground for hatred.”

“Thousands of Ukrainians joined the SS and marched off to fight for Nazism,” and “Many of the Ukrainian men of Lvov [sic], who marched off as members of the SS never returned, killed fighting for Hitler.”

These are some of the messages conveyed on Sunday, October 23, to a worldwide audience by the CBS News television program “60 Minutes,” the top-rated TV newsmagazine in the country and a show that consistently rates in the top 10, according to Neilsen Media Research.

That particular “60 Minutes” show was rated number five among the most-watched television programs for the week of October 17-23, earning a rating of 18.4 and an audience share of 31. In layman’s terms, that translates into more than 17.5 million households, and means that 31 percent of the homes then watching TV were tuned to “60 Minutes” the evening it aired a segment called “The Ugly Face of Freedom.”

An advertisement for that evening’s program published in The New York Times highlighted the three feature stories. The text read in part: “Does freedom deter anti-Semitism? Not in the [sic] Ukraine, where it’s as strong today as it was during Hitler’s ‘final solution.’ ”

The broadcast

For those who missed the October 23 edition of “60 Minutes,” The Weekly offers the following synopsis of the report (quotations are taken from a transcript provided to The Ukrainian Weekly by CBS News).

Correspondent Morley Safer begins his report seated in the studio with a still photo featuring uniformed marchers with a blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag in the foreground. The title of the segment, “The Ugly Face of Freedom,” also appears on the backdrop, as does the name of the producer, Jeffrey Fager.

Next viewers see footage of the city center of Lviv, near the opera house, where, as the veteran correspondent tells his audience, “just about every day of the week the sounds of freedom can be heard. Men and women giving voice to their particular view of how the new independent Ukraine should be governed.”

“They disagree about plenty,” he continues, “but do have two things in common: their old enemy, Russian communism, and their old, old enemy, the Jews.”

“The Jews of Lvov [sic] have reason to be concerned. These are the kinds of scenes they’ve been seeing lately, Ukrainian ultra-nationalist parties, asserting themselves, now that Soviet communism is gone,” the senior correspondent says, as footage of a torchlight march by members of the Ukrainian National Assembly/Ukrainian National Self-Defense (UNA/UNSO) is shown with their leader, Oleh Vitovych, shouting “Slava natsiyi” (Glory to the nation).

Mr. Safer goes on to comment to Simon Wiesenthal, described as “the world’s number one Nazi hunter”: “I get the impression from people that the actions of the Ukrainians, if anything, were worse than the Germans.” Mr. Wiesenthal responds: “About the civilians I cannot say this. About the Ukrainian police, yes.”

Next the camera shows footage of members of the Galicia Division, past and present, including a reunion held in Lviv last summer. “Nowhere, certainly not in Germany, are the SS so openly celebrated,” Mr. Safer intones. The segment goes on to speak of atrocities allegedly committed by Ukrainians both before and after the Nazi occupation. Shown as part of the report are what CBS says are “remnants of a film the Germans made of Ukrainian brutality” and a still photo once published by Time magazine. (That photo’s authenticity was questioned, causing Time to issue a clarification that stated in part: “Despite our best efforts, we have not been able to pin down exactly what situation the photograph portrays.”)

The camera then focuses on the Janowska Road Camp, where Mr. Safer says 200,000 Jews from Lviv and environs were killed. He adds, “Nothing marks what happened here.” In fact, however, a monument erected in 1992 commemorates the victims of the Lviv ghetto and mentions the tactics used by Nazi invaders to exterminate the local Jewish population (see The Weekly, September 11).

Next comes an interview with Rabbi Yaakov Bleich, who says, “They’re saying that they want the Jews out. They want the Jews out and they want the Russians out. And they want everybody else out that’s not an ethnic Ukrainian.” It is never made clear, however, who “they” are, as no context is provided for these remarks made by the chief rabbi of Ukraine.

Later in the broadcast, Rabbi Bleich reappears, commenting on recent incidents of violence against Jews. Again, no context or detail are provided.

The CBS crew also visits the editor-in-chief of the newspaper “Za Vilnu Ukrainu” (For a Free Ukraine). Never identified by name, the editor makes disparaging remarks about Jews and notes that the Ukrainian government should be concerned first and foremost with the Ukrainians of Ukraine.

Another aspect of the segment deals with, as Mr. Safer puts it, “the heroes and symbols chosen by this new nation.” What follows is a series of scurrilous statements about Symon Petliura, commander of the army of the Ukrainian National Republic; Roman Shukhevych, commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army; and Stepan Bandera, leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists.

Then the report switches to footage of peasants tilling fields and riding on horsedrawn carts. Meanwhile, Mr. Safer states: “The [sic] western Ukraine is fertile ground for hatred. Independence only underlined its backwardness. Uneducated peasants deeply superstitious in possession of this bizarre anomaly. Nuclear weapons capable of mass destruction…”

“The Ugly Face of Freedom” also features interviews, apparently heavily edited, with the primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, and Msgr. Ivan Dacko. The former is heard to state that Ukrainians under the Germans had to do whatever the Germans wanted, while the latter attempts to explain why there may be animosity towards Jews in Ukraine.

In conclusion, Mr. Safer states: “The Church and the government of Ukraine have tried to ease people’s fears, suggesting that things are not as serious as they might appear: that Ukrainians, despite the allegations, are not genetically anti-Semitic. But to a Jew living here, or to one who only remembers the place with horror, such statements are little comfort among the flickering torches of Lvov [sic].”

A final question is posed to Mr. Wiesenthal as footage is shown of UNA/UNSO marchers as well as a group of unidentified youths (who, according to Oles Kryskiv head of the National Plast Command in Ukraine, belong to a faction that broke away from the, scouting organization): What’s your reaction to this?” His response: “They have not changed.”


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