Nachtigall Battalion

Nachtigall Battalion
February, 1941.
Active February 25 - late October 1941
Country  Germany
Branch Abwehr
Role Special Forces
Size 360 to 400
Engagements Operation Barbarossa
Roman Shukhevych, Theodor Oberländer.

The Nachtigall Battalion (English: Nightingale Battalion), also known as the Ukrainian Nightingale Battalion Group (German: Bataillon Ukrainische Gruppe Nachtigall), or officially as Special Group Nachtigall,[1] was the subunit under command of the German Abwehr special operations unit Lehrregiment "Brandenburg" z.b.V. 800. Along with the Roland Battalion it was one of two military units formed February 25, 1941 by head of the Abwehr Wilhelm Franz Canaris, which sanctioned the creation of the "Ukrainian Legion" under German command. It was composed of volunteer "Ukrainian nationalists," Ukrainians operating under Stephan Bandera's OUN orders.[2]

In Germany, in November 1941 the Ukrainian personnel of the Legion was reorganized into the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion. It numbered 650 persons which served for one year at Belarus before disbanding.[3]

Many of its members, especially the commanding officers, went on to the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and 14 of its members joined SS-Freiwilligen-Schützen-Division «Galizien» in spring 1943.[4]

Formation and training

Prior to Operation Barbarossa, the Bandera's OUN collaborated with Nazi Germany and in fact received its training there. According to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and other sources, OUN-R leader Stepan Bandera held meetings with the heads of Germany's intelligence, regarding the formation of "Nachtigall" and "Roland" Battalions. February 25, 1941 head of the Abwehr Wilhelm Franz Canaris sanctioned the creation of the "Ukrainian Legion" under German command. The unit would have had 800 persons. Roman Shukhevych became a commander of the Legion from the OUN-R side. OUN expected that the unit would become the core of the future Ukrainian army. In the spring the OUN received 2.5 million marks for subversive activities against the USSR.[5][6] In the spring of 1941 the Legion was reorganized into 2 units. One of the units became known as Nachtigall Battalion, a second became the Roland Battalion.

In May 1941, the German command decided to split a 700-strong Ukrainian Legion into two battalions: Nachtigall ("Nightingale") and Roland Battalion.

Training for Nachtigall took place in Neuhammer near Schlessig. On the Ukrainian side, the commander was Roman Shukhevych and on the German, Theodor Oberländer. (Oberländer was later to become Federal Minister for Displaced Persons, Refugees and War Victims in the Federal Republic of Germany.) Ex-Brandenburger Oberleutnant Dr. de:Hans-Albrecht Herzner was placed in military command of the Battalion.

The Nachtigall unit was outfitted in the standard Wehrmacht uniforms. Before entering Lviv, they placed blue and yellow ribbons on their shoulders.[7]

War with the Soviet Union

Four days before the attack on the Soviet Union, the Battalion was moved to the border. On the night of June 23–24, 1941, the Battalion crossed the border near Przemyśl while traveling in the direction of Lviv. The Nachtigall Battalion traveled along with a Panzer-Jaeger Division and some tank units went along through Radymno-Lviv-Ternopil-Proskuriv-Vinnytsia path.[8] As part of the 1st Brandenburg Battalion, the first soldiers of the Nachtigall Battalion entered Lviv on June 29.[9] The battalion took up guard of strategic objects, the most important of which was the radio station on the Vysoky Zamok Hill in the centre of Lviv. From the radio station, the proclamation of the Act of Ukrainian Independence was made.[2]

The Nachtigall servicemen participated in and organized the Declaration of Ukrainian Independence proclaimed by Yaroslav Stetsko on June 30. Battalion chaplain Ivan Hrynokh made a speech after declaration meeting ended. The German administration did not support these activities but did not act harshly against organizers until mid-September 1941.[10]

The first company of the Nachtigall Battalion left Lviv with the Brandenburgers on July 7 in the direction of Zolochiv. The remainder of the unit joined later during their eastward march towards Zolochiv, Ternopil and Vinnytsia.[2] The unit participated in action against Stalin Line where some of its members were awarded by the Germans. During the march at three villages of the Vinnytsia region "all Jews which were met" were shot.[11]

The German refusal to accept the OUN(b)'s June 30 proclamation of Ukrainian independence in L'viv led to a change of the Nachtigall battalion direction. As the result, the battalion was recalled to Cracow and disarmed on August 15. It was later transformed together with Roland battalion into the 201st Schutzmannschaft Battalion.[12][13]


Russian historian V. Chuyev states that despite the ending, OUN achieved its ultimate goals - 600 members of their organization had received military training and had battle experience and these men took positions as instructors and commanders in the structure of the newly formed Ukrainian Insurgent Army.[14]

S. Bandera wrote: "The end of OUN was such: the revolutionary columns were commanded by Roman Shukhevych with a small party of officers who had not only undergone military training, but had come to a clear understanding of military tactics. The most important, they brought with them - an understanding of organization, strategies and tactics of partisan fighting, and the German method of dealing with partisan groups. This knowledge was very useful in the formation and activities of the UIA and in its future conflicts.[14]

During its short history the Nachtigall Battalion had 39 casualties and had 40 wounded soldiers.[14]


Accusations have placed the Battalion in Lviv in July 1941 and claimed that the unit participated in the pogrom that took place. Some members of the unit did indeed participate in the pogrom, which implicates the unit as a whole.

World opinion: An international commission was set up at The Hague in the Netherlands in 1959 to carry out independent investigations. The members were four former anti-Hitler activists, Norwegian lawyer Hans Cappelen, former Danish foreign minister and president of the Danish parliament Ole Bjørn Kraft, Dutch socialist Karel van Staal, Belgian law professor Flor Peeters, and Swiss jurist and member of parliament Kurt Scoch. Following its interrogation of a number of Ukrainian witnesses between November 1959 and March 1960, the commission concluded: "After four months of inquiries and the evaluation of 232 statements by witnesses from all circles involved, it can be established that the accusations against the Battalion Nachtigall and against the then Lieutenant and currently Federal Minister Oberländer have no foundation in fact".[17]

The Ukrainian side states that none of the allegations have been proven by any documents, and that the Battalion's main priority was securing the radio station, newspapers and proclaiming Ukrainian independence.[18]

Canadian Investigation: Involvement of any members of the Nachtigall Battalion in the war crimes have not yet been established. The Canadian Commission on War Criminals in Canada (Deschênes Commission) that look into allegations of war criminals residing in Canada, has not named any of the members of the Nachtigall Battalion. Moreover, it concluded, that units collaborating with the Nazis should not be indicted as a group and that mere membership in such units was not sufficient to justify prosecution.[19]

The Simon Wiesenthal Center contends that between June 30 and July 3, 1941, in the days that the Battalion was in Lviv the Nachtigall soldiers together with the German army and the local Ukrainians participated in the killings of Jews in the city. The pretext for the pogrom was a rumor that the Jews were responsible for the execution of prisoners by the Soviets before the 1941 Soviet withdrawal from Lviv. The Encyclopedia of the Holocaust states that some 4,000 Jews were kidnapped and killed at that time.[20] It further states that the unit was removed from Lviv on July 7 and sent to the Eastern Front.

The Polish side contends that members of the Nazi-led Nachtigall battalion also participated in the massacres of Polish professors, including the ex-Polish Prime minister Kazimierz Bartel, Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński and others, in Lwów in 1941. See Massacre of Lviv professors.

The activities of the Nachtigall Battalion continue to remain controversial. A study of the massacre in Lviv based on documents of the time was made by de Zayas in his book The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 University of Nebraska Press, Rockport, Maine, 2000 edition.[21]


  1. Abbot, Peter. Ukrainian Armies 1914-55, p.47. Osprey Publishing, 2004. ISBN 1-84176-668-2
  2. 1 2 3 І.К. Патриляк. Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках. — Університет імені Шевченко \Ін-т історії України НАН України Київ, 2004 (No ISBN) p.271-278
  3. І.К. Патриляк. Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках. — Університет імені Шевченко \Ін-т історії України НАН України Київ, 2004 (No ISBN) pp 371-382
  4. Боляновський А.В. Дивізія «Галичина»: історія — Львів: , 2000.
  5. І.К. Патриляк. Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках. — Університет імені Шевченко \Ін-т історії України НАН України Київ, 2004 (No ISBN) p.273-275
  6. Організація українських націоналістів і Українська повстанська армія. Інститут історії НАН України.2004р Організація українських націоналістів і Українська повстанська армія, Раздел 1 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 17, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2009. стр. 17-30
  7. І.К. Патриляк. Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках. — Університет імені Шевченко \Ін-т історії України НАН України Київ, 2004 (No ISBN)
  8. І.К. Патриляк. Військова діяльність ОУН(Б) у 1940—1942 роках. — Університет імені Шевченко \Ін-т історії України НАН України Київ, 2004 [I.K Patrylyak (2004): Military activities of the OUN (B) in the years 1940-1942.] Kiev, Ukraine: Shevchenko University \ Institute of History of Ukraine National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. pp. 300-311
  9. Дружини українських націоналістів у 1941 — 1942 роках. — Без місця видання, 1953. — С. 6, 109 — 110. (Teams of Ukrainian Nationalists in 1941-42 - 1953, 109)
  10. ОУН в 1941 році: документи: В 2-х ч Ін-т історії України НАН України К. 2006 ISBN 966-02-2535-0
  11. "... скрепив нашу ненависть нашу до жидів, що в двох селах ми постріляли всіх стрічних жидів. Під час нашого перемаршу перед одним селом... ми постріляли всіх стрічних там жидів" from Nachtigal third company activity report Центральний державний архів вищих органів влади та управління України (ЦДАВО). — Ф. 3833 . — Оп. 1. — Спр. 157- Л.7
  12. Дружини українських націоналістів у 1941 — 1942 роках. — Без місця видання, 1953. — С. 110  — 110. (Teams of Ukrainian Nationalists in 1941-42 - 1953, 110 "По нараді з командиром Р.Шухевич вислав письмо до Команди що наша частина не є здібна дальше воювати. Цілий легіон було стягнено з фронту та відправлено назад до Нойгаммеру
  13. Ivan Kazymyrovych Patryliak, Viis'kova diial'nist' OUN(b) u 1940-1942 rokakh (Kyiv: NAN Ukraïny, 2004) p 361-362
  14. 1 2 3 (in Russian) Chuyev, Sergei Ukrainskyj Legion - Moskva, 2006 pp. 179-184
  15. .(ГДА СБУ фонд 1, опис 4 за 1964 рік, порядковий номер 3, том 5, аркуш 195 Розсекречено: 24/376 від 05.02.2008 р. - original sygnature of document).
  16. In accordance with your indication of the Office of the KGB under the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR in Lviv region in the period from October 1959 to April 1960 measures were taken to document and collect evidence of atrocities in the city of Lviv and the region, committed by Oberländer and the battalion "Nachtigall". In order to compromise Oberlander and Ukrainian nationalists, KGB collected materials are widely used in the local and national press, newsreel and the press-conference in Moscow. In addition, they have been identified and trained accordingly witnesses who spoke of the case at a press conference in Moscow on the court in Berlin. Given the positive results achieved in the special events on Oberlander, I ask you to award the badge "Honorary Officer of State Security" (name not disclosed) Declare gratitude and reward valuable gift.
  17. Alfred M. de Zayas, The Wehrmacht War Crimes Bureau, 1939-1945 , University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1979, pp. 214-227
  18. (in Ukrainian) The history which we do not know or do not want to know - Dzerkalo Tyzhdnia
  19. Wasyl Veryha. Along the Roads of World War II. War Criminals in Canada? (Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals Report)
  20. Gutman, Israel. "Nachtigall Battalion". Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan Publishing Company: New York, 1990.
  21. The Lviv Massacre


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