The city of Lviv, in what is now western Ukraine, was greatly impacted by the Second World War and the Holocaust. Prior to the outbreak of fighting, it was part of Poland and known as Lwów. It was then a diverse, multi-ethnic city, and its inhabitants included large communities of Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, and others. The Nazi genocide sought to erase the presence of entire peoples through forced relocation and mass murder. These acts of evil were brought to an end by the victory of the Soviet Union, and Lviv remained under Communist control until 1991.
In 1939, the Germans invaded and occupied most of Poland. The remainder of Poland, including Lviv, fell under the control of the Soviet Union. In 1941, the Germans broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact and attacked the Soviets. The Germans seized Lviv and renamed it Lemberg. The Nazis appropriated a 1922 map of the city created by the famous Polish cartographer Eugeniusz Romer (1871-1954) and used it to plan their “Nazification” of the city. To that end, streets were renamed to celebrate the occupation. New names included Wehrmacht Strasse (“Armed Forces Street”), Siegfried Strasse (after the Germanic literary hero) and Adolf Hitler Ring.
In 1941, a labor camp known as Janowska was established in the northwest corner of the city, where more than 100,000 people were interned and forced to build arms for the Nazis. Camps like Janowska were state secrets and omitted from official maps, as shown in the German military map below.Elsewhere in Lviv, the Nazis held Soviet prisoners of war in squalid conditions in the city’s old fortress, known as the Citadel.
By extreme contrast, the Nazis lived comfortably. Spas were built for both the army and the SS guards. Elsewhere, the city was used for garrisoning troops and as a place where soldiers took temporary leave from official duties.
In July 1944, the Red Army forced the Germans out the city and liberated those who were imprisoned, including among them the famous postwar Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. The Soviets unearthed atrocities committed at the camp and on the fields behind it. The city was again renamed Lviv and incorporated into the Soviet Union. Today, the city is part of Ukraine and the population is predominantly Ukrainian along with small Russian and Jewish communities.