Lvov, also known as Lviv and Lemberg, is a city of about 750,000 in the Galicia region of western Ukraine. It lies about 40 miles west of Poland, 75 miles south of Belarus, and about 115-120 miles north of Hungary and Romania. Its location has led to the city being conquered and controlled by a number of nations over the centuries since its founding in the thirteenth century. Not long after being founded by Prince Danylo Halytsky of Galicia, a number of Jews began settling in and around Lvov. In the early 1800s, Jews owned around 90% of the city’s businesses.
On September 3, 1914, Russian troops took control of Lvov. Prior to World War I, Austria controlled Lvov since 1772. When the Russians took over the city, about 16,000 Jews fled.
In May 1915, Russian troops left Lvov and the city returned to Austrian control.
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In 1917 and 1918, Poland and Ukraine fought for control over all of Galicia, including Lvov resulting in over 100 Jews killed and hundreds more wounded. Poland won out and remained in control of Lvov and Galicia until 1939. The Polish government had a number of anti-Semitism laws that tried to restrict the businesses and lives of the thousands of Jews in Lvov. Living conditions became harsh for the Jews, resulting in the areas where many of them lived to be referred to as the Jewish ghettos.
On September 22, 1939, Russian troops again captured Lvov and much of eastern Galicia. Under Russian control, Jews in occupied Poland fled to the safety of Lvov. It is estimated that the Jewish population of the city increased to over 200,000. However, their safety was short lived as the Russians soon began sending a number of the Jews from Lvov into various locations in Russia.
On June 22, 1941, Germany invades the Soviet Union, including the Ukraine. The Soviets had adopted a scorch and burn policy when withdrawing from an occupied area. They would literally destroy homes, businesses, crops, food supplies, equipment and anything that could be useable by enemy forces. As they withdrew from Lvov and Galicia, they destroyed everything they could, leaving a trail of smoldering ruins, including the slaughter of about 3,000 political prisoners by the Russian NKVD (the forerunner of the KGB).
On this day, June 29, 1941, German troops enter and occupy Lvov and much of Galicia. In the wake of the Russian slaughter of prisoners, German troops also begin slaughtering many Russian and Jewish people in the city.
Through the course of World War II, Germany murdered some 600,000 Ukrainian Jews and shipped close to 2.5 million Ukrainian citizens to Germany where they served as slave labor.