Many Eastern European Jews cultivated a mythic concept of "that which was German," wishing to regard German Kultur as the supreme embodiment of a highly developed form of culture. This and the identification with "the West" proved to be long-lived phenomena and were expressions of the powerful attraction exerted by 'culturally imperialistic,' quasi-colonial paradigms. The political borders had long since been redrawn; in the minds of the people, though, something remained of the former alignment. This myth, approaching almost a religious dimension, found its end only in the confrontation with events that were barely comprehensible: the reality of the genocide which emerged from Germany. "After all, how could a people, as ‘civilized’ as the Germans, follow such a madman [Hitler]?", Pearl Fichman asks herself in her reminiscences89.
During the interwar period, the myth of "deutsche Kultur" undoubtedly remained present for segments of the Jewish population. For example, Salomea Genin, in her autobiography subtitled "From Lemberg to Berlin," looks back on the 1920s and describes the decision to emigrate from the former capital of Galicia to the Deutsche Reich: "First we go to Berlin. A good life is possible there too....The Germans are industrious, thorough and highly disciplined. In a newspaper I read that high-quality German workmanship is prized throughout the world....What they don't have are anti-Semitic laws. In Germany, the Jews have long been citizens with equal rights....Naturally, we don't have to stay there long. But, in the meantime, maybe the children will learn a thing or two about cleanliness and order, which is something we don't have here. After all, it's a civilized land of poets and thinkers; here, we're stuck in a state of barbarism."90
This myth had life-threatening consequences in the years 1939-1941 and the fact of the Holocaust makes the myth appear bizarre in retrospect. There is no doubt that the Jewish populations of Galicia and Lemberg were terribly shocked by Hitler's invasion of Poland. This was also linked to fears. The Soviet occupation which had been carried out in the meantime in the wake of the Hitler-Stalin Pact had all the qualities of a brutal dictatorship. This in turn nourished hopes of less barbaric treatment at the hands of the German forces. Simon Wiesenthal, born in 1908 in Buczaz, recalls: "German was spoken and read in my parents' home. Mostly German classics stood on our bookshelves. If my mother wanted to explain something especially precisely to me, she often did it with quotations which she had looked up in the works of Goethe, Schiller, Heine or Lessing. We held the Kaiser in the highest esteem and regarded him as out protector. We were fervent Hapsburg-Austrian patriots....On September 17, 1939, Soviet soldiers occupied Lemberg. They were followed by the Soviet secret police, whose actions decided the fate of the population — particularly the Poles and the Jews. In a wave of arrests, all persons who were suspicious or were members of the 'capitalist class' were imprisoned. The same with the intelligentsia....Circumstances such as these make it understandable that, following two years of Soviet rule, there were people in Lemberg who greeted the German troops with open arms."91
Lemberg native Benedikt Friedmann recalls how his father, like so many other Jewish citizens, "was devoted to German culture and Austrian patriotism. Even on the very eve of the German invasion (1941), they said 'The German are pursuing an anti-Semitic course now. They're harassing the Jews there and they'll do the same here. But I was an Austrian soldier....I met Germans on the Eastern Front. They were good comrades-in-arms....They won't do anything bad to us."92 Josef Burg, a writer from Czernowitz, has similar memories: "In this critical hour, my uncle lived about 50 km west of Czernowitz. He said: "'The Germans with their magnificent culture — I'm not afraid of them. They won't do anything to me. I'm more afraid of the Russians, the Ukrainians and the Romanians."93
Old anti-Russian resentments and the form taken by the Soviet dictatorship, in which it was impossible to carry on a business or occupation of one's own choosing, led in May 1940 to a virtually incredible series of events. As a result of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, a German resettlement commission came to Lemberg in May. Thousands of Jewish residents of Lemberg and even refugees who had fled from the areas of Poland then occupied by the Nazis actually applied to this commission for resettlement to the Generalgouvernement portion of Poland. These registration lists were employed by the Soviet authorities to solve this problem in their own fashion in June 1940. In an operation lasting several days, they deported all persons whose names appeared on this list to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Through one of the small ironies of history, it was only in this way that they were able to escape the Holocaust94, 95.