For the Record: Division wrongly accused of “Nazism”, war crimes

    The cenotaph at Oakville’s St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery

    Marco Levytsky, Western Bureau Chief.

    Ed. Note The following letter was sent to the Edmonton Journal which on July 18 reprinted an Ottawa Citizen article by David Pugliese in which members of the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army were accused of war crimes and being “Nazis”. As of the time this issue went to press on July 20, it had not appeared, so we are posting it for the record. Should it be printed, we will let our readers know on the website.

    Re: “Vandalism sparks monument scrutiny: Nazi glorification”; Edmonton Journal, Saturday, July 18, 2020.

    Despite having been cleared by British and Canadian authorities of complicity in any war crimes, the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army (earlier called the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS [1st Galician]) continues to be subjected to unwarranted attacks labelling them as “Nazis”.

    To set the record straight, the Division was formed in 1943 to fight the Soviet Red Army. It was founded in order to serve as a nucleus for a future army of Ukraine which would fight for Ukraine’s independence should both the Nazi and Soviet Empires collapse, just as the Austro-Hungarian army unit of Ukrainian Sich Sharpshooters proved to be most disciplined fighting unit in the war for Ukraine’s independence during 1917-1921 when the Russian Empire collapsed. Non-Germans were not allowed membership in the regular army but only in Waffen SS units. Unlike the SS units that operated the concentration camps, Waffen Units were strictly military forces.

    As noted in Wikipedia, in creating the Division, the Germans made two political concessions: “It was stipulated that the division shall not be used to fight Western Allies, and would be used exclusively to ‘fight Bolsheviks’. The other concession was in that its oath of allegiance to Hitler was conditional on the fight against Bolshevism and in the fact that Christian (mostly Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Ukrainian Orthodox) chaplains were integrated into the units and allowed to function (in the Waffen-SS, only the Bosnian division and Sturmbrigade Wallonien had a clerical presence). The latter condition was instituted at the insistence of the division’s organizers in order to minimize the risk of Nazi demoralization amongst the soldiers. Indeed, Nazi indoctrination was absent within the division.”

    Allegations of their involvement in war crimes originate with Soviet and Russian propaganda aimed at discrediting any Ukrainians who dared defy Moscow and are circulated primarily by academicians and other individuals who have a fixed political agenda to proliferate.

    Best to look to objective judicial sources – namely British and Canadian ones. The Division was investigated as to any involvement in any war crimes – not once – not twice – but three times and was cleared every time. The last investigation, that of the Canadian “Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes”, headed by the Honourable Justice Jules Deschênes, in October, 1986 concluded that:

    “The Galicia Division (14. Waffen grenadier division der SS [gal. #1]) should not be indicted as a group. The members of Galicia Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada. Charges of war crimes of Galicia Division have never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before this Commission.”

    Marco Levytsky
    Western Bureau Chief and National Affairs Editor,
    New Pathway – Ukrainian News,
    Edmonton