Controversial parade not the way to honour Ukraine’s contribution to Second World War

Sigh…

On April 28, approximately 250 people marched through the streets of Kiev, Ukraine, to commemorate the 78th anniversary of the Second World War Waffen SS Division Galicia.

That’s right folks, hundreds of people gathered, despite the threat of spreading the COVID-19 virus, to commemorate Ukrainian soldiers who took an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler and fought for Nazi Germany.

This parade drew an immediate backlash from Germany’s ambassador to Ukraine, Anka Feldhusen. She tweeted: “Waffen SS units participated in the worst war crimes and the Holocaust during WW2. No volunteer organizations fighting and working for Ukraine today should be associated with them.”

This blatant display of Nazi glorification was also condemned by the Israeli ambassador in Kiev and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Sadly, there was no such reaction from the Canadian Embassy nor from the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada presently has more than 200 military trainers assisting the Ukrainian armed forces in the face of Russian aggression.

For the regime in Kiev to not only allow a tribute to Hitler’s SS to take place, but to also provide the marchers with a police escort, flies in the face of all those Canadian soldiers who fought and died in Second World War to defeat the Nazi regime.

For the record, and before the apologists claim this event was an exercise in “free speech,” Ukraine cancelled this year’s May 9 traditional public celebration of the Second World War Victory Day due to COVID-19 concerns.

Ukrainians were prevented from gathering to celebrate the defeat of Hitler, but allowed to parade in commemoration of Ukrainians who volunteered to fight for the Nazis?

The U.S. State Department did not directly condemn the parade but in a statement to The Nation they noted “We welcome [Ukraine] President Zelensky’s strong statement condemning the march.” However, they added the comment that the U.S. State Department “continues to monitor and systematically refute a longstanding Russian disinformation campaign that conflates support for Ukrainian sovereignty with support for neo-Nazi and fascist ideals.”

Here is a little bit of free advice for those concerned about Russian disinformation: just put an end to parades and events that glorify Hitler’s Waffen SS.

While I can understand that Ukrainians are proud of their heritage, I cannot fathom why young nationalists seek to glorify those who took up arms to enforce the Nazis’ ideology. Yes, I understand that Stalin imposed ruthless measures against the people of Ukraine and that they suffered horribly under the Soviet regime.

However, the fact that Ukrainian men took up arms to fight the Red Army as members of the Waffen SS does not change the reality that Hitler’s Nazis perpetrated the Holocaust.

Of all the incredible accomplishments that Ukrainians have achieved throughout history—music, literature, cuisine, art, etc.—I cannot fathom why it is a flawed military unit that fought for Hitler that these young Ukrainians have chosen to revere.

Formed in 1943, the SS Galicia Division only really fought one major engagement against the Soviets in the Battle of Brody in July 1944.

The SS Galicia was soundly defeated and it was subsequently relegated to fighting against partisans, first in Slovakia and then in Yugoslavia.

For those who would paint the SS Galicia volunteers as fighters for Ukraine’s independence, this theory cannot be justified in view of the fact they actually fought against civilian patriots in Slovakia and Slovenia to enforce Hitler’s Nazi occupation.

In the final days of the war, the SS Galicia changed its name to the 1stUkrainian Division prior to surrendering to the allies in Austria.

After a lengthy internment in Italy, many of these Ukrainian SS veterans emigrated to Canada. There is actually a memorial erected to the memory of the SS Galicia division in Oakville, Ont.

That said, it is estimated that more than 40,000 Ukrainian Canadians served in the Canadian military during the Second World War, fighting to defeat Hitler.

It is those brave, patriotic Ukrainian-Canadians that Canada needs to remember. It will make it far easier for our government to publicly denounce any future Nazi-glorification in Ukraine.

Source: Controversial parade not the way to honour Ukraine’s contribution to Second World War

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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