Canadian Ambassador and Military Honour Nazi Collaborators in Ukraine
Hey, as long as they were anti-Russian...
The Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada are facing criticism after honouring members of Ukrainian organizations that helped the Nazis in the Second World War.
Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk spoke at an Aug. 21 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honour members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), two groups that are linked to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles.
The event has been condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee who warn the memorial whitewashes the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the Holocaust.
“All Jews of Sambir were murdered by Nazis and their collaborators from OUN and UPA,” Eduard Dolinsky, director-general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee based in Kiev, told Postmedia.
The monument, which is at the edge of a cemetery holding the remains of more than 1,200 Jews murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators, is a desecration and “double murder of the Jewish victims,” Dolinsky said. “It’s like putting a monument to killers on the top of the graves of their victims.”
Global Affairs Canada said the Sambir event was intended to assist efforts by the Jewish community in Canada and Ukraine to build public support to create an eventual memorial for the Jewish cemetery in the town. That was the reason for Waschuk’s attendance and to suggest otherwise would be false, the department said.
The memorial is to 17 members of the OUN who the Ukrainians say were killed by the Nazis. Waschuk, in his speech at the ceremony, paid tribute to the murdered Jews, Ukrainians who tried to help them and “those Ukrainians who fought against the Nazi regime as members of OUN-UPA.”
Members of the OUN-UPA supported the Nazis and helped round up and execute Jews after the Germans invaded Ukraine, according to Holocaust historians. At one point, they broke away from their support of the Nazis, but later joined forces again with Germany. In 1943 the UPA started massacring Polish civilians, killing an estimated 100,000 men, women and children, according to historians.
The Canadian Forces said in a statement that military personnel were requested by the Canadian embassy in Ukraine to attend. The attendance was “part of a whole government effort to champion tolerance in a democratic Ukraine and reiterate that totalitarian regimes (in both past and contemporary times, and under all guises) have done injustices to Ukrainians,” the statement said.
Jewish organizations have been trying for years to erect a memorial at the Jewish cemetery. But Sambir locals have resisted that, removing the Star of David at the site and instead erecting three large Christian crosses on the Jewish cemetery. A compromise was eventually reached; in exchange for removing the crosses, a memorial to the dead OUN-UPA would be erected.
Waschuk called the memorial “a monument of love to one’s motherland. And a motherland must know how to defend itself so that it does not suffer again from waves of inhuman totalitarian terror as happened during World War 2.”
It’s not the first time that Canadian actions in Ukraine have raised concerns.
In June 2018 the Canadian government and military officials in Ukraine met with members of the ultranationalist Azov Battalion, which earlier that year had been banned by the U.S. Congress from receiving American arms because of its links to Neo-Nazis
The Canadians were photographed with Azov battalion members, images which were shared on the battalion’s social media site.
In a statement to Postmedia the Canadian Forces noted the meeting was planned by Ukrainian authorities and Canadian representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be invited. The Azov battalion has been connected to war crimes by the United Nations.
Various Jewish groups have warned about efforts to whitewash Nazi collaborators in eastern European countries, portraying them as heroes instead of those who aided in the Holocaust. Earlier this year, the Canadian government added its voice to those condemning an annual parade in Latvia’s capital honouring members of the Nazi SS, saying it opposes any such event glorifying Adolf Hitler’s regime.
Around 1,000 people marched in the parade in Riga on March 16 in honour of the Latvian SS divisions which fought for the Nazis in the Second World War. Some in the parade wore swastikas and other Nazi insignias.
Source: The National Post
Has it really come to this? As we mark the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, we discover that members of the Canadian Armed Forces, successors of those who fought against Nazi Germany, attended the unveiling last week of a monument to Nazi collaborationists. The head spins. It’s really quite hard to know what to make of this, except that contemporary geopolitics have combined with historical ignorance to produce a rather shameful outcome.
The monument in question is in the town of Sambir in Western Ukraine. It is dedicated to 17 members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists’ (OUN) military wing – the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) – said to have been executed in Sambir by the German Gestapo in 1944 (although whether this is actually what happened is apparently contested). As Radio Canada International reports,
The monument is a large granite cross erected on the grounds of a derelict Jewish cemetery, where more than 1,200 Jews were shot and dumped into mass graves in 1943 by the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators.
What, you might ask, is a monument to the OUN-UPA doing in a Jewish cemetery which marks the site of a Holocaust-era massacre? The answer lies in local politics. For some time, the Ukrainian Jewish community has being trying to renovate the cemetery and create a memorial for the Jews murdered in Sambir, but it has been unable to do so ‘because of fierce opposition from modern-day Ukrainian nationalists in the area.’ In the end, therefore, the Jewish community agreed to a compromise: it would be allowed to build its own monument if it gave away some of the land for a memorial to the OUN-UPA.
This ‘compromise’ has come in for a lot of criticism, as it is not unreasonably seen as giving into blackmail. Eduard Dolinsky, head of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, told Radio Canada that it was ‘a blatant insult to the memory of the Jewish victims’, and ‘like erecting a monument to murderers on the graves of their victims.’ However, I’m not interested in criticising the Ukrainian Jews who agreed to this ‘compromise’. I’m neither Jewish nor Ukrainian, and ultimately it’s not my decision to make. If they felt that this was necessary given the current political climate, and that it was the only way to get what they wanted, that’s a matter for them. What pertubes me, though, is the fact that the Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine attended the unveiling of the two monuments (one to the Jewish victims, the other to the OUN-UPA) along with several members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the latter of whom were photographed next to the memorial to the Ukrainian nationalists. I have to assume that these Canadian soldiers had no idea what they were doing.
Currently I’m reading a book entitled Hitler’s Collaborators by British historian Philip Morgan. Morgan draws a useful distinction between collaboration and collaborationism, collaborators and collaborationists. Collaboration with German occupiers in the Second World War took many forms and was driven by many motives. At its most basic, it could mean simply carrying on doing exactly the same job as one was doing before the occupation – for instance, a Belgian railway worker who kept on working the railways after 1940 was in a sense ‘collaborating’ because he was now working for the occupiers and so enabling their war effort. Such collaboration might willing, but it also might be reluctant, or even coerced. Collaborationism was something else – it was deliberate, completely willing, and often associated with an affinity for Nazi ideology. Oddly enough, says Morgan, the Germans tended to prefer collaborators to collaborationists, because the latter had nationalist agendas which clashed with those of the Nazi Party. But as the war turned against Germany they increasingly overlooked this and proved more and more willing to give collaborationists full rein.
So what was the OUN-UPA, whom Canadian soldiers are now honouring with their presence? According to Morgan’s definition, they weren’t collaborators, they were very much collaborationists. That is to say that they worked alongside the Nazi occupiers of Ukraine willingly and zealously and shared certain key aspects of their ideology, including anti-Semitism. They also shared many of the occupiers’ methods, attempting to ethnically cleanse Ukraine of ‘foreign’ elements, most notably through massacres of Poles and Jews. Defenders of the monument in Sambir state that there is no evidence linking the 17 OUN-UPA members commemorated there with any murders. One can view them as ‘victims’ of the Nazis, and there is therefore nothing wrong in erecting a monument to them. This, however, ignores the nature of the organization to which they belonged, an organization which not only committed terrible atrocities but also fought alongside Canada’s enemies in the Second World War and which Canadian soldiers therefore have absolutely no business celebrating.
Canadian politicians continually like to say that they are unwavering in their support of Ukraine. In reality, what they are unwavering in their support of is a certain image of Ukraine, and the specific political and cultural program of a very specific group of Ukrainians, which includes rewriting history so as to portray Nazi collaborationists as victims. The aggressive pursuit of this program has proven to be deeply divisive, has plunged Ukraine into civil war, and is preventing it from making the compromises necessary for peace. ‘Supporting’ Ukraine in this way is not supporting it at all.
From a purely Canadian perspective, I find it staggering that the Canadian Armed Forces should get involved in such a morally dubious affair. As I said, I don’t wish to judge whether the ‘compromise’ in Sambir was worthwhile. That’s for Ukrainians to decide. But that’s the point. It’s for Ukrainians. Canadians should have nothing to do with it. We shouldn’t be disgracing ourselves by laying wreaths to those who collaborated with our enemies and participated in some of the greatest crimes of the twentieth century.
I don’t blame the soldiers who attended the ceremony in Sambir personally for what they did – I assume that they are simply ignorant of the historical context. Nevertheless, as a former Canadian army officer, their actions make me cringe in embarrassment. The colours of our regiments bear the names of the honours won by our forebears in the war against Nazi Germany. However unintentionally, those who attended the ceremony betrayed their past. So too did those who put them there.