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Having read Per Anders Rudling’s article ‘They Defended Ukraine’: The 14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr. 1) Revisited, I am reminded why, a half century ago, I chose to study Engineering rather than the “Humanities” to which my aptitude tests should have steered me. Even at that tender age I understood the lack of objectivity, truth and reality in the Humanities. I knew that my marks would always depend on currying favor with professors; and being a born contrarian, that was never going to happen. The article in question purports to be a…

 

Preface

Having read Per Anders Rudling’s article ‘They Defended Ukraine’: The 14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr. 1) Revisited, I am reminded why, a half century ago, I chose to study Engineering rather than the “Humanities” to which my aptitude tests should have steered me. Even at that tender age I understood the lack of objectivity, truth and reality in the Humanities. I knew that my marks would always depend on currying favor with professors; and being a born contrarian, that was never going to happen.

The article in question purports to be a scholarly review of the Ukrainian volunteer Division within the German armed forces in WW2. Having been schooled in the Scientific Method it is clear to me that the subject article is far from scientifically rigorous or even truthful, although, having been written by a schüler, it must of course be considered scholarly. Schoolboys in science class learn techniques of how to achieve the “correct” answer in experiments by “adjusting” their observations to fit the necessary result. Engineers laughingly refer to this technique as Cook’s variable constant. That is far from the Scientific Method.  In the Humanities, wordsmithing is a technique that is used to achieve such a desired result, stubborn facts be damned. Words are lovingly selected, not to convey stark information, but to elicit the appropriate desired response. The less rigorous the meaning of a word, the better. The more a word elicits unthinking response, the better it is for the art of the smear. George Orwell touched on this subject in his work 1984. As an example, Mr. Rudling as well as many other authors use the term Nazi Germany to describe a participant in WW2, but oddly one never reads Democrat America or Tory Britain as being their opponents. Individual soldiers are Nazis but never Democrats or Tories. There is a reason for that.

Myroslav Petriw

Vancouver, British Columbia

 

In Per Anders Rudling’s article ‘They Defended Ukraine’: The 14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr. 1) Revisited, the author has chosen a conclusion and has carefully selected sources that support that conclusion. He employs the art of the smear, and the appeal to the gut to achieve his desired result. Laudably, he does not even try to hide his prejudice. In his comparison of two recent presidents of Ukraine and their attitude to the Waffen SS Grenadier Division Galicia (Dyviziia Halychyna), he clearly sides with discredited fugitive President Victor Yanukovych against President Victor Yushchenko.

The third president of Ukraine, ViktorYushchenko (2005–2010) embarked on an ambitious campaign of nationalist myth making. He designated the far-right Organization of Ukrainian

Nationalists (OUN), its leader Stepan Bandera, its armed wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and its commander Roman Shukhevych official ‘heroes of Ukraine.’ While Yushchenko did not explicitly mention the Ukrainian Waffen-SS veterans, he also designated as heroes of Ukraine ‘other military formations, parties, and organizations and movements, dedicated to the establishment of Ukrainian state independence,’ which some have interpreted as an indirect recognition.

[…] While Yushchenko’s successor Viktor Yanukovych has revoked the hero status of Bandera and Shukhevych and largely put an end to the state cult of the ultra-nationalists, in Western Ukraine, apologetics for the Waffen-SS Galizien is entering the mainstream.

 

Yanukovych’s role in recent Ukrainian history seems to have been the preparation of the country for its eventual reincorporation into the folds of that Muscovite Empire, known as the Russian Federation.[1] He extended the Russian lease on its base in Sevastopol – a Guantanamo on steroids, by an additional 25 years. He appointed Russians or pro-Russians as Ministers of Defense (Lebedyev) and Director of the Security Services of Ukraine, the SBU (Yakymenko).  The loyalties of each of these Yanukovych appointees are well illustrated by their biographies, and there is little doubt about what was being prepared:

On 21 February 2014, the day when the “Agreement on settlement of political crisis in Ukraine” was struck during the Euromaidan demonstrations, Lebedyev [the Yanukovych appointed Minister of Defense!] left Kyiv and moved to Sevastopol. [..] Lebedyev was present at the official Kremlin signing of the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea treaty by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders in Moscow on 18 March 2014.[2]

Similarly:

Soon after the election of Viktor Yanukovych as President of Ukraine in 2010, Yakymenko was appointed the head of SBU in Sevastopol and a year later the head of the SBU in Donetsk Oblast. During that time he was promoted to the rank of Major General of the Security Service of Ukraine. In 2012 Yakymenko was appointed the First Deputy Director of the SBU and in 2013 Yanukovych appointed him the Director of Security Service of Ukraine without properly introducing him to the Ukrainian parliament.

On February 19, 2014, on the website of SBU, Yakymenko announced that Security Service of Ukraine and Anti-Terrorist Center initiated an “anti-terrorist operation” against protesters of the Euromaidan. On February 20, 2014 on the streets of Kyiv appeared snipers and special assigned units of the MVS [Ministry of Internal Affairs] and the SBU.

On February 22, 2014 the Ukrainian parliament installed a parliamentary commissioner to check the SBU activities, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko who the next day announced that all leadership of Security Service of Ukraine quit. [..] A few days after the February 2014 Ukrainian revolution Yakymenko with about 15 former SBU top officials surfaced in Russia. Yakymenko is wanted by the General Prosecutor of Ukraine and his(sic) believed to be hiding in Russia. [3]

This ruthenophobic (a term I coined reflecting the ethnonym used for a millennium, namely Rusyn, commonly latinized as Ruthenian) prejudice of Mr. Rudling is reflected throughout his article.

Mr. Rudling goes to great effort to accuse the 14. Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS (Galizische Nr.1) of participating in a particularly brutal war crime, namely the burning of the village of Huta Pienacka in Ukraine along with most of its Polish residents in actions on Feb.23 and 28, 1944. An expert will immediately recognize that on those dates the 14.Waffen SS Division Galicia was still undergoing training in Heidelager (Poland), and was about to be transferred to a second training camp called Neuhammer in Silesia, so the Division was hundreds of kilometers away. A small, undertrained task force had been given anti-partisan duties at about this time, but it was in northwest Polish Galicia, also hundreds of kilometers away.[4]

Rudling (correctly!) blames the Huta Pienacka massacre on a “4th SS Police regiment” under the command of the German officer Sturmbannführer Siegfried Binz. Experts will recognize that there was no 4th regiment within the Division, as they were numbered 29, 30, and 31 ever since Oct. 22, 1943.[5] But Rudling is glad to stir confusion by referring to other sources that blame the 14.Waffen SS Division Galicia directly for the crime, and then he stirs the pot by writing of “the participation of units, linked to Waffen-SS Galizien ”. Linked, but not actually? This smear and innuendo will go unnoticed by most readers.

Now for some facts. When the formation of a Ukrainian division was announced in April 1943 by the German authorities, 82,000 volunteered. Out of these some 14,000 were selected as being suitable for an elite unit. The number that could become Waffen SS was limited due to overstrained training facilities for front line troops. The Germans did not want to waste the opportunity to utilize some of the remainder as police forces. The difficulty was that these potential volunteers cringed at the thought of being designated as police.  Himmler found a solution in some wordsmithing of his own and created the 4th through 7th Galizische SS-Freiwilligen Regiments. The volunteers knew that the Waffen SS Division was to have 3 regiments, so numbering these police regiments starting with 4, gave the impression of continuity. However, their training and assignments would be police duties including guarding facilities and fighting partisans. They were not Waffen SS frontline troops. They were not under the direct command of the Wehrmacht as were all actual Waffen SS units, including the 14.Waffen SS Division Galicia, but were commanded by German police commanders directly under Himmler [Between 1943 and 1945 in various German-occupied European countries, 24 non-German units were formed and almost all of them designated Waffen SS divisions.]. Sadly, there was little difference in the uniforms that all these units would wear.

These various branches of the organization of Heinrich Himmler unfortunately wore the same uniform, though they had different insignia. [6] 

Polish eyewitnesses, and many historians are quick to identify various individuals as “Waffen SS Galicia” and the current fashion, even in Ukraine, is to lump them all as “SS-men”. But in actual fact, the subject of Rudling’s article, the 14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr. 1), did not take part in nor was present at the atrocity described, nor any other.

It is true that some two months later the personnel of these police regiments were added to the actual 14.Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr. 1) and many later took part in the battle of Brody on July 18-22 1944. The fact that many members of the Waffen SS Division Galicia that joined it at various times may have carried baggage of misdeeds and crimes committed previously, does not affect the record of the Division itself. The responsibility for anything prior is individual. Officers such as Gen. Freitag, Wien, or Magall also carried the baggage of their previous activity and again the responsibility is individual. However, the quotation in Rudling’s article “Major 1. General-Stab-Offizier Wolf-Dietrich Heike claimed that ‘The [14. Waffen SS Division Galizien] took to the sword in good faith and for a just cause, that is the freedom and independence of their country. They wielded it cleanly and flawlessly.’” holds true.

To most readers, the circumstances surrounding the war in western Ukraine will be poorly understood. World War 2 in western Ukraine, the provinces of Halychyna (“Galicia”), Volyn’, Pidlasha, Lemko lands, and Kholm lands, was a four-sided conflict. The intricate complexities of four-sided warfare, where each side opposes all others, is rarely analyzed nor war-gamed. The sides to the conflict in western Ukraine were the German Reich, the Muscovite Empire known as the USSR, the Polish empire, and a native Ukrainian population seeking a country of their own.

The third party listed, the Polish empire, was a creature of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference which had gifted to a nascent Poland vast swaths of lands populated by Ukrainians, others by Belarusians, others by Lithuanians (including their current capital Vilnius), as well as some lands populated by Germans. I do not use the word fascist outside of its correct context, namely Mussolini’s Italy. Used in any other context the word becomes a shape-shifter allowing both writer and reader to impose varying meanings onto it. Thus, I will not use that word here. Interwar Poland was a vast land empire, that was authoritarian, ethnocentric, chauvinist, intolerant, unfree, and brutal. The government itself was unstable; the first president was assassinated just five days after taking office, in 1926 a revolt led by Polish Gen. Jozef Pilsudsky resulted in some 400 dead and 900 wounded[7].  Access to higher education was proscribed for non-Poles. Schooling in native languages was repressed and replaced by Polish. Opponents of government policy such as socialists and Ukrainian nationalists found themselves in the Bereza Kartuzka concentration camp. Ukrainians were subjected to “Pacification” measures; essentially pogroms by another name. The Polish attitude at the time towards Jews is well illustrated by the Jedwabne massacre.[8], and are reflected in Poland’s current laws limiting discussion of Polish complicity in the Holocaust.[9] Relations between Jozef Pilsudsky and Hitler were warm, in fact Hitler admired him and attended a funeral memorial service for Pilsudsky in Berlin[10]. Simply put, interwar Poland was the empire that Hitler wanted the German Reich to become.   

And thus, the OUN, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, certainly did not spring to being on empty ground. Its immediate goal was the creation of an independent Ukrainian state on these western Ukrainian lands. In fact, that goal came to life for a very brief moment in the creation of an independent Carpatho-Ukraine. In a matter of days this land was overrun by Hungarian forces, allies of the German Reich, and the OUN fighters were crushed – not without some complicity by Poland[11]

During the German occupation, Poles had formed a potent underground called the AK, Armia Krajowa [Home Army], along with other units such as Bataliony Chlopskie [Polish Peasants’ Battalions] that eventually merged into the AK. Mindful of preserving its Ukrainian colony, the “eastern borderlands” or Kresy Wschodnie, the AK not only fought against the German occupiers but fought especially against the Ukrainian nationalist underground, the UPA. They readily allied themselves with Soviet Partizans against this last common enemy. It was a brutal conflict. One or the other would commit some terrorist act against Germans but leave traces that would lead one to believe that the opposite underground was behind the act. This would result in swift revenge against the suspected perpetrators, such as the burning of villages or mass executions. No atrocity stood alone. There was always a preceding one and a following one. Huta Peniacka in Rudling’s example was a well-armed fortified village, home to an AK base. Most homes had underground bunkers with caches of arms.  Just prior to the events referred to by Rudling it had hosted a Soviet Partisan company of over 60 men. From there, Soviet agents would infiltrate as far as Lviv itself. The Soviets had just left the day before, on February 22, leaving only their wounded behind.

From the very beginning of the war, the Ukrainian nationalist leadership knew that for Ukraine to become a subject and not an object in the endgame of WW2 it had to have a trained modern, well-armed military force. The OUN which had split into the Col. Andriy Melnyk faction and a Stepan Bandera faction, had differing opinions on the formation of a Ukrainian unit within Germany’s armed forces. Bandera, a young firebrand leader of Ukrainian nationalism, initially opposed the Division’s creation. Col. Melnyk, an older experienced military leader found common cause with the Reich in reversing the results of the Paris Peace Conference and defeating the USSR. He pushed for the creation of such a force. The experience of the previous war showed that a Ukrainian military unit formed within the armed forces of an agreeable empire could be the difference between independence and oblivion. In WW1 a Ukrainian regiment, the Sichovi Striltsi [Sich Riflemen], within the Austrian armed forces had become the post-war nucleus of 2 Ukrainian armies! They formed the core of the western Ukrainian UHA, Ukrainian Galician Army, and the Sichovi Striltsi of the Ukrainian National Republic. The latter were formed by prisoners of war that had been held in Imperial Russia!

It was believed that a regular military force is a better argument at a peace conference than scattered guerilla units. Had the war ended with front lines in Ukraine rather than Berlin, there would have been hope for an independent Ukrainian state, something that sadly took another 50 years to achieve. Thus, given the objective of creating a military unit, while recognizing the German reality on the ground, swearing a meaningless oath to Adolph Hitler, rather than to Churchill or Roosevelt, was a small price to pay.  

After being investigated by the Allies and cleared of any war crimes, the Galicia Division members were released in 1947 from their POW camp in Rimini, Italy. In Canada, the Deschenes Commission (February 1985 – December 1986) also found that the veterans of this division committed NO war crimes.

Another specific accusation that Mr. Rudling levels against the Division is:

“The Waffen-SS was designated a criminal organization at the Nuremberg Trial, something which has complicated nationalist myth making around the unit.”

It is true that that the Nuremburg Trial did issue a statement that the SS and all SS related units are designated as criminal organizations. This is a blanket political statement in a victor’s justice trial. The very fact that only the losing side was subject to trial discredits the entire proceeding. The very careful maneuvering around the date of August 23, 1941 to avoid mention of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that could embarrass the USSR was quite shameless[12]. Equally shameful is the fact that the USSR presented false evidence that the Katyn massacre had been perpetrated by German forces[13]. Thankfully, it appears that that particular evidence was disregarded, but still, it raises troubling questions. In any case, no evidence at all that was specifically related to the 14.Waffen SS Division Galicia was ever reviewed or presented at the trial. 

“The Nuremberg Criminal Court for war crimes (and subsidiary courts like the Dachau International Military Tribunal) prosecuted only Axis nationals or collaborators and did not prosecute Allied war crimes. This led to the paradox that no one from the Soviet Union was charged although the USSR [with its then ALLY Nazi Germany] had participated in the invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939 [and the partition of occupied Europe into respective ‘spheres of influence’]. So, while German defendants were charged with waging war of aggression for Germany’s attack on Poland, no one from the Soviet Union was charged even though the USSR had attacked Poland as well. Indeed, the Soviets even sat in judgment, as one of the four Allied judges was Soviet. Similarly, one of the indictments was ‘conspiracy to wage aggressive war’, but the Soviets who conspired with the Nazis to wage aggressive war against Poland were not indicted.”[14]

 



[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Viktor-Yanukovych “Beginning in May 2017, Yanukovych was tried in absentia for high treason and abetting Russian aggression against Ukraine. The trial included testimony from several senior Ukrainian officials, including Pres. Petro Poroshenko, and Yanukovych’s lawyers attempted to characterize the prosecution as a politically motivated stunt by Poroshenko’s administration. Poroshenko, in turn, painted Yanukovych as an instigator of “Russia’s hybrid war against Ukraine.” In January 2019 Yanukovych was found guilty of high treason…”

[4] Wolf-Dietrich Heike “The Ukrainian Division Galicia 1943-45” p20-22

[12] https://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judpolan.asp