Ukraine’s far-right honors SS unit, but guess what the Western MSM is really worried about
As neo-Nazi extremists prepared to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday on April 20 across Germany, Ukraine’s far-right set up an open-air exhibition in the city of Lvov to mark the 75th anniversary of the formation of the 1st Galician Division, a notoriously cruel SS fighting force made up predominantly of Ukrainian volunteers.
Dressed in Nazi uniforms of the era, local right-wing extremists organized a display of photographs rarely seen in public before. Nazi-made weapons, vehicles, ammunition, and personal items pertaining to the Galician Division were also exhibited. The event, which will run until May 6, was opened as a precursor to a neo-Nazi march which organizers plan to hold on April 28.
But for some in the Western mainstream media, there’s something more disturbing than a celebration of an SS unit that killed hundreds of Polish civilians in the villages of Huta Pieniacka and Pidkamin in 1944.
“Ukrainians in Lviv [Lvov] celebrate the anniversary of the 14th ‘Galician’ division of the Waffen SS, swastika patches and all,” Alec Luhn, Russia correspondent for The Telegraph, said. According to his website, he has covered Russian topics for the Guardian, Time, Politico, New York Times, and Foreign Policy.
“Playing right into the hands of Russian media,” Luhn tweeted.
This concern of his raised a few eyebrows on Twitter.
The formation of the 1st Galician Division, with over 80,000 volunteers, was supported by Heinrich Himmler, the German SS chief and war criminal. Though Nazi indoctrination was absent in the division, its members – led by German officers – were required to pledge allegiance to Hitler.
The pledge, taken by every Ukrainian volunteer in the division, read: “I will give absolute obedience to the commander in chief of the German armed forces Adolf Hitler, and as a brave soldier I will always be prepared to lay down my life for this oath.”
The Galician Division participated in anti-partisan operations across Poland and Soviet Ukraine, and committed atrocities against Jews and communists. The SS formation also destroyed several Polish communities in western Ukraine during the winter and spring of 1944, and murdered Polish civilians.
While the division was largely destroyed in July 1944, it became part of the Ukrainian National Army united under a single command against the Soviet Union. After Berlin fell, the Ukrainian SS unit surrendered to the Western Allies on May 10, 1945.
Three quarters of a century later, the world is largely turning a blind eye to the glorification of Nazi collaborators in Ukraine.
In one of the latest examples, a municipal lawmaker in the western Ukrainian city of Lvov, Mariana Batyuk, openly celebrated the birthday of Adolf Hitler on April 20. The local MP, who is a member of the far-right Svoboda party, called the Nazi dictator “a great man whatever one may say” in a Facebook post.
She also cited Hitler’s Mein Kampf, which outlined his ultranationalist views and ideology, and is one of the foundations of Nazism. Following a massive backlash on social media, Batyuk removed her Facebook post and claimed her Facebook account was “hacked.” According to Ukrainian media, however, the lawmaker – who is also a history teacher in a local school – has a history of posting Nazi-related content on social media, and even had her pupils perform Nazi salutes.
Last December, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a Russian-sponsored resolution against the glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism, and other practices fueling racism, racial discrimination, and xenophobia. The resolution was supported by 133 states. Only Ukraine and the United States voted against it.
Ask yourself whose hands this Nazi celebration is actually playing into.