House Speaker Anthony Rota has apologized to the Jewish community for honoring an ex-member of an SS unit in the chamber
The speaker of the Canadian House of Commons was left red-faced after honoring an elderly Ukrainian war veteran in the chamber in front of the visiting Ukrainian president. The Canada-based
“hero” served in a German Nazi unit.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office has thrown Speaker Anthony Rota under the bus, saying he was not aware of Yaroslav Hunka’s allegiance during World War II when he joined the celebration alongside Ukraine’s Vladimir Zelensky.
The incident sparked outrage from Jewish organizations, who said the unit’s record of atrocities must not be obfuscated.
Guest of Honor The 98-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian man was celebrated on Friday, after Trudeau and Zelensky delivered speeches to lawmakers. The audience gave him multiple standing ovations. Rota stressed that Hunka was one of his constituents and called him “a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero.” He thanked the man for his service fighting “for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.” Nazi soldier The World War II veteran served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, a unit created by the Nazis from Ukrainian volunteers in 1943 as part of its occupation of the USSR. The Nuremberg Tribunal recognized the entire SS as a criminal organization, citing the scale of atrocities committed under its leadership. Rota did not mention the Nazi unit when he introduced Hunka, but his involvement was not a secret. The Associated Press photo captioned him as a former member of the First Ukrainian Division – the name preferred by the unit’s veterans. The media soon found photos of Hunka in his uniform during training in Munich and in occupied Poland. The images were published online by the unit’s veterans association in the US.
Thousands of Ukrainian nationalists, including ex-SS fighters fled to North America, as the tide of battle turned against the Nazis. The CIA made use of some of these people in operations against the Soviet Union during the Cold War
Outcry The lionization of the former Nazi soldier sparked outrage among Jewish organizations, such as the Toronto-based Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC). it said in a statement. “There should be no confusion that this unit was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable,” The organization urged Rota to issue an apology to Holocaust survivors and veterans of World War II who fought the Nazis. Admitting the mistake The speaker did so on Sunday. His statement did not name Hunka or explain the nature of the controversy. The message was also unclear on whether Rota was aware of Hunka’s past beforehand. Rota took sole responsibility for his decision to honor the man, saying that “no one, including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks.” Trudeau’s office said the apology was “the right thing to do,” and likewise stressed that the prime minister and Zelensky’s delegation were given “no advance notice” about the planned celebration. Outrageous negligence The incident put Poland and Russia, two countries that have opposing views on the nature of the Ukraine conflict, on the same side. Witold Dzielski, the Polish ambassador in Ottawa, has said that the SS unit was “responsible for murdering thousands of Poles & Jews” and that Waraw will “never agree on whitewashing such villains” despite its support for Kiev. His Russian counterpart, Oleg Stepanov, blasted the Trudeau government as “essentially the epitome of neo-liberal fascism.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has described the incident as
“outrageous negligence.” Younger generations in Western nations are unaware of the dangers of fascism, he stated, so it’s no surprise that the ideology has revived “in the heart of Europe – in Ukraine.” Ukrainian nationalists who were Nazi collaborators are treated as national heroes by the current Ukrainian government.
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