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Waffen SS “Galizien” (Halychyna) Division and Other Pro-Nazi Forces

14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS Galizien (1st Ukrainian)
14-та Стрілецька Дивізія Зброї СС; 14-ta Striletska Divizia Zbroii SS [1]

Before World War II many Ukrainians in Galicia [2] regarded Hitler’s Third Reich as the only force capable of facilitating the establishment of an independent Ukraine in Galicia, in other words, a state free of Soviet or Polish rule. These particular Galician Ukrainians were virulently anti-Soviet and saw the Nazis as possible liberators from what they regarded as the Soviet yoke [3]. When war broke out in 1939 and the Soviet Union occupied eastern Poland (including Polish-occupied western Ukraine), various Ukrainian nationalist groups set up military units to fight the Soviet Red Army. One such was the Nachtingal brigade. In early 1943, when the Nazis were suffering growing losses in the war with the USSR, the German Governor of occupied Galicia, Dr. Otto von Wächter, gave the formal order to create a Galician Waffen SS division to take part in regular combat on the Eastern Front. The 14th Voluntary Division SS Galizien was announced on 28 April 1943 and set up the following month.

The division was organized by the Ukrainian Central Committee, headed by Volodymyr Kubiyovych, a Ukrainian nationalist and ethnographer, with the active involvement of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Finding volunteers was easy: it was formed from among 80,000 Ukrainian-Rusyn volunteers from Galicia. Christian (mostly Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox) chaplains were assigned pastoral roles in the units. The division was commanded by German and Ukrainian officers, many being veterans of the Ukrainian Galician Army. The Commander-in-Chief was Major General Fritz Freitag. The historian Robert Conquest has written: “The Ukrainian, 14th Waffen SS Galizien Division (also known as the Halychyna Division), was created in May 1943. In his call to Ukrainians to join it, Kubiyovych, the head of the Nazi-authorized Ukrainian Central Committee, declared: ‘The long-awaited moment has arrived when the Ukrainian people again have the opportunity to come out with guns to give battle with its most grievous foe – Muscovite-Jewish Bolshevism. The Fuehrer of the Great German Reich has agreed to the formation of a separate Ukrainian volunteer military unit.’ ”

The division was sent to the front in early 1944, going to the Brody area to strengthen six Nazi infantry divisions facing heavy combat. In July 1944 Soviet forces under Marshal Konev comprehensively defeated the combined German and Ukrainian forces in fierce fighting. The Nazis rebuilt the Ukrainian division over subsequent months. In October 1944 the division was sent to put down an uprising in Slovakia. In January 1945, it went to Slovenia to fight Tito's partisans. From April 1945 until the end of the war, the division, with a strength of 14,000 combat troops plus 8,000 soldiers in training and reserves, fought against the Red Army in the region of Graz in Austria. Among the division’s units were regiments used for policing civilian populations and actions against partisans.

In March 1945, Ukrainian émigrés established the Ukrainian National Committee to represent Ukrainian interests in the Third Reich. Simultaneously, the Ukrainian National Army was created with the intention of combining all Ukrainians fighting on Germany’s side, the first being the SS Galizien Division. The C-in-C was General Pavlo Shandruk [Pawlo Szandruk], a decorated former colonel in the Polish army. He was assigned command of the Galizien division (which he renamed as "1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army" so as to remove the SS association). On 7 May 1945, the division capitulated to British and American forces and its members were interned in Italy. The renaming of the division, the fact that its members had been until 1939 de facto citizens of interwar Poland and the intervention of the Vatican all combined to save its members from deportation to the USSR. Following its surrender, 176 members of the division joined General Anders' Polish army. In 1947, former members of the Waffen SS Galizien Division were allowed to emigrate to Canada and to Britain, where they worked on farms.

This explains how former members of a Waffen SS division turned up in British refugee camps in 1947, to mingle and live together with Polish refugees who had been mobilised into the army originally formed by General Anders [4] in the USSR (to fight on the side of British and US allies against the Nazis in Italy).

Atrocities

The Nachtingal brigade, which was later incorporated into the SS Galizien, took part in a three-day massacre of the Jewish population of Lvov (now Lviv) from 30 June 1941. Roman Shukhevych was the commander of the Nachtingal and later, in 1943, became commander of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (the “Banderivtsy”, or UPA/UIA[5] ), armed henchmen of the fascist Stepan Bandera, who after the war pretended that they had fought both Nazis and Communists. Members of the division are also accused of having murdered some 800 residents of the village of Huta Pieniacka and 44 civilians in the village of Chłaniów. The Ukrainian Self-defence Legion, incorporated later into SS Galizien, took part in the pacification of Warsaw after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising in October 1944.

Units of the Waffen SS Galizien Division have often been accused (separately by Soviet and Polish post-war authorities and by the Simon Wiesenthal centre) of wartime atrocities, including actions by its 4th police regiment in Galicia and its 5th police regiment in Lubelszczyzna: specifically of rounding up and murdering Jews in Brody, burning down the village of Huta Pieniacka (near Lvov) and a role in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Huta Pieniacka was a major Polish resistance centre fighting against Nazi forces and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (which itself was anti-Polish and anti-Soviet and even, some apologists now argue, anti-Nazi). On 23-28 February 1944, when a 500-strong unit of the Waffen SS Galizien Division’s 4th police regiment went there to look for Polish Armia Krajowa partisans, two SS Galizien members were killed. An official funeral was organised by the SS and the village was razed, killing about 800 inhabitants.

As regards the Warsaw Uprising in October 1944, an investigation by Polish historians Torzecki and Zięba suggests that while no SS Galizien “uniformed” units were in Warsaw during the Uprising, thus implying that the atrocities ascribed to Ukrainians were in fact committed by other divisions, such as Bronislaw Kaminski's Russian RONA brigade (see below), some of the units there were indeed later found in future Waffen SS Galizien Division records.

So long as the relevant authorities had no direct evidence that would stand up in a criminal trial to prove that these Ukrainians had carried out criminal activities during the war, they were allowed to settle in Great Britain and Canada. Attempts were made to prosecute some of them in the 1990s and later, after the collapse of communism, by taking testimony from aged witnesses, but many of these were mysteriously beaten up or killed after talking to Scotland Yard detectives. According to the Home Office (Hansard 29 January 2007, Mr McNulty): “Police inquiries in 2003 indicated that 1,450 ex-Galizien were still resident in the UK.”

Apologists for the SS Galizien Division continue to deny accusations of atrocities.

Kaminski’s RONA Brigade

When the Germans turned on their erstwhile ally and advanced into the USSR in June 1941, many saw them as liberators and many others took up arms against them. Those who escaped capture retreated to the forests to wage an anti-Nazi guerrilla war. The Soviet partisans often raided towns and villages for food and supplies. In October 1941, citizens of Lokot town near Bryansk in Byelorussia SSR set up a militia to defend their town against such raids. They elected the Russian-born Ivan Voskoboynik as mayor and commander. His classmate, the German-Polish engineer Bronislaw Kaminski (former volunteer in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War), was elected deputy commander. Senior German commanders approved the creation of the “Republic of Lokot”, which enjoyed unprecedented autonomy.
During a partisan attack in January 1942, Voskoboynik was killed, and Kaminski took over command of the “Republic” and its expanding militia. Together with German forces, they began aggressive anti-partisan operations. By late 1942, the armed forces of the “Republic of Lokot” had grown to nearly 10,000 strong. Kaminski gave the militia the official title Russkaya Osvoboditelnaya Narodnaya Armiya (Russian National Liberation Army) or RONA. It appeared on official German documents as the “Kaminski Brigade” and was tasked with fighting partisans in the forests of Bryansk Region.
Kaminski’s brigade was renowned for its brutality, indiscipline, drunkenness, looting and rape, so much so that his death in autumn 1944 is widely believed to have actually been an execution by his German masters.

Vlasov’s Russian Liberation Army

General Andrey Vlasov’s “Russian Liberation Army”, was an anti-Soviet army fighting on the side of the Nazis. The remnants of Kaminski's brigade were intended to be absorbed into the Vlasov army. Vlasov protested, calling them "mercenaries", and only agreed to include a tenth after "careful examination".

Further reading:

1. For more information and links see the Wikipedia articles (some of which are summarised here) at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/14th_Waffen_Grenadier_Division_of_the_SS_Galizien_(1st_Ukrainian)
2. Robert Conquest see http://www.plp.org/books/Stalin/node75.html
3. Hansard see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmhansrd/cm070129/text/70129w0028.htm
4. See also Sunday Herald 25 June 2006, report by Liam McDougall Home Affairs Editor: “…Two suspected Nazi war criminals living in Scotland are being investigated by police… The police investigation into the two men, both of whom are believed to live in the central belt, signals one of the most significant developments in the hunt for war criminals in Scotland. Some 1,500 members of the SS Galizien division, responsible for massacring civilians in Poland and Ukraine, were brought to Scotland in 1947 and held in prison camps at Dalkeith, Midlothian and Lockerbie, Dumfriesshire…”

Footnotes:

1. SS-Division "Galizien", 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (ukrainische Nr.1) , later the 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army (1 Division der Ukrainischen National-Armee), a Ukrainian military formation in Hitler’s armed forces.

2. Galicia is broadly the northeastern and eastern Carpathians and surrounding lowlands, i.e. the area that is now western Ukraine and which between the two world wars was southeast Poland.

3. Many Ukrainians blamed Stalin personally or the Soviet system collectively for causing the “Holodomor” or deliberate Famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s. Experts argue about whether the famine was a deliberate attempt to destroy land ownership (and in particular private control of food supplies) during the farm collectivisation period or whether it was a necessary feature of rapid industrialisation, with some arguing that it was aimed at suppressing Ukrainian nationalism. Estimates as to the number of famine victims within Ukraine alone vary between 2.4 and 7.5 million dead, with post-USSR research based on newly opened archives putting the figure at 3.2 million (Kulchytsky, “How many of us perished in the Holodomor?”, Zerkalo Nedeli, 23 November 2002, in Ukrainian and Russian).

4. After Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Anders was released from captivity by the Soviets so that he could form a Polish Army to fight alongside the Red Army. Friction over lack of weapons, food and clothing led to the exodus of Anders' men - known as the Anders Army - together with a huge contingent of Polish civilians released from Soviet labour camps, out of the Soviet Union, along the Persian Corridor into Iran, Iraq and Palestine. There Anders formed and led the 2nd Polish Corps while agitating for the release of Polish nationals still in the Soviet Union. His 2nd Corps fought in Italy from 1943, capturing Monte Cassino from the Nazis. Large numbers of non-combat-capable Polish men and women were sent to Britain in 1946.

5. UPA Ukrainska povstanska armia, also translated as Ukrainian Insurgent Army or UIA.


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