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‘Undetermined’ Ukrainians

Post-War Narratives of the Waffen SS ‘Galicia’ Division

Series:

Olesya Khromeychuk

Memories of the Second World War play an important role in contemporary politics and society across Eastern Europe. One of the most controversial yet least studied pages of Ukraine’s wartime history is that of the Waffen SS ‘Galicia’ Division, whose members are usually portrayed either as war criminals or as freedom fighters. The history of this unit is not limited to the Ukrainian context; it also has relevance throughout Eastern Europe, as well as in Britain, Canada and the USA. In the aftermath of the war, the ‘Galicia’ Division surrendered to British and American troops, but was not repatriated to the USSR, despite Soviet demands. Instead, its members were brought to the UK and eventually allowed to settle in the West, and this unexpected turn of events continues to cause much controversy.
This book explores why over 8,000 members of the Waffen SS were allowed to move permanently to the West, by analysing the complex series of events and decisions that characterized the journey of the ‘Galicians’ from capitulation to acceptance into civilian life. Drawing on a rich range of different sources, the book examines the variety of often conflicting narratives created by the Division members, their supporters and their opponents, as well as the continuing influence of these narratives today. In doing so, the book sheds light on the complex processes of memory politics.

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Chapter 1 The Development of Ukrainian Nationalist Militarized Resistance

Extract

The formation of the Waf fen SS ‘Galicia’, as well as the creation of narra- tives surrounding its establishment, activities and legacy, are dif ficult to understand without analysis of the developments that took place in the interwar period. The Division was not purely a consequence of Nazi occu- pation of western Ukraine; it emerged as a result of the already formed tradition of nationalist militarized resistance on the territory populated by Ukrainians under Polish, Czechoslovak and Soviet rule. This was repre- sented by a number of Ukrainian paramilitary units, namely, the Carpathian Sich – a paramilitary organization in the Carpatho-Ukrainian State; the ‘first’ Ukrainian Insurgent Army – or the Polissian Sich, organized by Taras Bul’ba-Borovets’, the Nachtigall and Roland battalions which are an earlier example of co-operation between German of ficials, especially the Abwehr,1 and Ukrainian nationalists; and, finally, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (Ukraїns’ka povstans’ka armiia, UPA) controlled by one branch of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Orhanizatsiia ukraïns’kykh natsionalistiv, OUN). The resentment towards most local regimes by the ethnic Ukrainian population and their subsequent support for nationalist groups rose dramatically in the territories populated by Ukrainians between the wars. The desire to have an independent army was growing too. This increasing nationalism manifested itself through the establishment of a number of military formations, which often fought for popularity among the local population, and each aspired to form a basis for the future army of an independent Ukrainian state. This new trend laid down the founda- tions for...

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