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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 2 War Crime Allegations and Investigations

Extract

The Waf fen SS was known for its participation in war crimes and was subsequently recognized as a criminal organization at the Nuremberg Trials. Thus, the significance of the ‘Galicia’ Division’s association with the Waf fen SS cannot be underestimated. This association inf luenced the narratives which were created about the Division by every party involved in the story of the ‘Galicia’: the members themselves in fact used it to their advantage in their fight against repatriation, for they ascribed their connec- tion with the Waf fen SS to their hatred of the ‘Bolsheviks’. The Soviets saw the Division’s association with the Waf fen SS as a reason for its members to be classified as traitors and thus demanded that they be handed over to the USSR authorities. As far as the British authorities were concerned, the ‘Galicia’s’ involvement with the German Army, combined with the Division’s nationalistic character, its open hostility towards the Soviet Union, and the statelessness of its members created a complex situation, the resolution of which required a lot of time and resources, which the British were not prepared to dedicate. This resulted in the decisions taken by the UK authorities with regard to the Division’s repatriation, civilianization and further settlement, which are analysed in Chapters 3 and 4. Allegations of involvement in war crimes have been made against the Division since the end of the Second World War. The most significant inves- tigations which addressed the question of ‘Galicia’s’ potential criminality as a division were...

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