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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 3 Soviet Repatriation Mission and the UK Screening Commission

Extract

One of the least studied questions concerning the Division is their escape from repatriation to the USSR, and the role of the British authorities in this. In order to understand why the forceful repatriation of the ‘Galicians’ did not take place and why the UK Screening Commission was in favour of moving the Division members to the UK the post-war decisions of the British of ficials have to be contextualized. At this stage, the changing politi- cal situation regarding the Soviet Union and the subsequent dilemmas the UK authorities faced when dealing with the Ukrainian surrendered enemy personnel perhaps played a more significant role than the actual war-time history of the Waf fen SS ‘Galicia’. The Yalta Agreements The Yalta Agreements were crucial in the question of the repatriation of Soviet citizens, including those who came from pre-1939 Soviet Ukraine. These agreements were reached during the Yalta Conference (4–11 February 1945) between three heads of government of the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the reor- ganization of post-war Europe, including the division of Germany, German war reparations, the formation of the United Nations, and the controversial question of the reorganization of the territory of Poland. It also addressed the critical ‘Agreement relating to Prisoners of War and Civilians Liberated 92 Chapter 3 by Forces Operating under Soviet Command and Forces Operating under British Command’.1 The nine articles of the...

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