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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 4 Life in the UK and the Migration to Canada

Extract

The ‘Galicia’s’ arrival and stay in the UK caused the creation of a narra- tive by the press and the opposing organizations that was highly criti- cal of the members of the Division. This prompted former ‘Galicians’ and those organizations who acted in their defence to promote a coun- ter-narrative, representing themselves rather as ex-soldiers of a so-called ‘Ukrainian division’. Such a narrative insisted that the Division’s members joined the German Armed Forces (frequently referred to incorrectly as the Wehrmacht), in order to fight the Soviets. This kind of narrative also emphasized that once the ‘Galicians’ were moved from the SEP camp, they wished for nothing more than a chance to rebuild their lives, work hard and become valuable citizens of the UK or Canada.1 David Haldane Porter’s conclusions of the British screening of the ‘Galicia’, discussed in Chapter 3, were extremely helpful in maintaining this positive narrative. The general perceptions of the Division members of fered by the Screening Report were shared by other individuals who supported the ‘Galicia’ men. In his letter to the editor of the Manchester Guardian in 1947,2 Tracy Phillips3 writes that ‘these newly-arrived Ukrainians were […] for good 1 See Vasyl’ Veryha, Za Ridnyi Krai, za narid svii, abo Khto taki dyviziinyky? (Kyiv: Vydavnytsvto imeni Oleny Telihy, 2006), pp. 34–9 and 175–213. 2 File B53802, Tracy Phillips to the editor of Manchester Guardian, 12 June 1947, Public Archives, Canada, p. 1. 3 Tracy Phillips (1890–1959) served as an advisor to the...

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