Interrogate the truth of "Nazi" claims

  • November 3, 2023

I must respond to the column by Peter Stockland in the "What is history without the truth?" in October 15 issue of The Catholic Register

Interrogating the truth about a so-called "Nazi in the rafters" of Parliament would have been wiser than repeating Soviet-era disinformation, nowadays regurgitated by the Russian Federation's operatives and their fellow travellers in the West. 

The fact is that Jaroslav Hunka was never a "Nazi" because no Ukrainian was allowed to join the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, abbreviated to "Nazi"). Why? Because Ukrainians were considered untermenschen, or subhumans, in the Nazi worldview.

Late in the war some Ukrainians were recruited into the ranks of the Galicia Division but only because the German occupation regime faced acute manpower shortages. Yes, they swore an oath to Hitler. So did everyone who served in the armed forces of the Third Reich. That does not make any veteran of the Galicia Division, nor every German who served in the Second World War, a Nazi.

Furthermore, the Ukrainians joined to fight the Soviets, whose murderous occupation of western Ukraine from late September 1939 to the summer of 1941 they had witnessed (and this was actually Hunka's motivation for enlisting). They even had chaplains to serve their religious needs, shielding them against the racist and anti-Semitic ideology of Nazi Germany. 

Many soldiers of the Galicia Division fell at the Battle of Brody in July 1944, while others defected to the nationalist underground. A reconstituted Division then fought Communist partisans across east-central Europe before surrendering to the British in north-eastern Italy at war's end.

Screened by American, British, Canadian and even Soviet teams, these POWs were eventually relocated to the United Kingdom as agricultural labourers, "civilianized," and allowed to emigrate across the Free World. Before any came to Canada, in response to the understandable if unfounded concerns of the Canadian Jewish Congress about a supposed immigration of "SS men," cabinet asked our high commissioner to investigate the Division's wartime record.

He responded in September 1950 to the effect that "Communist propaganda" had always tried to portray these men as "war criminals" and "quislings," and always would. He was rather prescient.

Provoked by "fake news" stories circulated across North America in the late 1970s and early 1980s (the KGB's Operation Payback) the Mulroney government established the Commission of Inquiry on Soviet War Criminals, headed by Justice Jules Deschênes. His report, released early in 1987, found that:

(1) the Galicia Division should not be indicted as a group;

(2) members of the Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada;

(3) charges of war crimes against members of the Division had never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before the Commission,

and that

(4) in the absence of participation in, or knowledge of specific war crimes, mere membership in the Galicia Division was insufficient to justify prosecution.

The Commission also confirmed:

(5) no case could be made against members of the Division for revocation of citizenship or deportation since the Canadian authorities were fully aware of the relevant facts in 1950 and admission to Canada was not granted because of any false representation, or fraud, or concealment of material circumstances.

In other words Hunka arrived in Canada legally. While I have never met him, no report suggests he ever broke any Canadian laws or did anything other than lead a law-abiding and productive family life.

No evidence has been put forward to prove he committed a war crime during the Second World War. Believing, as I do, that a person is innocent until proven guilty, I am dismayed about the braying by those who allowed their prejudices, or their ignorance of history, to inflict very real harm on an elderly Canadian, and a Ukrainian Catholic. He was scourged publicly and forced into hiding, without just cause. I cannot prescribe penance but I do recognize a sin.

Lubomyr Luciuk, PhD
Kingston, Ont.

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