‘It’s like putting a monument to killers on the top of the graves of their victims,’ said an official from the Ukrainian Jewish Committee based in Kiev
The Canadian Forces and Global Affairs Canada are facing criticism after honoring members of Ukrainian organizations that helped the Nazis in the Second World War.
Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine Roman Waschuk spoke at an Aug. 21 ceremony that unveiled a monument in Sambir to honor members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), two groups that are linked to the killing of tens of thousands of Jews and Poles.
The event has been condemned by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Ukrainian Jewish Committee who warn the memorial whitewashes the role of Ukrainian collaborators in the Holocaust.
“All Jews of Sambir were murdered by Nazis and their collaborators from OUN and UPA,” Eduard Dolinsky, director-general of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee based in Kiev, told Postmedia.
The monument, which is at the edge of a cemetery holding the remains of more than 1,200 Jews murdered by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators, is a desecration and “double murder of the Jewish victims,” Dolinsky said. “It’s like putting a monument to killers on the top of the graves of their victims.”
Global Affairs Canada said the Sambir event was intended to assist efforts by the Jewish community in Canada and Ukraine to build public support to create an eventual memorial for the Jewish cemetery in the town. That was the reason for Waschuk’s attendance and to suggest otherwise would be false, the department said.
The memorial is to 17 members of the OUN who the Ukrainians say were killed by the Nazis. Waschuk, in his speech at the ceremony, paid tribute to the murdered Jews, Ukrainians who tried to help them and “those Ukrainians who fought against the Nazi regime as members of OUN-UPA.”
Members of the OUN-UPA supported the Nazis and helped round up and execute Jews after the Germans invaded Ukraine, according to Holocaust historians. At one point, they broke away from their support of the Nazis, but later joined forces again with Germany. In 1943 the UPA started massacring Polish civilians, killing an estimated 100,000 men, women and children, according to historians.
The Canadian Forces said in a statement that military personnel were requested by the Canadian embassy in Ukraine to attend. The attendance was “part of a whole government effort to champion tolerance in a democratic Ukraine and reiterate that totalitarian regimes (in both past and contemporary times, and under all guises) have done injustices to Ukrainians,” the statement said.
Jewish organizations have been trying for years to erect a memorial at the Jewish cemetery. But Sambir locals have resisted that, removing the Star of David at the site and instead erecting three large Christian crosses on the Jewish cemetery. A compromise was eventually reached; in exchange for removing the crosses, a memorial to the dead OUN-UPA would be erected.
Waschuk called the memorial “a monument of love to one’s motherland. And a motherland must know how to defend itself so that it does not suffer again from waves of inhuman totalitarian terror as happened during World War 2.”
It’s not the first time that Canadian actions in Ukraine have raised concerns.
In June 2018 the Canadian government and military officials in Ukraine met with members of the ultra nationalist Azov Battalion, which earlier that year had been banned by the U.S. Congress from receiving American arms because of its links to Neo-Nazis