In World War II, although the Soviet or Red Army had 4.5 million Ukrainians, (of which 2.5 million were decorated and 1.5 to 2 million killed), there were no completely Ukrainian units. The Ukrainian Front Armies were heavily Ukrainian. As the tide turned against Germany there was a decision to establish Waffen SS units of Eastern Europeans which were regular military units distinct from the German SS. On April 28th, 1943, the Waffen-Grenadier Division der SS 'Galizien', volunteer Division Galicia (Diviziya Halychyna) was established. The initiative for its establishment came from the Govenor of Galicia, Dr. Otto Eaechter, who had the support of the Ukrainian Central Committee of Professor V. Kubijovych which was the only legal representative of Ukrainians during the German occupation. Himmler strictly forbid the use of the name Ukrainian for the Division. All orders had to be given in German.
It was decided by Ukrainian leaders that it would be advantageous for Ukraine to have a properly trained and equipped army. As Germany found growing pressure on its armies it agreed to establishment of the Galicia Division renamed the 1st Ukrainian Division at the end of the war in April 1945. The Galicia Division was trained in late 1943 and early 1944 and was designated to fight only against the USSR not the Allies. About 40,000 Ukrainians were enlisted and under German officers in the higher echelons the Division was sent to fight the Battle of Brody July 13-22, 1944 where it was encircled and largely destroyed by the Soviet Army. There were only about 3,000 survivors but the Division was later increased to 20,000 with new recruits.
Eventually the Ukrainian National Army (including the Division) was surrendered by General Pavlo Shandruk to the Allies in Austria, was interned in Rimini Italy. A Soviet three month investigation in Rimini found no war criminals. It was then transferred to England and finally members emigrated to Canada, USA and Australia. The British and Canadian authorities carefully reviewed the Galicia Division and the Divizynyky and cleared them of any war crimes. No war criminals were found in the Division, but a vendetta by Simon Wiesenthal has falsely accused them of war crimes. An intensive investigation was made by the Canadian government. Hon. Justice Jules Deschenes in his official Report of March 12, 1987, completely exonerated the Galicia Division from any war crimes.
Emblem of the Galicia Division with Lion of Lviv in gold on blue. From W. Veryha.
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Copyright © 1995 Andrew Gregorovich
Copyright © 1995 Andrew GregorovichReprinted from FORUM Ukrainian Review No. 92, Spring 1995