The scandal over a standing ovation for a Nazi veteran is now raising questions about a cemetery monument in Canada that honors his Waffen SS unit
- Canada's parliament accidentally applauded a 98-year-old Nazi veteran on Friday.
- The gaffe rekindled calls for a monument honoring his unit to be removed from a Canadian cemetery.
The Canadian parliament's standing ovation for a Ukrainian war veteran who turned out to be a former fighter for Nazi Germany has reignited calls to take down a monument honoring his unit.
Yaroslav Hunka, 98, who served in the voluntary 14th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS, was applauded as a war hero by Canadian leaders on Friday without them realizing he actually fought in a Nazi unit.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has since apologized for the gaffe, calling it "deeply embarrassing." Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was visiting Canada's parliament at the time of the standing ovation.
Now a monument honoring Hunka's unit in Oakville's St Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery is under fire again after his appearance made headlines.
"It's unacceptable to have monuments dedicated to a unit affiliated with the SS because they were complicit in the Holocaust," Dan Panneton, director of allyship and community engagement from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, told the Canadian media outlet Global News.
The monument, located around 25 miles from Toronto, is a centograph that was erected in remembrance of those who fought for the 14th SS Division, also known as the Galicia Division.
It was vandalized with graffiti in 2020, when someone spray-painted the words "Nazi war monument" on its face, reported The Ottawa Citizen.
The monument was one of several brought up by the Russian Embassy in Ottawa in 2017, which complained that the structures honored "Nazi collaborators in Canada and nobody is doing anything about it."
These monuments in Canada have been controversial. Jewish groups like B'nai Brith Canada are lobbying to have them removed, calling them "Nazi-glorifying monuments."
But some Ukrainians who moved to Canada believe those who joined the Galicia Division were doing so because they thought they were fighting to free their country from Soviet rule, David Marples, professor of Eastern European history at the University of Alberta, told the BBC.
Jewish groups in Canada disagree. "The bottom line is that this unit, the 14th SS unit, were Nazis," B'nai Brith Canada leader Michael Mostyn told the outlet.
Marples noted that modern Russia has seized upon the narrative of some Ukrainian allyship with Nazi Germany to incorrectly say that modern Ukraine is now run by Nazis. "Russia has greatly simplified the narrative," Marples said, per the BBC.
The Galicia Division, of which Hunka was a part of, has been accused of committing war crimes, including the slaughter of hundreds of Polish civilians. Its members have not been convicted in court, though records continue to surface of the slaughter.
It was a voluntary unit formed in 1943 by Nazi Germany and mainly consisted of men of Ukrainian or Slovak descent.
Meanwhile, a Polish minister said on Tuesday that he has "taken steps" to extradite Hunka from Canada and to prosecute him in Poland.
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