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Who got into the ranks of "Galicia", how the fascists treated their "colleagues" and other facts about the Ukrainian SS
Who got into the ranks of "Galicia", how the fascists treated their "colleagues" and other facts about the Ukrainian SS

Western Ukrainian nationalists took the initiative in cooperation with the Nazis from the first days of the war. However, the Germans did not immediately pay attention to these proposals. When Paulus was tamed in Stalingrad in 1943, the Nazis thought about using the Ukrainian resource to fill the front holes. This is how the pro-fascist Galicia unit appeared, surprising even the Gestapo veterans with its antics.

Ukrainian volunteers under German command

Group photo of pro-fascist volunteers

The first foreign SS units appeared in 1940. Then Heinrich Himmler, in an effort to expand the SS troops, ordered the recruitment of ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche) who lived in the territories occupied by the Nazis. Later, racial priorities had to be neglected, and in 1943, parts of the SS began to be formed by foreign volunteers, including Ukrainians.

Residents of the eastern regions of Ukraine successfully organized mass partisan movements, giving a massive rebuff to the invaders. Things were quite different in the west. The local population of Galicia (today it is Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and most of the Ternopil region) reacted loyally to the German owner. In March 1943, local newspapers published the Manifesto, signed by the head of the district, Otto Wächter. In an appeal to the combat-ready population, it was reported that the assistance of Germany with the right to form an SS division is a high honor for Galicia.

To create a pro-fascist SS unit "Galicia" was entrusted to Kubiyovich, who represented the Ukrainian Central Committee. But soon this formality was corrected by transferring the reins of government to the Abwehr Colonel Alfred Bizanz. On April 28, 1943, in the building of the Lviv administration, the act on the creation of the Hitlerite SS division "Galicia" was solemnly proclaimed.

The true goals of Western Ukrainians

SS parade in Lvov

According to the Germans, by the beginning of June, almost 82 thousand Ukrainian volunteers had registered with the division. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church assigned 18 of its chaplains to Galicia, who were granted SS officer knowledge. The Ukrainian nationalists were promised that the division would not become a front-line division, but would fight the partisans. For joining the fascist ranks, the traitors were promised large allotments of collective farm land and the release of the families of the newly-made SS men from the agricultural tax.

For this reason, the first to join the ranks of Hitler's ranks were the inhabitants of the countryside. So most historians reject the version about the ideological component of Ukrainian initiatives, yearning for independence and freedom. Lots of evidence persuade researchers to believe that the first incentive was still material interests. And could "Galicia", the commander of which, the headquarters and all the battalion commanders were Germans, lay the foundation for a free Ukrainian army? The exception was Sturmbannführer Evgen Pobeguschiy, but he, for example, was forbidden even to visit the casino for officers.

The attitude of Germans towards their "colleagues"

14th Grenadier Division

An acute shortage of manpower entrenching force after the defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad forced the Nazis to accept the Western Ukrainians into the SS-elite. "Galicia" was in first place in terms of number among all SS divisions from foreign volunteers. Out of 26 thousand people, they formed 3 combat regiments and 5 policemen.In "Galicia" Ukrainians were banned from any national symbols, and the official name of the division fighters in the documents sounded like "Galicians".

Once the commander of one of the companies, Buff, saw the flowers planted with a trident on the barracks flowerbed, and violently trampled them. When the division left for study in Germany, there its members also overtook frustration. German officers for the most part looked contemptuously at the Ukrainian subordinates, not really hiding it. Galician Unterscharführer Lazurko recalled how in a Dutch training camp the Germans chased their henchmen in gas masks, while ordering them to sing songs. And as training they were forced to move around the parade ground with a satchel filled with sand and do push-ups in puddles.

Heroes of Punitive Operations

Himmler at a show in Galicia

From November 1943, "Galicia" was commanded by SS Oberfuehrer Freitag, who had rich police experience. German combat officers disliked him: Freitag did not participate in any battle. In 1944, the Ukrainians formed a "battle group" to fight the Polish and Soviet partisans. This is how the 14th SS Grenadier Division "Galicia" began its journey. Punishers "fought" with an exceptionally superior force, preferring to fight unarmed civilians. Their favorite tactics were setting fire to houses along with their inhabitants, killing peaceful peasants, including women and children. Only in their native Lviv, the punishers killed at least one and a half thousand townspeople, in Zolochev Ukrainians were involved in the executions of captured Red Army soldiers. In Ternopil, they noted the burning of churches together with the parishioners. And the town of Olesko was completely destroyed by the Galicians with human casualties of 300 souls.

Interrupted flight of "Galicia" and the Canadian diaspora

Prisoners of the Ukrainian SS

In the summer of 1944, the Red Army was advancing, and the SS "Galicia" were entrusted with the defense of a section 30 km wide. The armored formations of the Red Army broke through the defense line in several directions at once. Under the transport hub Brody, 8 divisions from the German group, including the Ukrainians, were surrounded. Once in the cauldron, the newly minted pro-fascist allies wavered. Fighting civilians and clashes with regular units are not the same thing. And the Ukrainian nationalists did not like the reactive Katyusha.

Monument "Galicia" in Canada

The command of the 1st Ukrainian Front ordered the complete destruction of the Nazis with the support of aviation and artillery. Of all the participants in "Galicia", a minority was saved. Many of them preferred to surrender to anyone, just not to the Red Army. The surviving representatives of the SS Galicia, who were not handed over to the Soviet Union, went en masse to create a Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.

By the way, not only Ukrainians went over to the side of the enemy in World War II. Collaboration also affected other nationalities of the USSR, including Russians.

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