Controversy Over Honoring Waffen-SS Soldier Delays Victims of Communism Memorial Unveiling

The recent controversy in Canada’s Parliament over honoring a Waffen-SS soldier has led to the delay of the unveiling of the planned Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Ottawa. Government records obtained by the Ottawa Citizen show that planning for the memorial’s unveiling ground to a halt amid concerns over links between the monument and Nazi collaborators.

Standing Ovation for Waffen-SS Soldier Sparks Outrage

On September 22nd, 2023, Canadian MPs recognized Yaroslav Hunka, introduced as a Ukrainian Canadian war hero, with a standing ovation in the House of Commons. However, it quickly emerged that Hunka had served in the Waffen-SS Galicia division, which fought for Nazi Germany and was implicated in war crimes. The incident prompted outrage from Jewish groups, Holocaust historians, and the Polish government over allegations that Hunka’s unit was involved in atrocities.

“We anticipate that the listing of names that are not thoroughly vetted and the result of a broad consensus could generate significant controversy both in Canada and abroad,” – Global Affairs Canada officials in 2021

Memorial Already Faced Criticism Over Links to Nazi Collaborators

The Hunka scandal amplified existing concerns that the Victims of Communism memorial, mainly financed by the Canadian government, was honoring Nazi collaborators. Government documents show that:

  • Canadian Heritage officials had already identified Waffen-SS names submitted for the memorial’s “Wall of Remembrance”
  • An unknown number of alleged Nazi collaborators were also flagged by Canadian Heritage
  • Private donations had been made in the names of notorious Nazi collaborators like Roman Shukhevych
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Global Affairs Canada had previously warned in 2021 that “many anti-communist and anti-Soviet advocates and fighters were also active Nazi collaborators.”

Planning for Unveiling Halted After Hunka Controversy Emerged

According to the obtained records, planning for the November 2nd, 2023 unveiling stopped completely on October 13th after the Hunka controversy emerged. Sandra Richards, Canadian Heritage’s monuments project manager, wrote:

“I think you can imagine that the recent incident of the Ukrainian SS officer who was honoured in the House has had an impact on this project, especially as the matter of possibly Nazi collaborators being included on the Wall has been previously reported in the media.”

No New Date Set for Unveiling After “Due Diligence” Review

While physically complete, the $7.5 million Ottawa memorial remains behind fences without a new unveiling date. Canadian Heritage said in October 2023 that it is “doing its due diligence to ensure all aspects of the memorial remain compatible with Canadian values.” This includes further reviewing the names for the Wall of Remembrance.

  • The spokesperson said the department could not “disclose further information about the process at this stage.”
  • The main spokesperson for the memorial’s proponent, Tribute to Liberty, did not respond to a request for comment.
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Controversy Shows Need to Carefully Vet Honorees

The Hunka case highlights why projects like the Victims of Communism memorial must carefully vet suggested honorees. Well-meaning efforts to memorialize victims can backfire by elevating individuals implicated in other historical crimes like the Holocaust.

As one History News Network article argued, Eastern European nationalist groups have recently aimed to whitewash the record of Nazi collaborators as purely “anti-communist heroes.” Honoring such figures often proves divisive rather than unifying.

Canada now faces difficult questions about how to balance honoring Victims of Communism without sanitizing the history of Nazi collaborators. Further public discussion and expert input will likely be required before any unveiling. Thorough vetting processes must be implemented for similar future monuments to prevent good intentions from going so clearly awry.

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