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The Galicia Division

Text: © University of Toronto Press
Reprinted with permission.

... the most important case of Ukrainian collaboration with Hitler's regime on the organizational level was the formation of the SS volunteer Galicia Division. In spring 1943, after the stunning German defeat at Stalingrad, Nazi authorities belatedly decided to recruit non-German "easterners" into their forces. Consequently, Otto Wachter, the governor of Galicia, approached the Ukrainian Central Committee (UCC) with a proposal to form a Ukrainian division in the German army. After much debate and despite opposition from the OUN-B, Kubijovyc and his associates agreed. Their immediate reason for the creation of such a division was the hope that it might help to improve German treatment of the Ukrainians. The specter of 1917-20 was also extremely influential in persuading the UCC leadership, for Kubijovyc and his associates (as well as Metropolitan Sheptytsky himself) were convinced that it was the lack of a well-trained army that had prevented Ukrainians from establishing their own state after the First World War. Realizing that the defeat of Germany was probable, they were determined that this time Ukrainians would not be caught in the ensuing chaos without a regular military force.

In the negotiations leading up to the formation of the division, the UCC insisted that the unit fight only against the Soviets. Wachter, on Himmler's instructions, demanded that the entire higher divisional command be German and, in order not to irritate Hitler, that the division be called Galician rather than Ukrainian. When the UCC called for volunteers in June 1943, over 82,000 men responded. Of these, 13,000 eventually became members of the SS Volunteer Galicia Division.

Galicia Division Emblem The men of the Galician Division were not the only Ukrainians in Hitler's armies. Scattered among the approximately I million former Soviet citizens who wore German uniforms in 1944 were about 220,000 Ukrainians (most of the others were Russians). To put these numbers into perspective, it should be remembered that about 2 million Ukrainian fought on the Soviet side and that large numbers also fought in Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, Czech, American, and Canadian forces. Such was the fate of a stateless people.

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The images above are the emblems and symbols used by The Galicia Division.

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