Yaroslav Hunka is a former Nazi SS member who was praised by Canadian Speaker Anthony Rota as a Ukrainian and Canadian veteran who “fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russian aggressors then, and continues to support the troops today,” according to CNN.
Rota’s comments came during Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to the Canadian parliament on September 22, 2023, according to CNN. He praised Hunka as a hero, and Hunka, who was present at the session of the Canadian Parliament, received a standing ovation. It was then revealed that Hunka served with a notorious Nazi SS unit during World War II, CNN reported.
B’nai Brith Canada released a statement declaring that the organization, which fights anti-Semitism, “is shocked after Parliament last Friday celebrated a veteran of the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division (14th Waffen SS).”
According to the Holocaust Encyclopedia, “The SS (Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads) was originally established as Adolf Hitler’s personal bodyguard unit. It would later become both the elite guard of the Nazi Reich and Hitler’s executive force prepared to carry out all security-related duties, without regard for legal restraint.”
“During Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to address Canada’s House of Commons last week, Speaker Anthony Rota acknowledged 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka to demonstrate solidarity with Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion,” B’nai Brith Canada wrote.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Yaroslav Hunka Immigrated to Canada After Serving in the 14th Waffen SS, Reports Say
According to B’nai Brith Canada, Hunka, “who immigrated to Canada after serving in the 14th Waffen SS – a Nazi unit whose members swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler during WWII – received a standing ovation from members of Parliament and senators in attendance.”
Adolf Hitler “was the leader of Nazi Germany, Canada and the free world’s nemesis, and military opponent during WWII. The Ukrainian ultra-nationalist ideologues who volunteered to create the SS-Galician division in 1943 dreamed of an ethnically homogenous Ukrainian state and endorsed the idea of ethnic cleansing,” the site’s statement continued.
“The 14th Waffen SS carried out numerous atrocities against civilians in the Ukraine and fought alongside regular Nazi German armed forces in the battle of Brody. The SS was declared a criminal organization by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. Members of this unit swore fealty to the Fuhrer and the perverted racial ideology of the Nazis,” it reads.
“We cannot allow the whitewashing of history,” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada’s Chief Executive Officer, in the group’s statement. “It is beyond outrageous that Parliament has honored a former member of a Nazi unit in this way. Canadian soldiers fought and died to free the world from the evils of Nazi brutality.
“We understand an apology is forthcoming. We expect a meaningful apology. Parliament owes an apology to all Canadians for this outrage, and a detailed explanation as to how this could possibly have taken place at the centre of Canadian democracy.”
2. Yaroslav Hunka Detailed His Teenage Years During the War & Condemned the Russians in a Lengthy Blog Post
In a blog post on his life published by Combatants News, Hunka expressed great disdain for the Russians, describing how he believed they had destroyed his Ukrainian town both before and after the Germans rolled in.
My generation was united by two great forces: faith in God and love for Ukraine. We grew up on the glorious and proud land of Berezhansk. We trampled this land with our bare feet and breathed into our souls and hearts its magical aromas, and our eyes recorded the beauty of the cities, villages and landscapes of our native land forever on memory tapes.
My generation became the heir of the glorious sons of this land, our predecessors.
He added, “I also had a native hero of whom I was very proud – this is my father’s older brother, Hryhoriy Gunka, who fought in the ranks of the SSS.”
According to Hunka, “My native village of Urman, it seemed to me then, was the most nationally conscious village in the district.”
The post continues:
September, 1939 – I am fourteen years old.
The Polish army and the civilian population are fleeing along the road in the direction of Berezhan in a continuous roll, and German planes are catching up with them from time to time. Every day we impatiently looked in the direction of the Pomorians with the hope that those mystical German knights, who give such ‘bullets’ to the hated cowards, would appear. One day, instead of them, a column of horsemen with red stars on their caps arrived from Berezhan.
He described in the blog post how Russian dictator Josef Stalin had members of his village and relatives rounded up and sent to Siberia, where some died.
“This was the first demonstration of ‘father’ Stalin’s guardianship over us – the first echelons of ‘enemies of the people’ to Siberia. More and more new ones followed them,” he wrote, adding, “One Saturday, the director of the Tkachuk school called three tenth-grade students from the bursa, and no one saw them again.”
Hunka wrote, “Fear of the unknown enveloped us and the entire nation. The terror of Moscow Communism raged over the Berezhansk land.”
He described how villagers welcomed German soldiers “with joy” when they entered his town in July 1941, “knowing that there would no longer be that terrifying knocking on the door in the middle of the night, and at least it would be possible to sleep peacefully now.”
He continued, “A new ‘liberator’ of the Ukrainian people – Führer Hitler – reigned over the Berezhansk land.” However, a “new wave of arrests” occurred. He was 16.
People signed up out of duty to their “native land” and out of fear the Russians would return, he wrote, adding, “Many students of the Berezhansk Gymnasium died a heroic death in the ranks of the UPA, in the ‘Galichyna’ division. I do not want the reader to understand that my entire generation was ideologically motivated and spiritually conscious.”
The blog post skims over his war-time actions, detailing none of them and then skips into condemnation of the Iron Curtain and describes how he next returned to Ukraine in 1989, adding, “no one and nothing can prepare a person for those emotionally shocking experiences that he has to endure coming face to face with his native land after such a long time of separation.”
He described how desolate and destroyed his home village was after years of Russian occupation. The blog post says he has at least two adult children.
3. Anthony Rota Has Apologized to the Canadian House & Said He Regretted Recognizing Yaroslav Hunka
Rota apologized after learning the details of Hunka’s Nazi past.
“I have subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to recognize this individual,” Rota said in the House of Commons Monday, September 25, 2023, according to CNN.
“I wish to apologize to the House. I am deeply sorry that I have offended many with my gesture and remarks,” Rota added.
In a press release, Rota said that he “recognized an individual in the gallery” but has “subsequently become aware of more information which causes me to regret my decision to do so.”
He added, ‘I wish to make clear that no one including fellow parliamentarians and the Ukraine delegation, was aware of my intention or of my remarks before I delivered them. This initiative was entirely my own, the individual in question being from my riding and having been brought to my attention. I particularly want to extend my deepest apologies to Jewish communities in Canada and around the world. I accept full responsibility for my actions.”
Conservative MP Chris Warkentin said in a speech that MPs were required to “give notice” of any people who would be attending. “It went through a process,” he said, indicating that Rota was not the only person responsible. “There were massive security protocols,” he said, adding that individuals were supposed to be on extensive lists.
He said he did not believe that Rota vetted each of those names and blamed the government for not doing so.
4. Videos Show Members of Parliament Giving Yaroslav Hunka a Standing Ovation
Hunka received a standing ovation, video shows.
“It’s extremely upsetting that this happened,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, according to BBC. “The Speaker has acknowledged his mistake and has apologized. But this is something that is deeply embarrassing to the Parliament of Canada and by extension to all Canadians.”
The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said in a statement obtained by CTV that Hunka’s division “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.”
“An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the Second World War who fought the Nazis, and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian Parliament and received recognition from the Speaker of the House and a standing ovation,” the statement said.
5. Yaroslav Hunka Served in a Voluntary Unit Mostly Involving Ethnic Ukrainians
According to BBC, Hunka served in the “14th Waffen-SS Grenadier Division, also known as the Galicia Division – a voluntary unit made up mostly of ethnic Ukrainians under Nazi command,” during World War II.
“Division members are accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians, although the unit has not been found guilty of any war crimes by a tribunal,” BBC reported, noting, “The unit was renamed the First Ukrainian Division before surrendering to the Western Allies in 1945.”
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