By Sam Fleming
Video by Olivea Folkes
An Oakville cemetery is home to a controversial cenotaph memorializing Nazi Soldiers.
The monument, which commemorates the Ukrainian 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Nazi S.S. is in St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery. In April of 1943, the S.S. began recruiting volunteer fighters in Galicia, an area that was previously Soviet-controlled Ukraine.
Multimedia by Jessica Mazze. Text continues below.
An inscription on the monument reads “To those that died for the freedom of Ukraine,” in reference to the fact the unit mainly fought against the Soviet Union, who had long controlled the country. However, the unit’s legacy is a negative one, that includes participation in the murder of Ukrainian Jews and massacre of Polish civilians
“[It’s] not an uncommon problem, how we commemorate history. This is a particularly graphic one because of the association with Nazism, World War Two and genocide,” said Arne Kislenko, a Ryerson University history professor who specializes in 19th and 20th century international relations. “People are likely to have very different interpretations, obviously the parishioners to the church probably understand one particular historical narrative.”
Remembrance Day is much different for many Ukrainians, as the Second World War saw Ukrainians fighting in the armed forces of multiple nations, including Germany and the Soviet Union.
“It’s a day of reflection, it’s a day of remembrance, remembering all those who offered up their lives for our freedom, democracy,” said Petrusya Latyshko from the National Board of the Organization of Ukrainian Women of Canada at a Ukrainian Remembrance Day ceremony in 2018. “[They] sacrificed their lives for that, and we are forever grateful.”
According to Statistics Canada, 40,000 Ukrainian-Canadians fought in the Second World War.
The monument’s dark history has raised concerns over why Nazi soldiers are being remembered in Canada.