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Neo-Nazis Honor Ukrainian SS on Holocaust Memorial Day

March for the Waffen, 14th volunteer division of the SS, irks local authorities. Is Neo-Nazism in Ukraine becoming endemic?
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 5/2/2014, 9:41 AM

As the March of the Living commenced Monday in Poland, in honor of Holocaust Memorial Day, another type of march commenced in Ukraine: a march of Neo-Nazis supporting the Waffen, the Ukrainian version of the SS. 

Around 500 neo-Nazi supporters marched in Lvov to commemorate the creation of the 14th SS-Volunteer Division ‘Galician’ on April 28, 1943, according to RT

Many of the demonstrators bore the SS Galician divisional insignia - a yellow lion and three crowns on a blue background - and wore nationalist shirts with the Ukrainian colors.

Instead of being a mere show of nationalist pride, protesters chanted slogans which openly supported the aryan ‘Native Land’ and ‘Student Brotherhood of Stepan Bandera’ radical organizations, according to the outlet. 

Demonstrators cried “SS Galician Division!," “Glory to the nation – death to enemies!," and “Bandera and Shukhevich are heroes of Ukraine!” according to UNIAN news agency. The march ended earlier than expected due to the chants after locals submitted a slew of complaints; the march's organizers apologized. 

Local media noted that while neo-Nazi supporters fueled the marchers, none of the actual surviving members of the Waffen participated in the hate march. 

Waffen and Neo-Nazism

The 14th Waffen Division of the SS was a volunteer brigade of Galicians - mostly ethnic Ukrainians, but also Slovaks, Dutch, and Czechs - who briefly served the Nazis in the front against the Red Army. Russia eventually crushed the unit in the Battle of Brody in 1944; it was rebranded as the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army before surrendering to the Allied Forces in 1945. 

The Division garnered the support of multiple religious and political parties in Kiev, including the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

The unit became well-known for its ferocity, winning the admiration of Ukrainain neo-Nazis for generations to come. 

The ugly face of Ukrainian reform?

Moscow has repeatedly leveled allegations of anti-Semitism at the authorities in Kiev, accusing them of being controlled by far-right groups that played a prominent role in protests to oust Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych.    

The unrest in Ukraine has brought with it a rise in anti-Semitic attacks on the region's Jewish population, highlighted by such events as the stabbing of the Deputy Commander of ZAKA Kiev and Hatzalah Kiev Chairman Rabbi Hillel Cohen.

Last month, several more prominent anti-Semitic incidents made headlines, after Nazi-esque leaflets were allegedly distributed asking Jews to "register their religion" and a Ukrainian synagogue was firebombed.

Last week, a band of pro-Russian militants also attacked a Jewish-owned bank, ostensibly over political differences.