WJC urges Ukrainian Orthodox Church leader to act against glorification of Nazi soldiers

22 August 2013

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church should work to stop clergy from participating in neo-Nazi events in Ukraine, the World Jewish Congress said today in a letter to the head of the church. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder asked Patriarch Filaret in a letter to speak out against events glorifying the Nazis. Lauder referred to a recent ceremony near Lviv marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Galician division of the Waffen SS, in which Ukrainians fought on the side of Nazi Germany.

The WJC president wrote: “I was horrified to see photographs […] of young Ukrainians wearing the dreaded SS uniform with swastikas clearly visible on their helmets as they carried the caskets of members of this Nazi unit, lowered them into their new graves, and fired gun salutes in their honor. I was especially troubled by the participation in this ceremony of a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that appeared to give a religious legitimacy to the rehabilitation of the SS.”

In late July, Ukrainians wearing SS uniforms were photographed trudging through trenches and fire rifles in a reconstruction of a key battle against the Soviets during World War II. An Orthodox priest led a ceremony for fallen soldiers of the Nazi unit, sprinkling his blessing over several men sporting swastikas who lowered a coffin in a ritual reburial.

In his letter, Lauder expressed hope that Filaret would use his “moral authority to prevent any further rehabilitation of Nazism or the SS, and that you will call on the clergy of your Church not to participate in any future ceremonies or events that glorify or legitimize a uniform that epitomizes the evil of genocide.”

Lauder also mentioned that Oleg Pankevich, a lawmaker for the extreme-right Svoboda party, took part in the reburial ceremony.

“As you know, leaders of Svoboda, like their counterparts in Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, frequently engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric that has ominous implications,” Lauder wrote the church leader.

He said that the World Jewish Congress would hold a meeting of its Executive Committee in Kiev next year and invited Patriarch Filaret to attend the gathering.


Full text of the letter of Ronald S. Lauder to Patriarch Filaret

Your Excellency:

I vividly recall the evening you and other Ukrainian religious leaders spent at my home in April of 2012.  I also know from Rabbi Yaakov Bleich of your longstanding friendship with him and with the Jewish community. I greatly admire both your commitment to strengthening the bonds among Ukrainians of different faiths your opposition over the years to anti-Semitism and other forms of racial and religious prejudice.

It is in this spirit I am writing to you today to express the deep concerns of Jews throughout the world at the recent glorification of the Ukrainian Halychyna (Galician) Waffen-SS division during a reburial ceremony in the village of Gologory in Western Ukraine on July 28. I was horrified to see photographs, some of which I enclose with this letter, of young Ukrainians wearing the dreaded SS uniform with swastikas clearly visible on their helmets as they carried the caskets of members of this Nazi unit, lowered them into their new graves, and fired gun salutes in their honor. I was especially troubled by the participation in this ceremony of a priest of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that appeared to give a religious legitimacy to the rehabilitation of the SS.

As you know, men and women wearing the uniforms of the SS and the Waffen-SS committed unspeakable atrocities against Jews and members of other religious and ethnic groups during World War II. As you so wisely and sensitively said in your remarks following your visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in May of 2012, while the inhumane Holocaust atrocities are unlikely to be repeated in the future, “the evil can happen in another form if people are indifferent to its emergence at the beginning.”

We are also deeply troubled by the fact that Oleg Pankevich, a deputy from the ultra-nationalist Svoboda party, also took part in the Gologory reburial ceremony.  As you know, leaders of Svoboda, like their counterparts in Jobbik in Hungary and Golden Dawn in Greece, frequently engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric that has ominous implications.  
Urging Ukrainians to join the Halychyna SS division in 1943, Volodymyr Kubiyovych, the head of the Ukrainian Central Committee, declared that:

"The long-awaited moment has arrived when the Ukrainian people again have the opportunity to come out with guns to give battle with its most grievous foe -- Muscovite-Jewish Bolshevism. The Fuehrer of the Great German Reich has agreed to the formation of a separate Ukrainian volunteer military unit under the name SS Riflemen's Division “Halychyna” ... You must stand shoulder to shoulder with the unbeatable German army and destroy, once and for all, the Jewish-Bolshevist monster.”

Filaret, the patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox ChurchIn this context, the frequent references by Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnibok to a “Moscow-Jewish mafia” take on a sinister significance.

I hope that you will your unique moral authority to prevent any further rehabilitation of Nazism or the SS, and that you will call on the clergy of your Church not to participate in any future ceremonies or events that glorify or legitimize a uniform that epitomizes the evil of genocide.

I hope to have the opportunity to meet with you again soon.  The World Jewish Congress, which represents more than 100 Jewish communities throughout the world, is planning to hold a meeting of our Executive in Kiev in 2014, and it will be our privilege to have you with us as our honored guest on that occasion.

As we approach the most sacred time of the Jewish calendar, allow me to extend my best wishes to you and all the members of your Church.

Respectfully yours,

Ronald S. Lauder

Ukrainian version:

Ваше Преосвященство,

Я добре пам’ятаю вечір, який Ви разом з іншими українськими релігійними лідерами провели в мене вдома в квітні 2012 року. Також від рабина Якова Дов Блайха мені відомо про Вашу тривалу дружбу з ним та єврейською громадою. Я захоплююсь Вашим бажанням зміцнити зв’язки серед українців різних релігійних конфесій, Вашим багаторічним протестом проти антисемітизму та інших проявів расових та релігійних упереджень.

Сьогодні я Вам пишу, бажаючи висловити серйозну стурбованість євреїв всього світу стосовно нещодавнього прославлення української дивізії Ваффен СС «Галичина» під час церемонії перепоховання в селі Гологори на Західній Україні 28 липня. Я був шокований, побачивши фотографії (деякі додані до листа) молодих українців, вбраних у форму СС з явно вираженою свастикою на шоломах, які несли труни членів цієї нацистської дивізії, опускали їх в нові могили та стріляли салют на їх честь. Мене особливо стурбувала участь у цій церемонії священника Української Православної Церкви, який цим самим, здавалося, давав релігійне схвалення на відновлення доброго імені СС.

Як відомо, чоловіки і жінки, які носили уніформу СС і Ваффен-СС, здійснили несказанні звірства проти євреїв і представників інших релігійних та етнічних груп під час Другої світової війни. Ви у своїх помітках після Вашого візиту до Меморіального музею Голокосту в США у травні 2012 року дуже мудро і делікатно відмітили, що в той час як нелюдські звірства Голокосту навряд чи повторяться в майбутньому, "зло може статися в іншій формі, якщо від початку його прояву люди будуть байдужими. "

Ми також глибоко стурбовані тим, що Олег Панкевич, депутат від ультра-націоналістичної партії Свобода, також взяв участь у церемонії перепоховання в селі Гологори. Як ви знаєте, лідери Свободи, як і колеги в Йоббіку в Угорщині та Золотого Світанку в Греції, часто вдаються антисемітської риторики, яка має зловісні наслідки.

Настійно закликаючи українців приєднатися до дивізії СС «Галичина» в 1943 році, Володимир Кубійович, голова Українського Центрального комітету, заявив, що: "Настав той довгоочікуваний момент, коли український народ знову має можливість вийти зі зброєю, щоб дати бій своєму найзапеклішому ворогові - московсько-єврейському більшовизму. Фюрер Великого німецького рейху погодився на формування окремого українського військового підрозділу добровольців під назвою «Галицька стрілецька дивізія СС»… Ви повинні стояти пліч о пліч з неперевершеною німецькою армією і знищити раз і назавжди єврейсько-більшовицького монстра."

У цьому контексті, часті посилання лідера Свободи Олега Тягнибока на "Московсько-єврейську мафію" набувають зловісного значення.

Я сподіваюся, що Ви своїм унікальним моральним авторитетом допоможете запобігти подальшій реабілітації нацизму або СС та що Ви будете закликати духовенство Вашої Церкви не брати участь у будь-яких майбутніх церемоніях або подіях, які прославляють або узаконюють уніформу, яка уособлює собою зло геноциду.

Я сподіваюся отримати можливість зустрітися з Вами найближчим часом. Всесвітній Єврейський Конгрес, який представляє понад 100 єврейських громад з усього світу, планує провести зустріч нашої виконавчої влади в м. Києві в 2014 році, і ми вважатимемо за честь вітати Вас як нашого почесного гостя з цієї нагоди.

Оскільки ми наближаємося до найсвященнішого часу єврейського календаря, дозвольте мені висловити мої найкращі побажання Вам і всім членам Вашої Церкви.

З повагою,

Рональд С. Лаудер

Who honors the 'soldiers of Hitler'?

Comment by WJC Vice-President Boris Fuchsmann, chairman of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine

"I swear to the German Supreme Leader and Commander of the German Army Adolf Hitler in unfailing loyalty and obedience. I solemnly declare to perform all orders and instructions of the chiefs ... I understand that after this oath I am subject to all German military disciplinary. "

These are the words of the oath, which “fighters” from the division 'SS Galicia'. As you can see, they took an oath to Hitler, and not Ukraine, contrary to historical truth, radical Ukrainian nationalists like to declare.

That is why an action which recently took place in the village Holohory in Lviv region seems to be a mockery of the memory of millions of victims of Nazism. There not just the remains of soldiers of the division 'SS Galicia' were reburied, but it was done solemnly and with all military honors and the use of the National Flag of Ukraine. Persons who transferred the remains were dressed in a Nazi uniform. Swastika again flashed in western Ukraine. This 'event' also was attended by some local politicians, including one of the deputies from the Freedom faction in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament.

I have to say that in recent years in Ukraine certain political forces attempt to whitewash Nazi collaborators from the 'SS Galicia'. To do this, those who are interested in it, often resort to an outright lie that there are no words about the 'SS Galicia' in the decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal process. Actually, the Nuremberg Tribunal clearly recognized SS including its division 'Waffen SS', to which the 'SS Galicia' belonged as criminal organizations. There are futile attempts to show this division as Ukrainian fighting force. Ukrainians were just a cannon fodder in this division. Germans occupied all top positions in the division, commanded by SS General Freitag.

Here it is worthy to say that a "martial way" of this SS division didn’t begin next to Brody region as some nationalist historian claim, but from the battle against Ukrainian Soviet partisans of Sidor Kovpak’s division and also from punitive actions against the Polish population. The climax of this 'heroism' resulted in the destruction of the Polish village of Huta Pyanyatska under the order of Himmler. Poles describe that local residents were herded into barns and burned alive. Historians who are loyal to the SS say that it was just a battle with the partisans in which civilians also were killed. However, the fact is that in today there is nothing at the place of the village Huta a memorial to civilians who died.

In the first battle against the regular units of the Red Army in July 1944, "SS Galicia" was utterly defeated. From fourteen thousands of its members only three thousands survived. This concluded the existence of this division which acted under the orders of the Reichsführer SS and his henchmen.

Knowing all this, two questions arise. First one is as follow: do all decisions of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN General Assembly resolution of 12 December 2012, which stated the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism, are mandatory for Ukraine?

And the second question is: Who benefits from such "ceremonies"? Responding to this one can come a definite conclusion that this is a clear provocation against Ukraine's European choice.

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Mon, 16 Sep 2013

This news story hit home because my family actually lived in Gologory for many generations.

The Soviets deported some Jews to Siberia when they took over Gologory in 1939 because they deemed them "capitalists".

The majority of the Jews remained in Gologory. All were murdered during the German occupation, 1940/1941. They were unarmed civilians who were victims of hatred and bigotry.

There were over 500 Jews who called Gologory their home, before World War II. Only a dozen Jews returned to Gologory from Siberia.

They left the village because there was nothing left for them to rebuild.

They made new lives for themselves in the United States and Israel.


Wed, 28 Aug 2013

From the pictures, I can see that the priests are NOT dressed in Orthodox vestments. The clergy are part of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and your letter should be addressed the hea of that church.

Marianne Poulos

Wed, 28 Aug 2013

These Eastern Europe communities that pay tribute to Hitler disgust me. On the one hand, they do this because he liberated them from the atheist Communists, but who can honor someone who didn't know how to be a human being?

For the record, the Greek Orthodox clergy, especially, in Cyprus, gave their own names to Nazi leaders when they demanded that church leaders turn over a list of all Jews living there. Instead, the church leaders gave the Nazi's a list with all of their own names on it, and not one Jew.


Sun, 25 Aug 2013

And do WJC condemn the honoring ofta red army soldiers, because of their involvment in war crimes?

Philip M. McGhee

Sat, 24 Aug 2013

Dear Mr. Lauder: I have nothing but total revulsion for anything the glorifies racism and anti-Semitism. I heard about the re-burials of Ukrainians nationalists in Lviv and was pleased that you protest. I am wondering. did you protest to the right person. The Lviv region is actually heavily Catholic and the vesture of the priests seem to conform more with Ukrainian Catholic usage, than Ukrainian orthodox custom. A clear indication is the lack of beards among the clergy. If my suspicions are true your protest should have been sent to the Archbishop Major of the Ukrainian Catholic church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shewchuk in Kiev. I am sure if it is his people, he will take action, As a matter of fact, one of his predecessors, Archbishop Andrew Sheptitsky has been declared a Righteous Gentile at Yad Vashem. On the other hand, this may be a dissdent Catholic group, affiliated with the Holocaust denier, Archbishop Williamson. I am simply writing this to you so that you and your organization can avoid any potential embarrassment. Another priest of thei church, Blessed Oleg Kviech was martyred by the Nazis for saving Jews during the Holocaust and his life is now the subject of a TV documentary. BTW, I learned most of my Hebrew at synagogue in Thessaloniki, Greece, even I am not Jewish. I hope you can check this reservations out. Please accept my best wishes for you during the coming High Holidays. Sincerely, Philip M.McGhee


Fri, 23 Aug 2013

Hitler may be gone, but the underlying seeds of Anti Semitism remain buried deep in the psyche of much of the world. It is true that the people of the Ukraine and Poland and the other eastern countries have suffered under the imperialism of Russia - both Bolshevik and Tsarist. However, the desire for freedom will not be nourished by the waters of hatred of other people, whose right to a peaceful existence is beyond dispute. Such discrimination only sullies the quest of the indigenous peoples of these areas of the globe. To burn the Jew Jesus is not to honor. I suppose the Ukrainians would have burned, maimed and shot Jesus today. After all he was a Jew.


Fri, 23 Aug 2013

Why bother. Hatred of Jews is a genetic disease in Ukraine and elsewhere.