Recent op-ed seeks to erase the ugly history of Ukrainian Nazi collaboration
On the second night of Hanukkah, the Postmedia-owned Ottawa Citizen published a crude piece of gross Holocaust revisionism from a Ukrainian nationalist academic.
This comes during a year that has been a boon for rehabilitating Nazi collaborators and neo-Nazis as a result of Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
That month, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland shared a photo of herself on Twitter at a rally in support of Ukraine holding a black and red banner associated with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), led by Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. The tweet was promptly deleted without explanation.
The organization’s military wing, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), worked with the Nazis to ethnically cleanse Volhynia and Eastern Galicia of Poles and Jews in an effort to establish an ethnically-pure Ukrainian state, culminating in the murder of 100,000 Poles by 1943.
Meanwhile, the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion has gone from pariahs to heroes after its participation in the battle of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol in May, with media outlets downplaying the group’s explicit neo-Nazi and fascist origins.
But the author of the Citizen op-ed wants to go a step further in erasing Ukrainian nationalists’ history of Nazi collaboration.
Calling for the Holocaust Monument to recognize Ukrainian deaths
“I’m offended,” begins the piece by Royal Military College professor and Fellow of the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Toronto Lubomyr Luciuk, headlined “Ottawa’s National Holocaust Monument must include Ukrainians.”
Luciuk goes on to describe how his mother, Maria Luciuk, was arrested by the Nazis when she was a teenager and then mentions his friend, Ukrainian nationalist Stefan Petelycky, who was placed in Auschwitz.
Petelycky even had a number tattooed on his arm, like Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
“Certainly, Ukrainians weren’t the Holocaust’s only victims. Millions of Jews died,” he says in a paragraph that has to be seen to be believed:
Millions of Polish Catholics were murdered. And I acknowledge the Russians who ran afoul of Nazi racism, even if I despise the fascism infecting Russia today. Indeed all Slavic peoples were considered untermenschen (subhumans). The Nazis planned to exterminate or deport most of them, leaving only a few to serve as helots, bond servants of the Third Reich’s settler-colonial imperialism. Thankfully, the Nazis were defeated. Millions of Ukrainians died making sure of that.
Never mind all the Jewish Ukrainians who were murdered with the assistance of Nazi-sympathizing nationalists, like the 33,000 murdered in the massacre at Babi Yar.
Luciuk is putting forward a fictitious narrative, where the Nazis’ local collaborators were just as victimized as the people they targeted for extermination.
As Holocaust historian Jean-Paul Himka, who happens to be Freeland’s uncle by marriage, has said, Ukrainian nationalists saw their main enemy as the Soviet Union and to that end were willing to work with the Nazis, and adopt their antisemitic views, to fight the Soviets.
However, these sympathies weren’t reciprocated by the Nazis.
“The Germans did not agree to a Ukrainian state, and in fact they placed the major OUN leaders and placed them under house arrest, because they did not want the Ukrainian state encroaching on their Lebensraum,” Himka explained during the Toby and Saul Reichert Holocaust Lecture at the University of Alberta in October 2021.
But even as relations between Ukrainian nationalists and the Third Reich frayed, the UPA continued massacring Jews and Poles, he said.
“Certainly, the Germans are absolutely the most responsible for the Holocaust—no question, but they could not have done what they did without local help,” Himka concluded.
In Himka’s book, Ukrainian Nationalists and the Holocaust: OUN and UPA’s Participation in the Destruction of Ukrainian Jewry, 1941–1944, he calls Luciuk’s friend Petelycky’s memoirs of his time with the OUN “airbrushed but still informative.”
Petelycky witnessed a brutal massacre of Jews by the Ukrainian militia Wiking in 1941, but said he and the OUN did nothing to stop it because they regarded Jews as Soviet collaborators. However, Petelycky added, it wasn’t fair to view all Jews in this light.
A blatant lie in Luciuk’s column
Luciuk presents a blatant falsehood in his piece, arguing a plaque at the National Holocaust Monument says: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.”
“Underscoring Nazi Germany’s responsibility for a genocide is essential. Emphasizing the six million Jewish dead is required. But why, despite almost two dozen other plaques, was the suffering of millions of non-Jewish victims largely ignored?” the author complains.
But his transcription is inaccurate and incomplete, as evidenced by an image of the plaque included at the bottom of the article, which clearly reads: “The National Holocaust Monument commemorates the six million Jewish men, women and children murdered during the Holocaust and the millions of other victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators.”
How did this get past an editor?
Musing about defacing a Holocaust monument
Luciuk continues by offering to pay for a new plaque that recognizes Polish, Ukrainian, and Russian Holocaust victims, calling their lack of explicit inclusion “deliberate” and “discriminatory.”
The column’s penultimate paragraph is the most bizarre, in which Luciuk expects admiration for not defacing the Holocaust memorial, throwing in a dash of culture war nonsense:
There are too many hungry people out there for me to toss tomato soup at this monument; I’ll donate the can to a food bank instead. Likewise, I won’t indulge in criminal vandalism, like those hooligans who spray-paint statues at night. Armed with the courage of my convictions, I protest in daylight, sans balaclava. As for those stoked-up packs tearing up about tearing down statues—doing so neither erases their purportedly unhappy pasts nor does it compensate for present-day failings.
This paragraph also contains a subtle reference to Duncan Kinney, the progressive Edmonton-based journalist who is accused of defacing two local monuments to Nazi collaborators—one to UPA commander Roman Shukhevych at the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex and another to the 14th Waffen SS Division at St. Michael’s Cemetery.
Luciuk wrote about this case in a November 4 article for the Times of Israel, which has since been mysteriously scrubbed from its website, perhaps because it cites security footage from the Ukrainian community centre that is evidence in a criminal case Luciuk has no involvement in.
In it, he writes:
Mr Kinney can believe whatever he wants about Ukrainian nationalists. The same goes for the others from whom he musters denunciations of General Shukhevych. Often as not those commentators studiously ignore how some of their people were the foot soldiers of settler-colonial regimes or enablers of the Soviet occupation of Ukraine.
Who is “their people,” you might ask.
Despite the fact that Kinney hasn’t been convicted of the crime he’s accused of, Luciuk demands “this hooliganism… be atoned for.”
“The penance should involve a public confession and reparations paid for the damages done, followed by a spell of meaningful community service—cleaning graffiti from public spaces around Edmonton suggests itself,” he wrote.
But it’s not just regarding Ukrainian nationalism where Luciuk’s opinions are unhinged.
Luciuk, who sat on the Immigration and Refugee Board from 1996-98, wrote a 2001 op-ed, where he boasted of rejecting 90 percent of refugee claimants, earning himself the moniker of “Dr. No.”
“Be a liar. That is the first lesson most claimants who come before the Immigration and Refugee Board learn,” reads the column’s opening paragraph.
Hilary Evans Cameron, a former immigration lawyer and Osgoode Hall law professor, told Global News an adjudicator must assume all claimants are telling the truth until proven otherwise.
She teaches Luciuk’s article in her first-year law class to give students a “sense of the kind of ideas that might be in a decision-maker’s mind if they were getting the law wrong.”
Perhaps Holocaust historians ought to start teaching his Citizen op-ed as an example of a disturbing mainstreaming of Holocaust distortion.
The question is through what sort of editorial oversight was this schlock published in the first place.
Jeremy Appel is an independent Calgary-based journalist. He’s also the co-host of the Forgotten Corner and Big Shiny Takes podcasts.