Canadian Air Force Officer Who Knowingly Brought Ukrainian Nazis to Canada

Heinrich Himmler inspecting Waffen-SS Galicia Division, June 3, 1944.

TML is posting below an article by David Pugliese, published in Esprit du Corps, October 30, 2020, about a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force who covered up the crimes of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators to facilitate their entry into Canada.

In May both the Globe and Mail newspaper and CBC's As It Happens radio show carried laudatory reports about a Royal Canadian Air Force veteran and his efforts to bring Ukrainian refugees to Canada in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Flight Lt. Bohdan Panchuk was the man behind the Ukrainian Canadian Servicemen's Association (UCSA), which supported the cultural and social needs of Canadians of Ukrainian heritage serving overseas during the Second World War. Panchuk was also involved in the effort that saw as many as 30,000 Ukrainian refugees brought to Canada after the war.

The media focus on Panchuk, who died in 1987, came about because Ukrainian groups in Canada and the United Kingdom were honouring him and the UCSA by unveiling a stained glass window on the 75th anniversary of the Victory in Europe.

By all accounts Panchuk contributed to Canada's war effort and helping Ukrainian refugees from war-torn Europe.

But missing from the accolades in the Globe article and the CBC broadcast were the details about some of the Ukrainian "refugees" that Panchuk managed to convince the Canadian government to accept 2,000 members of Adolf Hitler's Waffen-SS.

Panchuk was able to get members of the 14th Waffen-SS Division Galicia into Canada by lying about their past.

Members of the unit had surrendered to Allied forces and were being held in a camp in Italy. In an attempt to hide the SS connection, the unit had changed its name in the last few days of the war to the First Division Ukrainian National Army.

Panchuk was trying to get Canada to accept large numbers of soldiers from the unit but he had a major problem. The Canadian government would not accept as immigrants anyone who voluntarily served in the German military. Not only had the Ukrainians voluntarily served in Hitler's war machine but they had eagerly signed up for the Waffen-SS, which had been declared a criminal organization by the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal.

Those who served in the 14th Waffen-SS Division Galicia had taken an oath to Hitler and had received education in Nazi doctrine. Ukrainian officers had been trained at SS facilities in the Dachau concentration camp. In fact, some of the division's members have noted in their memoirs that concentration camp prisoners were required to remove their hats as a sign of respect for the Ukrainian SS. Unit members were given SS tattoos under their left arm indicating their blood group. Leadership of the division included some key figures who had been directly involved in the Holocaust.

As part of his efforts to have Canada accept the Ukrainian SS soldiers, Panchuk pushed a "positive narrative portraying the former Galicians as an anti-Soviet" German Army unit, noted Ukrainian historian Olesya Khromeychuk. She is the author of the book "Undetermined Ukrainians" which looks at the various narratives surrounding the 14th Waffen-SS Division Galicia.

No mention was made of the SS. Instead, the Ukrainians were portrayed by Panchuk as being victims, having been forced into the division against their will.

If Canadian immigration officials had actually probed deeply into the background of the 14th Waffen-SS division they would have found few victims in its ranks. "The volunteers (of the Galician Division) committed themselves to German victory, the New European Order, and to Adolf Hitler personally," explained Per Anders Rudling, a historian of Eastern European history and Associate Professor at the Department of History at Lund University, Sweden. The division not only fought the Polish Home Army but it took part in the crushing of the Slovak National Uprising and hunted down anti-Nazi partisans in Slovenia. There were also allegations of war crimes being committed by division members.

While some in the Canadian government didn't probe deeply into the background of the Ukrainian "refugees," British government bureaucrats knew who they were dealing with and were more than happy to dump the SS troops into Canada's lap. "The Division was an SS division and technically all of its officers and senior NCOs are liable for trial as war criminals," noted a report from Britain's Under-Secretary of State.

The British government also knew only cursory background checks had been conducted into the division members and their activities during the war. In 2005 the release of new documents from the British archives outlined the extent of the efforts in the late 1940s to pawn off members of 14th Waffen SS Division Galicia on to Canada. "What little we know of their war record is bad," wrote Beryl Hughes, who was handling the issue for Britain's Home Office. "We're still hoping to get rid of the less desirable Ukrainian PoWs either to Germany or Canada," Hughes added in another note in 1948.

Even Panchuk knew he was dealing with some unsavoury individuals but that didn't stop him in his deception. "We must defend the principle of the refugees and DPs (displaced persons) and victims of war, but, in actual fact, God forbid and protect us if some of these parasitic bandits ever get into Canada," he wrote to a colleague, John Karasevich.

Not everyone was fooled. Some members of the Canadian-Ukrainian community knew exactly who these "refugees" were and Panchuk's campaign faced strong opposition from the Association of United Ukrainians in Canada, Khromeychuk, the historian, revealed in her book. "It is clear that Mr. Panchuk and his Association either forgets the facts, that no Canadian could forget or feels that Canadians have already forgotten their sons who have fallen on the battlefields of Europe," the association wrote to Canadian immigration officials. "Ukrainian Division (Galicia) was part and parcel of the Hitler army. It was against them that our Canadian boys fought on the battlefields of Italy. Many a Canadian son remained over there, shot by the VERY ONES that Mr. Panchuk would wish your Department to bring to Canada."

But pressure from the nationalist Ukrainian lobby in Canada as well as the British government was too great and Panchuk was successful. As many as 2,000 members of 14th SS Division Galicia arrived in Canada in the 1950s and immediately started to whitewash and cover up their past.

The effectiveness of that whitewash was on display in 2020 -- neither the CBC nor the Globe and Mail appeared to have a clue about the SS connection to Panchuk's "refugees." The Globe article even has a photo of Panchuk visiting members of "Ukrainian Division Galicia" in 1947 as they awaited their release from the PoW camp in Italy. Globe journalists and photo editors were oblivious that those in the photo were members of the notorious 14th Waffen SS Division Galicia.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 8 - September 2023

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