SS Division Galicia or 14th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS 'Galicia' (1st Ukrainian)
The SS Division Galicia or 14th Grenadier Division of the Waffen SS 'Galicia' (1st Ukrainian) was a military formation in the Wehrmacht during World War II. Formed of volunteers from Galicia in western Ukraine, it was largely destroyed in the battle of Brody, reformed, and saw action in Slovakia, Yugoslavia and Austria before being reformed as the first division of the Ukrainian National Army and surrendering to the Western Allies in 1945.
Before WWII, some Ukrainians, mainly in Galicia, saw the Third Reich as the sole force that might ensure establishment of an independent Ukrainian state, and proposed to the Germans the idea of forming Ukrainian military units. In the beginning of 1943, growing losses inclined German leaders to accept the proposition. The decision was made by the German Governor of District Galicia, Dr. Otto von Wächter to create a Galician Waffen-SS division designed for regular combat on the Eastern Front, the 14th Voluntary Division SS "Galizien", and its formation was announced on 28 April, 1943.
The division was organized by the non-political Ukrainian Central Committee, headed by Volodymyr Kubiyovych with the active involvement of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Bandera faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN- opposed the idea of creating the division, in part because it was an organization outside of its control, and claimed in its propaganda that the division was used by the Germans as cannon fodder. Paradoxically, the division therefore included volunteers wanting to fight for Ukraine who were averse to the fascist ideology underpinning the OUN and therefore reluctant to join the ranks of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). The creation of foreign SS units had been carried out previously-in the name of fighting against communism; with French, Dutch, Latvian, Estonian, Croatian, and Belarusian units, among others, had been created. The formation of the division was announced on 28 April, 1943, from 80,000 Ukrainian who were registered from Galicia. Although the Germans made no political concessions, the division was unique among SS divisions in that its oath of allegiance to Hitler was conditional on the fight against Bolshevism and in the fact that Christian (mostly Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Ukrainian Orthodox) chaplains were integrated into the units and allowed to function (in the German Army, only the Sturmbrigade Wallonien had a minimal clerical presence). The latter condition was instituted at the insistence of the division's organizers in order to minimize the risk of Nazi demoralization amongst the soldiers.cite book| author=Logusz, M. | title=Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945| location= Altglen, Pennsylvania | publisher= Schiffer Military History | year = 1997| ] The creation of a Ukrainian SS division was perceived by many as the first step towards an independent Ukrainian state, and finding volunteers was not a problem. The division was operational by December 1943 but continued to be trained until May 1944.
The Division SS "Galizien" was commanded by German and Ukrainian officers with all senior posts reserved for Germans. 600 German officers were released by Berlin for the formation of the division. 300 were Dutch officers and 300 officers from Eastern Prussia. There were also 300 officers of Ukrainian ethnicity who had previously served in the Austria-Hungarian Army, 100 officers who had served in the Polish army and 100 officers from the army of the Ukrainian National Republic [????, ?. - ?????????? ?????? - ?. 2006 ?. 328] .
The commander-in-chief was SS Oberführer Fritz Freitag, while Sturmbannführer (Major) Wolf Heike was the chief of staff. All regimental commanders were Germans. Sturmbannführer (Major) Binz and Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant-Colonel) Franz Lechthaler were commanders of police regiments.
Soldiers were selected who were no shorter than 1.65 metres in height and between the ages of 18 and 35. Members of the OUN Bandera faction were prohibited from joining but infiltrated the division in significant numbers nonetheless. The uniform was a standard German Wehrmacht uniform. On the right shoulder was a depiction of the Galician Lion and three crowns. The inclusion of the Ukrainian Trident was not allowed. The Galician Lion was a regional symbol rather than a national one. Blue and Yellow Ukrainian national colours were incorporated into the design.
As of July 23, 1943 the Recruiting Commission had checked 26,436 inductees. Of these only 3,281 were found physically fit for duty in the division.
Hauptfuhrer K. Schultz reported to Berlin the following:
*1. 80,000 volunteers had enlisted
*2. 53,000 had been accepted
*3. 42,000 had been added from the lists of conscripts.
*4. 27,000 had been accepted
*5. 1,400 had inquired about joining if they could be released form other duties.
*6. 25,600 had received draft documents.
*7. 19,047 of the conscripted from work.
*8. 13,245 - actual number of new recruits
*9. 1,487 - released because of health
*10. 11,578 - are incarcerated in camps [????, ?. - ?????????? ?????? - ?. 2006 ?. 326] .
The division was sent to the front at the beginning of 1944. Although it lacked combat experience, it was well-equipped and most of its members had undergone more rigorous training than the average German drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1943-44.cite book| author=Logusz, M. | title=Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945| location= Altglen, Pennsylvania | publisher= Schiffer Military History | year = 1997| ]
The division was sent to the area of Brody, where heavy combat was underway, and attached to the 13th Army Corps. Together with six under-strength German infantry divisions, the Galicia Division was responsible for holding a frontage of approximately 80 kilometers. On July 8, the 13th Corps was transferred to the 1st Panzer Army. On July 13, Soviet forces under the command of Marshal Ivan Konev launched their attack. The Galicia Division bore the brunt of a fierce assault by the Soviet Second Air Army, who in only a five hour period on July 15 flew 3,288 aircraft sorties and dropped 102 tons of bombs on it and on two panzer divisions as they attempted a counterattack.cite book| title=History of the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union 1941-1945| location= Moscow | year = 1962| page = 590 ] . By July 19, after fierce battles, the division, together with several German units, was surrounded and defeated by the Red Army. Despite the severity of the fighting, the division maintained its discipline and most of its members were able to break out of the encirclement. Of the approximately 10,400 soldiers deployed at Brody, about 3,000 were able to almost immediately re-enter the division. Another 2,300 resurfaced over a period of several months, having hidden in the forests or in local villages, and a similar number joined the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. Approximately 2,000 were killed and 900 captured.cite book| author=Logusz, M. | title=Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945| location= Altglen, Pennsylvania | publisher= Schiffer Military History | year = 1997| ]
lovakia and Slovenia
The Germans rebuilt the division over several months using reserve units. At the beginning of October 1944, the division was sent to put down the uprising in Slovakia. In the end of January 1945, it was moved to Slovenia, where it fought Tito's partisans while maintaining friendly relations with Serbia's anti-communist Chetnik guerrillas.cite book| author=Logusz, M. | title=Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945| location= Altglen, Pennsylvania | publisher= Schiffer Military History | year = 1997| ]
From April 1 until the end of the war, with a strength of 14,000 combat troops and 8,000 soldiers in a Training and Replacement Regiment, the division fought against the Red Army in the region of Graz in Austria, [http://www.ipn.gov.p..._galizien.html]where in early April it successfully seized the castle and village of Gleichenberg from Soviet forces (including elite Soviet airborne troops from the 3rd Guards Airborne Division) during a counterattack cite book| author=Logusz, M. | title=Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945| location= Altglen, Pennsylvania | publisher= Schiffer Military History | year = 1997| ] and on April 15 repulsed a Soviet counterattack. The division at this time successfully maintained a 13-km front.
1st Ukrainian Division UNA
On March 17, 1945, Ukrainian émigrés established the Ukrainian National Committee to represent the interests of Ukrainians to the Third Reich. Simultaneously, the Ukrainian National Army was created.
The Ukrainian soldiers were imprisoned in Rimini, Italy. The renaming of the division, the fact that its soldiers were, until 1939, citizens of Poland, the intervention of the Vatican saved its members from potentially tragic deportation to the USSR. According to Ukrainian sources, 176 soldiers of the division, following the division's surrender, joined Anders' Polish army. In 1947, former soldiers of SS "Galizien" were allowed to emigrate to Canada and to Britain. [http://www.ipn.gov.p..._galizien.html]
Alleged war atrocities
SS "Galizien" units have been accused of participating the Huta Pieniacka massacre and the suppression of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
"For more information about the subject, see: Huta Pieniacka massacre"
On February 23, 1944, it is alleged that a small detachment from the Division (the Division was in training until May, 1944) took part in a police action against Soviet and Polish Armia Krajowa partisans in the village of Huta Pieniacka. Follow the link above for more details.
The weekly publication of the Polish Home Army - the "Biuletyn Ziemi Czerwienskiej" ("Land of Czerwien Bulletin") for 26 March 1944 (? 12) stated that during the Battle at Pidkamene and Brody, Soviet forces took a couple of hundred soldiers of the SS Galizien division prisoner. All were immediately shot in the Zbarazh castle on the basis that two weeks earlier that had apparently taken part in the killing of the Polish inhabitants of Huta Pienacka, and as a result could not be categorized as POW's [216, p. 8] .
Much more controversial is the allegation that SS "Galizien" units played a role in suppressing the Warsaw Uprising. The investigation made by Polish historians Ryszard Torzecki and Andrzej A. Zieba suggests that there were no uniformed units of SS "Galizien" in Warsaw during the Warsaw Uprising.
The Deschênes Commission
The Canadian "Commission of Inquiry on War Crimes" of October 1986, by the Honourable Justice Jules Deschênes concluded that,
While in [POW camps in] Italy these men were screened by Soviet and British missions and neither then nor subsequently has any evidence brought to light which would suggest that any of them fought against the Western Allies or engaged in crimes against humanity. Their behaviour since they came to this country has been good and they have never indicated in any way that they are infected with any trace of Nazi ideology... From the reports of the special mission set up by the War Office to screen these men it seems clear that they volunteered to fight against the Red Army from nationalistic motives which were given greater impetus by the behaviour of the Soviet authorities during their earlier occupation of the Western Ukraine after the Nazi-Soviet Pact. Although Communist propaganda has constantly attempted to depict these, like so many other refugees, as "quislings" and "war criminals" it is interesting to note that no specific charges of war crimes have been made by the Soviet or any other Government against any member of this group.
The Deschênes Commission went on to explain that:
56- The Galicia Division (14. Waffengrenadierdivision der SS [gal. #1] ) should not be indicted as a group. 57- The members of Galicia Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada. 58- Charges of war crimes of Galicia Division have never been substantiated, either in 1950 when they were first preferred, or in 1984 when they were renewed, or before this Commission. 59- Further, in the absence of evidence of participation or knowledge of specific war crimes, mere membership in the Galicia Division is insufficient to justify prosecution. 60- No case can be made against members of Galicia Division for revocation of citizenship or deportation since the Canadian authorities were fully aware of the relevant facts in 1950 and admission to Canada was not granted them because of any false representation, or fraud, or concealment of material circumstances. 61- In any event, of the 217 officers of the Galicia Division denounced by Mr. Simon Wiesenthal to the Canadian government, 187 (i.e., 86 percent never set foot in Canada, 11 have died in Canada, 2 have left for another country, no prima facie case has been established against 16 and the last one could not be located. [http://www.infoukes....sion/deschenes]
The Division's Names
The division during its short history changed its name a number of times, being known as:
* SS Schuetzen Division "Galizien" or Galizien Division - from July 30 1943 to August 1943 (during recruitment)
* SS Freiwilligen Division "Galizien" - from August 1943 to 27 July 1944 (during training)
* 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr.1) - from August 1944 to the Winter of 1944
* 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (ukrainische Nr.1)- from the Winter of 1944 to Spring 1945
* 1st Ukrainian Division of the Ukrainian National Army - from Spring 1945.
Two other divisions were also planned but were not formed. The Nr. 2 "Lemberg" tank division and the Nr. 3 "Karpatien" Artillery divisionFact|date=July 2008.
In discussing the question of collaborating with Germany, Prof. Davies noted: "A large number of the volunteers for the Waffen SS came from Western Europe. The nation which supplied it the largest number of divisions was the Netherlands [four] . There were two Belgian divisions, there was a French Waffen SS. To my mind, it's rather surprising that Ukraine, which is a much larger country [than the Netherlands or Belgium] supplied only one Waffen SS Division.... It's surprising that there were so few Ukrainians [in the German Army] . Many people don't know, for example, that there were far more Russians fighting alongside the Wehrmacht or in the various German armies than there were Ukrainians.... Thanks to Soviet propaganda, the Russian contribution to the Nazi war effort has been forgotten, whereas the Ukrainian contribution has been remembered, I think, too strongly. [(Andrew Gregorovich, Forum, No. 95, Spring, 1997, p. 34)] "
* List of German divisions in WWII (with links to articles on individual units)
* The Deschênes Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada
*pl icon Jurij Kyryczuk, "Problem ukrainskiej kolaboracji w czasie II wojny swiatowej" in "Polska-Ukraina" vol 6. , Karta, Warszawa 2002, ISBN 8391511154, pp. 244-266
*Caballero Jurado, Carlos. Breaking the Chains: 14 Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS and Other Ukrainian Volunteer Formations, Eastern Front, 1941-45. Halifax, West Yorkshire: Shelf Books, 1998 ISBN 1-899765-02-6
*cite book | author=Davies, W.J.K. | title=German Army Handbook 1939-1945 | edition=Second U.S. Edition | location=New York | publisher=Arco Publishing | year=1981 | id=ISBN 0-668-04291-5
*cite book | author=Hieke, Wolf-Dietrich| title=The Ukrainian Division 'Galicia', 1943-45, A Memoir | publisher=Shevchenko Scientific Society | year= 1988| id=ISBN 0-9690239-4-4
*Landwehr, Richard. Fighting for Freedom: The Ukrainian Volunteer Division of the Waffen-SS. 2nd edition. Silver Spring, Maryland: Bibliophile Legion Books, 1985 ISBN 0-918184-05-3
*cite book | author=Logusz, Michael O.| title=Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division 1943-1945| publisher=Schiffer Publishing | year=1997| id=ISBN 0-7643-0081-4
*cite book | author=Melnyk, Michal James| title= To Battle, The History and Formation of the 14th Waffen SS Grenadier Division | publisher= Helion and Co | year=2002 | edition= second updated edition 2007 | id=ISBN 978-1-874622-19-2
*cite book | author=Munoz, Antonio J. | title= Forgotten Legions: Obscure Combat Formations of the Waffen-SS| publisher=Axis Europa | year= 1991| id=ISBN 0-7394-0817-8
*cite book | author= Quarrie, Bruce | title=Hitler's Samurai: The Waffen-SS in Action | publisher=Arco Pub. 161 pp. | year=1983 | id=ISBN 0-668-05805-6
*cite book | author=Williamson, Gordon | title=Loyalty is my Honor | publisher=Motorbooks International. 192 pp. | year= 1995| id=ISBN 0-7603-0012-7
* Wiktor Poliszczuk "Bitter Truth", 403 pages, ISBN 0-9699444-9-7
* [http://www.waffen-ss.com/home.htmlWaffen-SS.com] - By Thomas Wilhelm (webmaster) et.al.; a site exploring the combat role of the Waffen-SS in WWII; also includes forum