Podcast / The Time of Monsters / Oct 22, 2023

How Canada Became a Nazi Haven 

On this episode of The Time of Monsters, Lev Golinkin on the Cold War origins of the celebration of the Waffen SS.

The Nation Podcasts
The Nation Podcasts

Here's where to find podcasts from The Nation. Political talk without the boring parts, featuring the writers, activists and artists who shape the news, from a progressive perspective.

How Canada Became a Nazi Haven | The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer
byThe Nation Magazine

Last month, the Canadian parliament embarrassed itself during an official visit by Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky when the entire legislative body gave a standing ovation to a veteran of the Waffen SS, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi movement. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later apologized for incident. 

To understand what happened, it’s important to realize that Canada, like other Western nations, has a long history of sheltering Nazi war criminals. This was not a matter of negligence but official policy. During the Cold War, these hardened Nazi criminals were seen as valuable allies against the Soviet Union. This policy is all the more shameful because during World War II, the vast majority of Ukrainians who took up arms did so in the Red Army against Nazism.

Lev Golinkin, a Ukrainian-American reporter, has been doing excellent work for The Forward and The Nation bringing this shameful history to light. On this episode of The Time of Monsters, I sat down with Lev to talk about the long history of Canada’s hospitality to Nazi war criminals. In the podcast, he references this enlightening video.

Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands

Privacy & Opt-Out: https://redcircle.com/privacy

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the House of Commons in Ottawa, Canada, on September 22, 2023.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the House of Commons in Ottawa, Canada, on September 22, 2023.

(Sean Kirkpatrick / Pool / AFP via Getty Images)

Last month, the Canadian Parliament embarrassed itself during an official visit by Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Zelensky when the entire legislative body gave a standing ovation to a veteran of the Waffen SS, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi movement. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later apologized for the incident. 

To understand what happened, it’s important to realize that Canada, like other Western nations, has a long history of sheltering Nazi war criminals. This was not a matter of negligence but official policy. During the Cold War, these hardened Nazi criminals were seen as valuable allies against the Soviet Union. This policy is all the more shameful because during World War II, the vast majority of Ukrainians who took up arms did so in the Red Army against Nazism.

Lev Golinkin, a Ukrainian-American reporter, has been doing excellent work for The Forward and The Nation bringing this shameful history to light. On this episode of The Time of Monsters, I sat down with Lev to talk about the long history of Canada’s hospitality to Nazi war criminals. In the podcast, he references this enlightening video.

The Nation Podcasts
The Nation Podcasts

Here's where to find podcasts from The Nation. Political talk without the boring parts, featuring the writers, activists and artists who shape the news, from a progressive perspective.

Marty Peretz And The Neoliberal Reckoning | The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer
byThe Nation Magazine

On this episode of The Time of Monsters, David Klion on the legacy of the former New Republic publisher.

Advertising Inquiries: https://redcircle.com/brands

Privacy & Opt-Out: https://redcircle.com/privacy

Jeet Heer: The old world is dying, the new world struggles to be born, and now is the time of monsters. With those words from Gramsci, I welcome you to the Time of Monsters podcast. This podcast is sponsored by The Nation magazine and is available on The Nation website as well as all other major platforms for podcasting.

This week we’re going to take up several classes of monsters of some of the worst deeds that have been done in human history. And the or just the discussion of our recent controversy or really embarrassment that happened in Canada where on the occasion of Ukrainian president Zelensky coming to Canada to speak to Parliament.

The Speaker of Parliament Anthony Rota introduced an elderly man named Yaroslav Hanka, who was said to have fought against the Russians during World War II. And the entire Parliament a part of this gentleman and as it turned out, he had belonged to the Waffen SS and as a consequence the Speaker lost his position, was widely blamed for it and Pierre, and Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister, expressed great embarrassment to him.

On behalf of Canada. What I want to suggest is that this one time this incident shouldn’t be treated as a one time thing that it’s part of a much larger pattern of that is rooted in the fact that Canada. Like other countries after the Second World War admitted people who were veterans of the SS that there was then state promotion of some of these individuals for reasons we’ll get into and there’s a continuing whitewashing of this history and to perhaps the best person I can think of to talk about this is someone who’s written very well and exceptionally about it.

He’s a Ukrainian American named Gavlon sorry Lev Golinkin. He has written for the nation. I’m very happy to say. He’s also written for Forward and for the New York Times. Now Lev, before we restart, I mean, I think one good place to maybe begin the discussion is talk about some of the that is given to individuals like Hanka, like when we talk about people who were Ukrainians and fought for the Waffen SS.

And before we even go forward, forward to that, I want to say, like, I think one thing that people need to absolutely keep in mind is the majority, even the vast majority of Ukrainians who fought in the Second World War fought in the Red Army. That is to say, they fought against Nazism, and these were the they suffered some of the heaviest casualties in the Second World War.

And so people like Hanka, who fought on behalf of the SS, were very much a minority among Ukrainians. But, for a variety of reasons, there’s a desire to make apologia for these individuals. And so, before we get into the, you know, the history of how this came about, let’s just address, you know, what are some of the excuses that get made.

Well,

Lev Golinkin: thank you very, very much for having me on and I’m so glad that the Nation is helping sponsor and produce this. I mean, I still remember you tweeting out a long time ago about you know, the strike the, the history of some of this, and I remember seeing it, and it inspired me to learn a little more, too.

Thank you also very, very much for pointing out. That the vast majority of Ukrainians fought against the Nazis because the media is doing something that’s so irresponsible Is that they’re saying that these SS soldiers, they’re like, well, you know in Ukraine, they’re seen as freedom fighters Okay, the overwhelming majority of Ukraine fought against the Nazis.

They lost family fighting against Nazis It’s so insulting to say that a country which lost millions in this battle To them, these people are reviled. To them, these collaborators are the worst scum. And to say that this is, it’s, it would be, it would be as irresponsible, if not more, as saying that you know, Robert E.

Lee and Stonewall Jackson are heroes for America, they’re American heroes. In America, people see them as heroes. They, no, they don’t. They see them as heroes in a very specific, geographical, region in a very specific culture and in Ukraine, it’s even more stark because we’re talking about 99 percent. We’re talking about a very small piece of Ukraine that fought with the Nazis.

So, you know, these people try to cover them, present themselves up as speaking for Ukrainians and they’re not. It would be like people who defend the Confederacy pretending that they’re speaking for all of Americans where they are. Yeah, yeah,

Jeet Heer: yeah, and I would say even much more so, you know, like I actually think like if you turn terms of the population The white southerners who supported the Confederacy were a bigger part of the US.

Far bigger. Far bigger. Far bigger. Yeah So so so yeah, I mean, let’s get so and what are some of the let’s just Quickly go over some of these, the apologia, like, what are some of the excuses that are made for this? Like, you know, I normally wouldn’t think belonging, being a member of the SS should be, you know, that should be the disqualifying.

I

Lev Golinkin: know, it’s, it’s, the entire thing is based on gaslighting, because that’s the only way you can defend the indefensible. Well, there’s two ways to defend the indefensible. One is accuse anybody who criticizes Nazis of being a Russia, a Russian propagandist. And the second thing is gaslighting. Okay? What these people do is logic that, like, a remedial eighth grade debate would consider to be flawed, okay?

For example, one of the things they say is, oh, they didn’t fight against the they didn’t fight for the Germans, they fought against the Soviets, okay? Which is like saying, you know, Tom Brady didn’t play for the Patriots, he played against the opponents of the Patriots while wearing a Patriots uniform and committing actions with favorable results.

These people were, like, think about it, why would Germany, was Germany in favor of just creating random divisions, and arming them, and training them, and then just letting them do their thing? They fought for Nazi Germany. In German uniform, they were equipped, they were commanded by Nazi officers, they did a brutal suppression of anti German resistance in Slovakia, they did everything they did.

They fought for… for the Germans and because that is what they did. Okay. So that’s number one. Number two is people say, oh, they’re not, it’s, it’s even slanderous to consider them Nazis. Okay. They weren’t in the Nazi party. Okay. They were in the Waffen SS, which a lot of people don’t know what it is. Okay.

They were not in the German army. The Waffen SS was separate from the German armed forces. The Waffen SS was a part of the SS, and the SS was the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. So they were literally in the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. Okay? Claiming, I mean, it’s, it’s like, what more do you want from them?

Do you want them to have, like, memoirs of hanging out with Hitler? Like, they, they were in the paramilitary part of the Nazi party. Okay. And again, it’s just pure gaslighting. Okay. Another thing is that, you know, they were forced into doing this, and this is Canada had a despicable outpouring of people saying things that otherwise, if they wrote this about any other SS group or any other Nazi group, they would have been fired.

Okay. Somebody said that these people were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Okay. The Waffen SS, the Nazis, were in the wrong place at the wrong time, okay? The people that were in the wrong place at the wrong time were the people who they burned alive. For example, the Polish villagers they burned alive.

Those were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they say, and this is just so fascinating, okay? They say that these people didn’t have a choice. They hated Germany. Germany, Germans looked at them as second class citizens. They wanted to build a better Ukraine, so they joined Germany, okay? Well…

First of all, the contradiction is that these people say that Germany didn’t want to allow them Ukraine independence. So you’re saying that Germany didn’t want to allow you independence. So in order to gain independence, you fought for Germany? Okay. But the biggest thing, and this is just fascinating, and I urge the readers to just look it up.

I’ve the forward tweet about this, I’m sure the nation will too. There is a two and a half minute video, okay? It’s captured German footage. It’s part of the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It’s in the archives of the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Germans needed these people. They were losing the war.

The reason why they recruited these Ukrainians is because they needed soldiers. And so what they did is they threw them elaborate ceremonies, okay, and told them how important they are. Okay. The Germans needed them because they were losing the war and they needed troops. There is footage, a two and a half minute video.

of the elaborate festivities and Nazi rallies that are thrown to these people, okay, with some of the very important head people of the region going there to cheer them on, people who are intimately involved with the Holocaust, people who are high up in the Third Reich, okay? You don’t have to take my word for it, and you certainly don’t need to take the word of somebody who’s saying they had no choice and the SS were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All you have to do is look at that video. Look at that video of them cheering, loving it, of them hanging out with their families, of them celebrating at the Nazi rallies, okay? And then tell me whether they were oppressed or tell me that they were, you know They were you know, they joined just because they didn’t have any choice.

Okay. They certainly, they certainly did have a choice. They volunteered. 13, 000 were taken and 80, 000 volunteered. So the Nazis had a choice in who they took to. So this is this is just garbage. And the final thing. Is that the final excuse that they use, and again, this wouldn’t work if somebody dared say that like, you know, a German SS battalion was in the wrong place at the wrong time, they would be fired.

An editor who ran that would be fired immediately. They would be on their knees in the nearest Holocaust museum, you know, doing the work, as the kids call it these days. And it’s just unthinkable that these people are actually allowed to say this, to just, you know, because it’s not just insulting, it’s just utter twisting of history, it’s just utter twisting of basic logic.

And this is being done by organizations who also claim that there is so much disinformation. But anyway, here’s the final thing that they used. The final thing that these whitewashers use is something called the DeShane Commission. We were talking about this earlier. In 1985, Canada formed a commission because it finally got to the point, if Canada was finally having a problem dealing with the fact that a country who lost 45, 000 men fighting against Germany.

Also took in 2, 000 Waffen SS soldiers, which is what they did. They took in 2, 000 Ukrainian Waffen SS soldiers. So, they established a commission to look into them. And the commission then said that, you know, just pure membership in the unit is not enough to to consider somebody a war criminal.

And this was done to exonerate all. And they said, see, they had a commission. The commission found them. The commission said that wholesale participation in this was better. That commission is a despicable farce, and I’ll tell you what, the biggest, okay, first of all, they use documents primarily from the Canada.

They, the Canadian Diaspora pressured them to not use documents from Europe, except from a few UK sources. So they used documents that were compiled by the Canadian Diaspora, and the Canadian Diaspora was compiled, was composed, partly, of these people and their own memoirs. So essentially they went to all of these, they went to the war criminals and said, Hey, did you guys commit any war crimes?

And then the war criminals said, No, we didn’t. They said, Case closed, okay? They used Canadian sources primarily, and there was enormous pressure for them not to use sources outside. Which was a terrific trip. But here’s the bigger issue. Here’s the big problem with the Deschenes Commission is that the Deschenes Commission should not have existed.

Because they basically formed a commission to find out whether there is such a thing as a good unit in the Waffen SS. You know, the entire Waffen SS was a criminal organization. It was ruled by that by Nuremberg. Okay. So it’s, it’s a sick, it’s like finding, you know, it’s like saying, you know, you know, rape is awful, but you know, are there cases where it’s not?

Let’s form a commission. You know, the entire purpose of that commission is an insult in itself. And again, so, you know, you want to look at that commission. The Nuremberg Tribunal said that the entire Waffen SS was a criminal organization responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Okay, so it, it, it’s, you know, it’s ridiculous to say that it’s anything other than that.

And then finally, and this is what they, they act as if it’s like what we’re talking about is like, you know, these people’s lives are on the line and we have to, you know, it’s a, they’re using all the white watchers using all this argument because And this is the final part. In Canada, unlike in South America, the Nazis in South America at least kept a low profile.

They had the decency to keep a low profile. The Nazis in Canada built monuments for themselves. They made scholarships for themselves. They were proud of what they did. Just like Junke one of my co authors asked me, you know, she said, What, what was his family thinking putting him in, you know, in the exposure?

I’m like, you don’t understand. The notion that he would be anything other than applauded didn’t even cross their minds. You know, so, you know, the other really despicable thing is that this, these defenders of this is like are acting as if like these people on trial for their lives and they’re not, they’ve made it, they’ve made it, but it’s not enough.

They started, it’s, they need to defend having, they need to defend getting applause in parliament. You know what I mean? It’s like, it’s not

Jeet Heer: enough to get They not only have wanted the success that they already have, they want everyone else to go along with it, which is like intolerable and, you know, that’s absolutely right.

So I mean, I think listeners will have gotten a very good idea now as to why any defense of these individuals is Like unacceptable and I just want to like rehearse some of the history of this to like explain why first of all Canada let in so many war criminals and then why there was this whitewashing and Why so many of them flourished You know, like gaining high positions.

So I mean, you know, like, so, you know, the Second World War happened and then the Nazis were defeated by the Allies, the Red Army, and the the Western Allies, and there were the, sort of, Nuremberg Trials, and then, you know, like, as, as listeners will know, you know, there was on the part of some people in the West you know, like a belief that some of the, you know, former Nazis could be of use by, you know, like a famously Operation Paperclip by the CIA to get, like, Nazi scientists.

And particularly the CIA had some interest in Ukrainians because there was this idea that if World War III broke out you would want to, you know, foment the guerrilla warfare. Inside the Soviet Union and, you know, like the people that would be best equipped to do that were, you know, like these former Nazis who had fought against the Soviets.

And so there was, you know, on the one hand is the Cold War use of it. And it fit into Canadian history in a very particular way because Canada already had a very large Ukrainian population. This goes back to the fact that, like, in the early 20th century, they developed a new form of wheat. That could grow in the very short summer season that they have in Canada.

Canada has these plains the prairie plains, which are excellent for growing wheat. They figured, you know, like, well, who knows how to grow wheat? Ukrainians, they’re good at it. Canada the government went out of the way in the early 20th century, brought over a lot of Ukrainians. And there were a lot of also Ukrainians in the working class as well.

And this older Ukrainian community you know, was politically tended to lean to the left. At least compared to the, you know, regular Canadian population, there were quite a few Ukrainian socialists and communists. And I think that the secondary purpose of bringing in these sort of right wing Ukrainians was as a way to combat that and to dilute that, to bring in sort of, you know, Ukrainians that would go along with the Cold War and could become the official Ukrainians.

And so a lot of these new Ukrainians that were brought over you know, members, including these SS figures, but also just people. For you right wing Ukrainian nationalists, they were very useful for the Canadian state. Absolutely. Yeah, and so, so, but did you want to talk about some of that history now?

Lev Golinkin: Yeah one thing is, and it doesn’t, unfortunately I’ll say this, the first Ukrainians who came here, the non right wing Ukrainians, they actually had, they were put in internment camps, about 5, 000 of them were put in internment camps, just like the U. S. put Japanese internment camps. These were In World War II, because most of these people came from either Austro Hungarian lands or from like the old Polish hinterlands, so that was they were considered enemies and they were not only put in labor camps, they were put in camps, but they were also, they had to do forced labor as about 5, 000 Ukrainians also a whole lot of Ukrainians fought to Again, from the beginning, many of them fought for Canada and for and became very patriotic Canadians.

The, the Nazi the Nazis, the Waffen SS ones that were taken from World War II yeah, they were, they’re, they’re absolutely, first of all, they were, They had networks underground in Ukraine, and because of that, they were useful. They were useful for if there is anything happens, then they can be sent in to organize the Ukrainian resistance.

But meanwhile, the ancillary benefit, exactly as you said this, and you were one of the first ones to point this out a few years ago, Jeet, when they started having when this issue came out about these monuments to Canadian Nazis, is business, the business community wanted To break the power of the unions, which was growing stronger, especially after World War II, labor kind of was stretching its muscles.

So, and these the far right Ukrainian the, the, you know, Nazi collaborators, they were perfect because, first of all, they’re new immigrants, so they need work. Two, they are organized. Three, they are desensitized to violence and have proven their record of violent suppression. And four, they are with good, very good reason, they are communism, anything that smacks of communism and socialism is antithetical to them.

So they are, they’re, they’re prepared to fight with, with gusto. And because of that, they, in almost no time, they completely changed and they presented the face of the Canadian Diaspora as the face of the East Right Wing. Nationalist groups. And they did not waste time. They started, they, they formed university faculties.

They started getting historians who then started creating these alternate histories of saying, you know, we actually, we fought against the Nazis. We actually were, we saved the Jews and all of that. But if I, if I may, there’s also one reason, one dark reason why that often doesn’t get mentioned. The reason why Ukrainians These particular Ukrainians were taken in.

They were, they surrendered to the Allies at the end of World War II, okay? Just like so many other Eastern European collaborators, and they were in these camps. But they had something which a lot of others didn’t, and that’s the Vatican. These people were overwhelmingly members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

They were which is under the Vatican. It’s its own separate thing, but it’s still under the large umbrella of the Vatican. And the person in the Vatican was Pius XII, who was an anti Semitic Let’s you know, one of the books that are out there called some Hitler’s Pope, you know, was certainly in favor of the, so just as the Vatican provided rat lines for the Nazis to Argentina, the Vatican lobbied very hard for the allies to release these people, these Waffen SS members.

So one of the reasons why this, they were released in the first place, instead of being shipped to the Soviet Union. Where they would have been either in prison for a while or just summarily executed is because the Vatican played a major role in applying pressure on Western governments.

Jeet Heer: Yeah, no, that’s also a very very dark history and I mean, there’s a lot of it that goes beyond Ukraine as well in terms of the fascists from other parts of Europe that were also You know, brought over through that religious rat line.

Some of them settled in Quebec as well. And I should mention like you know, like just to fill out the story, we’re not just talking about Ukrainians as well. Like there was sort of like a sort of Hungarian right wing diaspora that was brought in and they were used very heavily to break strike in the steel industry in the fifties.

So, so, so a lot of this worked in the sort of project of the Canadian state. To the sort of, you know, the building of a sort of Cold War Canada with a sort of new class of immigrants who got official recognition. As you said, they were able to, you know, set up educational institutions and they formed associations and a lot of these associations would get state recognition.

And state funding. And state funding, yeah, for the newspapers. And a lot of them would become very, sort of politically very prominent. Yeah, same is,

Lev Golinkin: yeah, they formed voting blocs, and very powerful ones. And same thing in America, they formed, they happen to have formed blocs in Detroit, you know, in Detroit, you know, in Michigan, in Ohio, in the Roosevelt, in these critical states.

You know, and I’ve been told off the, you know on background, I would say, I’ve been told by, by, with the knowledge of it, that, you know, when the Nazi, they were doing Nazi hunting in the U S state department, they were told to go easy on the Ukrainian and Eastern European collaborators because they had such powerful voting blocks.

And I’m sure it was the same thing in Canada.

Jeet Heer: Yeah, no, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And to give us sort of example of like what we’re talking about You, you, you might remember the name, but there was a fellow who was chancellor of the University of Alberta in the 1980s. Yeah. Peter

Lev Golinkin: Savarin.

Peter s yes.

Jeet Heer: Yeah, yeah. Peter Savarin was veteran of the ssss. Became a chancellor of this university. He was a member the tie up official in the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta which is, you know, the dominant party of that province. And he received the Order of Canada, which is like the highest civilian honor in Canada.

It’s, it’s our equivalent of, you know, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Yeah, yeah, yeah. A total establishment figure who, you know, had been a veteran of the SS and so, so, so, so this is like, these are very politically powerful people, very much plugged into the network of the state and, you know, I think that there might be a divergence between Canada and the United States in starting in the 80s where I think in the United States there was some resistance to Nazi hunting from people like Pat Buchanan and some people on the right, but I mean, I think the the United States and started to take, you know, like, tracking down these war criminals much more seriously.

Yes, absolutely. And certainly there’s a shift in academia as well, where a lot of the apologia. that have been developed, have been debunked. Whereas in Canada, and I think this is very typical of Canadians, and I’ll speak, I mean listeners should know I am a Canadian, so I can speak freely and it’s very interesting that we’re having this conversation on the Nation website and all the good reporting on this.

Has come outside of Canada, you know, like all the reporting on this has come in like you have a year writing, but another writing, you know, has come in place like forward the nation. So inside Canada, there’s a Canadian sort of elite that’s very good at protecting its own and is very clubby. You know, like sort of Canadians talk about it as this sort of, you know the Laurentian elite or the, you know, sort of upper Canadian elite.

And these are, you know and the, you know, some of these Ukrainian far right people had gotten plugged into that elite and they were very good at protecting their own and they were able to do the classical thing you do in a parliamentary democracy which is that you create a report To cover things up, you know, this is like you know, people who don’t British as you alone, like if you want to cover something up, you have a royal commission and then it says, Oh, actually, everything is okay.

Assimilated quite well,

Lev Golinkin: you know what you’re

Jeet Heer: saying? Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, the Ukrainians, I mean, this is the, this is the, I don’t want to make this just a story about the Ukrainian immigrants. At every stage, the Canadian state and the Canadian establishment was there helping and cooperating and complicit.

This is and those are the old WASP

Lev Golinkin: Canadians. Yeah, and it’s also not, there’s a, there’s a ton of Ukrainian, Ukrainian Canadians, who I’m sure who do not, who are not subscribed to it, but it’s to this. But it’s always the radicals come to the forefront.

Jeet Heer: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, it is the case that the project was successful in the sense that it subsumed or displaced that older Ukrainian left wing tradition, which still exists, but you know, which became successfully made into a more marginal phenomenon.

And and so, so, so that the commission, the the Shane commission that you had mentioned before, we have to understand that as a part of this project of the Canadian state doing sort of apology for itself and defending itself and, and then sort of like, you know, basically white, it was a whitewashing project from the start and whitewashing, not only On behalf of these Ukrainian former members of the Waffen SS, but whitewashing for the Canadian state’s own complicity.

And that’s why

Lev Golinkin: I think That’s a phenomenal point. That’s, I’m really glad you brought that up. Yeah,

Jeet Heer: and so I think that, like, this is why this is such an explosive issue, because I think that if we, you know, like, once the, if there’s a push to get to the truth of this and to go beyond that commission and to actually see the history of this, it will, like, implicate very many Powerful people outside the Ukrainian community, inside, you know, the Canadian government itself.

So, so, so, now, one way in which this has become an issue, as you mentioned, and then you’re reporting on this, is very crucial for this, is the sort of SS memorials that exist in Canada. Do you want to talk a little bit

Lev Golinkin: about that? Yeah, we can talk about that and I can also then talk about very quickly for the Deschenes Commission that you just mentioned big parts of it, including the names of the Waffen SS soldiers, remain classified.

And there’s a push right now to declassify them, and I can only imagine the pressure that Trudeau is getting to, to keep them classified, because the names that will come out is going to show exactly how far these people penetrated. And they’re being protected using privacy laws, which is kind of sickening.

You know, because it’s like, you know, privacy laws, you know, to protect, you know, to protect victims of assault and to protect the Waffen SS, you know, the vulnerable, you know, it’s so, yeah, there’s a big push to release this because this commission not only was it whitewashed, but even they just, they just, they just classified everything that, and despite Jewish groups asking for decades, they just kept it like that, you know.

The the other thing, I’m sorry, right before we get to the morals, I wanted to point out just that I have to David Pugliese and Scott Taylor, they’re two journalists in Ottawa Citizen in the Espirit de Corps, and these people have been so, they’re not Jewish, but they have been so brave. And they have been attacked viciously.

They have been attacked for writing about this, including the memorials. They’ve been attacked by the Ukrainian foreign embassies. Okay, so literally, I mean, they, and the Latvian ones, because they wrote about Latvian you know, SS people coming in too. You know, they were, so this is like a, the foreign ministries of these people, they call, one of them called it you know, a threat to democracy.

You know, so these, these two people have just been, have just been, they, they have taken a whole lot of, a whole lot of abuse and attacks to ruin their careers.

Jeet Heer: Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah, and I’m doing really great, great work. And, and that partially explains why I think that you know some of the good work on this has been coming from outside of Canada.

Oh, yeah, yeah. I think if you’re, if you’re in Canada… You really you you get it from all sides. And I’ll just mention in passing. I mean, I think it’s shameful for me that like, you know, part of the argument that’s used against this sort of very honest and necessary reporting is while you’re repeating Russian disinformation, you know, and like, that’s just like, such a obscene and absurd thing to say.

Because I mean, I’m happy to say like, you know, Putin is a vile figure. His invasion of Ukraine is a crime against humanity. And his attempt to label all Ukrainians as Nazis is also vile. But like, you don’t combat that by like, you know, defending the Waffen SS. Like, if we come, I think it’s exactly, if we come clean on the Waffen SS and put it in the proper context of this being a minority phenomenon among Ukrainians, that’s how you combat Putin.

Lev Golinkin: Exactly, but check this out. I mean, they’re saying, okay, Putin says all Ukrainians are Nazis, okay? Now, and if we criticize the tiny minority of Ukrainians that were in the Waffen SS, the defenders of these people, the whitewashers, say this is an attack on Ukraine, okay? Yeah. But it’s so the two groups that think all Ukrainians are Nazis in this logic are the diaspora and Putin Yeah, okay, because they take an attack on these small minority of Nazis as an attack on all of Ukraine You know, I mean, which is it’s not because the majority of Ukraine is not Nazi.

Of

Jeet Heer: course. Yeah Yeah, no, they said they’re accepting Putin’s logic and they’re there Yeah, they’re I mean exactly as we saw with the Canadian Parliament They’re doing Putin’s dirty work. Like they, yeah. You know, they’re having the Canadian Parliament applaud this member, the s is like the greatest gift you could give to Putin.

Like,

Lev Golinkin: well, and, and I mean this a as, as, as, as a guy who studies history, I’m sure you know you know, and I, I’m sure many in the audience know that Russia, for example, was for a long time obsessed. The Soviets were obsessed with The race in America, okay, and racism in America, so, you know, if, if you go by that logic, I mean, you know, anybody who’s talking about police shootings of black men, or anybody’s talking about any racial issues in America, Russia uses it.

They do. Russian propaganda uses it because they try to use it to build bridges with you know, nations in Asia and Africa, etc. So, but that, by that idiotic logic, anybody who says anything about race or anybody who says anything about problems in Canada or America is feeding into Russian propaganda.

You know, it’s just, it’s…

Jeet Heer: It’s insane. It’s absurd. Yeah so the two points I want to like maybe round out the discussion with because are As we mentioned before the memorials and you can say something about that but also your other research is in the fact that The organizations that are doing the whitewashing are have been receiving canadian government funding Yeah, so do you want to do you want to just say

Lev Golinkin: something about yeah Yeah, very good the memorials.

I mean canada has memorials to Members of the SS to these battalion on, you know, on Canadian soil and it’s America has them too as I’ve reported and I mean in Toronto, outside of Toronto, there’s a cemetery where they don’t just only have a memorial, but they have rows of tombstones all with the SS insignia on it.

Okay. It’s like it’s like a Nazi, a little Nazi Arlington. Okay,

Jeet Heer: yeah, and which is unfortunately tragically become a kind of Mecca for the neo nazis in Canada like they The neo nazis go there because you know to pay tribute to yeah, they’re their ideological ancestors And

Lev Golinkin: you know and there’s a bust of Roman Truhevich in Edmonton at a youth center And he was one of the most major collaborators.

He served in the German Auxiliary Battalion, you know One of the people who helped commit the Holocaust and, and you know, commit horrors. And you know, the, the, when his bust was vandalized the youth center received 25, 000 from the Canadian government to install security cams. Okay. So you got, this is, this is a Canadian government shelling out 25, 000.

For, you know, for protection of a Nazi bust that whitewashed the Nazis. And as I’ve done, you know, as I’ve written to the nation, I’m just really, really glad they’ve let me do that. Just, you know, I exposed just basic logic about these monuments being there. And as I’ve written for the forward that, you know, to this date over the past seven years my search came up with at least 2.

2 million us dollars, 2. 2 million going to groups that openly and proudly champion these Waffen SS men.

Jeet Heer: For example. Yeah. No, no, it’s, it’s, it’s a, a totally shameful history. And you know and again, this is maybe something people on the liberal end of the spectrum you to grapple with, but I think part of the story here is also the misuse of multiculturalism as a kind of, you know to give license to these groups.

And then so I think there’s a lot of things for Canadians, but I think, you know, not just Canadians to grapple with, like in terms of the, you know, the history of this group and the history of state complicity. And this is something that I feel it’s urgent to get to the bottom of, get to the truth of.

To, you know, to get those names that are classified in the public it is an important history and I’m very grateful for your work and for the other reporters that are looking into this. So yeah, I want to just conclude by, you know, like thanking you for like everything that you’re doing.

Lev Golinkin: Well, the nation stood by me when, when we did the piece on the, on the Canada Monuments that got a lot of flack, so that, that meant a lot, and it’s, you know, the, the reason why they go to such lengths to defend this is because it’s indefensible. Because as you just saw, the moment that the majority of Canadians, the moment that Canadians saw them applauding a Nazi, the majority of Canadians were, were outraged.

You know, so, I, I think it’s just, it’s, it’s, yeah, the more we can look at it, the more we can just deal with it, and Canada can, Canada has a chance to become, you know, a nation that grapples and deals with its past, as opposed to a nation that let Nazis have safe haven.

Jeet Heer: Yeah, no, I don’t. I think that’s right.

That’s exactly what needs to be done. Again, I want to thank Lev Golinkin for his great reporting and for this, like, really enlightening discussion. I’m going to be looking to his articles on the show notes. I would encourage everyone to read. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Subscribe to The Nation to Support all of our podcasts

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read, just one of the many incisive, deeply reported articles we publish daily. Now more than ever, we need fearless journalism that moves the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media.

Donate right now and help us hold the powerful accountable, shine a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug, and build a more just and equitable future.

For nearly 160 years, The Nation has stood for truth, justice, and moral clarity. As a reader-supported publication, we are not beholden to the whims of advertisers or a corporate owner. But it does take financial resources to report on stories that may take weeks or months to investigate, thoroughly edit and fact-check articles, and get our stories to readers like you.

Donate today and stand with us for a better future. Thank you for being a supporter of independent journalism.

Thank you for your generosity.

Jeet Heer

Jeet Heer is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation and host of the weekly Nation podcast, The Time of Monsters. He also pens the monthly column “Morbid Symptoms.” The author of In Love with Art: Francoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman (2013) and Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays and Profiles (2014), Heer has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The American Prospect, The GuardianThe New Republic, and The Boston Globe.

More from The Nation

x