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Nazi military monument removed from Ontario cemetery

A monument commemorating a Nazi-led military unit of Ukrainian soldiers has been removed from an Ontario cemetery after years of controversy surrounding the site.

The monument, located in St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery in Oakville, paid tribute to the First Ukrainian Division, a Nazi unit predominantly comprised of Ukrainians who fought in the Second World War.

The First Ukrainian Division – also referred to as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division and the SS 14th Waffen Division – dominated headlines six months ago after Yaroslav Hunka, a veteran who served in the unit, was invited to the Canadian House of Commons, where he received a standing ovation.

Liberal MP Anthony Rota ultimately resigned as speaker amid criticism over the decision to invite Hunka.

“It’s a memorial to soldiers who served for the Nazis in the Second World War, one of the greatest atrocities of the Jewish people, and it does not belong on Canadian soil,” Oakville-based Rabbi Stephen Wise told CTV News Toronto.

Wise is part of a group that’s been calling for the monument’s removal for years, which Dan Panneton with Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center described as a glorification of a Nazi military unit “complicit in war crimes committed during the Holocaust.”

The cemetery confirmed the monument was being removed “to enable repair” after consultation with the descendants of the First Ukrainian Division, who fundraised for the establishment of the monument in 1988, and continue to own it.

A monument honouring Ukrainian soldiers who served in a Nazi military unit has been removed from a cemetery in Oakville, Ont.

The cemetery did not respond to follow-up questions on whether the repairs meant the monument would return; however, Wise, who was involved in discussions on the removal said, “It is not going to be back.” He argued that it should be placed in the Museum of Tolerance in Winnipeg as a historical artifact.

The monument has been “defaced” with graffiti several times in the last few years, recently “seriously damaged by vandals,” a spokesperson for the cemetery said.

Adding to the string of attention in the last few months, photos of Neo Nazis standing beside the monument surfaced, pledging allegiance to the division in October, after Hunka’s standing ovation.

“As a Canadian, and as a Jew, and as someone who believes in democracy, it was just frightening,” Wise said.

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