Sunday, October 23, 2016

"'The Honor They So Clearly Deserve': Legitimizing the Waffen-SS Galizien"

Bohdan Matsiv (ed.), Ukrains’ka dyviziia ‘Halychyna:’ Istoriia u svitlynakh vid zasnuvannia u 1943 r. do zvil’nennia z polonu 1949 r. Lviv, ZUKTs, 2009.

Ernest Renan noted that “‘having suffered together’ and, indeed, suffering in common unifies more than joy does. Where national memories are concerned, griefs are of more value than triumphs, for they impose duties, and require a common effort.’ In Blood Sacrifice and the Nation, Carolyn Marvin argues ‘Blood sacrifice preserves the nation.’3She emphasizes that,
[T]he nation is the shared memory of blood sacrifice, periodically renewed. Those who share such memories often, but not always, share language, living space, or ethnicity. What they always share and cultivate is the memory of blood sacrifice. ... [T]he felt or sentimental nation is the memory of the last sacrifice that counts for living believers. ... At the behest of the group, the lifeblood of the community members must be shed. Group solidarity, or sentiment, flows from the value of this sacrifice.
Marvin maintains ‘The myth of the sacrificed Christ who dies for all men makes every sacrificed soldier a remodeled Christ dying to redeem his countrymen.’ This mythical narrative is rejuvenated through ritual, pledges, and ideological training. Part of the ideology is the development of nostalgia, admiration, and veneration. In the reproduction of nationalist mythology, Marvin asserts that ‘Photographers and reporters offer holy witness. Their presence is critical. Only through representation and commemoration do apostolic missions become group-unifying messianic sacrifice.

Over the past six decades, Die 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr. 1), often reffered to as Waffen-SS Galizien, a Ukrainian collaborating formation, organized by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler in 1943, has been the object of intense myth making. The unit was demonized in the Soviet Union, and glorified by circles in the Ukrainian diaspora. In Canada, where many of the division’s veterans came to settle, diaspora venues regularly commemorated the ‘exemplary patriotism’ and ‘self-sacrifice’ of the unit. This sort of narrative was particularly heavily emphasized on even anniversaries.  (more...)

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