The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) (: 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (galizische Nr. 1)),: 14а Гренадерська Дивізія СС (1а галицька)), prior to 1944 titled the 14th SS-Volunteer Division "Galicia" (: 14. SS-Freiwilligen Division "Galizien", : 14а Добровільна Дивізія СС "Галичина") was a World War II German military formation made up predominantly of volunteers with a ethnic background from the area of , later also with some and . Formed in 1943, it was largely destroyed in the , reformed, and saw action in , and Austria before being renamed the first division of the and surrendering to the Western Allies by 10 May 1945.
After World War I and the dissolution of , the territory of (), populated by a Ukrainian majority but with a large Polish minority, was incorporated into Poland following the . Between the wars, the political allegiances of Ukrainians in eastern Galicia were divided between moderate national democrats and the more radical . The latter group itself splintered into two factions, the more moderate OUN-M led by with close ties to German intelligence (), and the more radical OUN-B led by . When Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union under the terms of the in 1939, the territory of eastern Galicia was . In 1941 it was .
Ukrainian leaders of various political persuasions recognised the need for a trained armed force. The Germans had earlier considered the formation of an armed force made up of Slavic people, but they decided this to be unacceptable as they regarded Slavs as sub-humans () compared to the Germanic ubermenschen master race. At the beginning of 1943, growing losses inclined Nazi leaders to alter their initial opinions.
Organizing the divisionGalician division's recruitment poster, 1943
The idea to organize a division of volunteers from Galicia was proposed by the German Governor of , Dr. . He suggested creation of a division composed of Galician volunteers and designed for regular combat on the . The creation of 14th Voluntary Division SS Galizien was announced in April 1943 at ceremonies throughout Galicia. At least 50 documents including contemporary newspaper clippings, radio broadcasts and speeches etc. record the date of 28 April. By June 1943 the first phase of recruitment had taken place. Initially Wächter's proposal (which he was certain would be supported by Ukrainian circles) was rejected. In Berlin Wächter was able to get support from who made the stipulation that the division would only made up of Galicians, who Himmler considered "more Aryan-like". The terms "Ukrainian", "Ukraine", could not be used when addressing the division, stressing the Imperial Austro-Hungarian heritage of the term "Galizien". David Marples suggests that the division was titled "Galicia" to ensure stricter German control to avoid direct use of inflammatory term "Ukrainian".
Wächter approached the Ukrainian Central Committee, a nonpolitical social welfare organization headed by which supported the idea of the formation of the division. The demanded the presence of its chaplains in the division, which was usually not permitted by Germans. Thus the Ukrainian division along with the one became notable exceptions.
Germans made two : It was stipulated that the division shall not be used to fight Western Allies, and would be used exclusively to "fight Bolsheviks". The other concession was in that its oath of allegiance to Hitler was conditional on the fight against Bolshevism and in the fact that Christian (mostly and ) chaplains were integrated into the units and allowed to function (in the Waffen-SS, only the Bosnian division and had a 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. Indeed, Nazi indoctrination was absent within the division.
The creation of foreign SS units had been carried out previously in the name of fighting against communism; with , , , , Croatian, and units, among others, had been created. The creation of a Ukrainian SS division was perceived by many in Ukraine as a step towards the attainment of Ukrainian independence and attracted many volunteers.
The Division's Support
The Division enjoyed support from multiple political and religious groups within the western Ukrainian community. The Division's prime organizer and highest ranking Ukrainian officer, , had been the leader of a small legal political party in the . Many of his colleagues had been members of the pre-war moderate, left-leaning democratic that before the war had also been opposed to the authoritarian OUN. The Division also obtained moral support from officers of the exiled Polish-allied such as General . The Division was also strongly supported by 's moderate faction of the OUN, who saw it as a counterweight to the extremist Banderist-dominated UPA.
The Bandera faction of the OUN-B opposed the idea of creating the division, in part because it was an organization outside its control, and had claimed in its propaganda that the division was to be used by the Germans as cannon fodder. Nevertheless, it did not interfere in its formation and once the division was formed it sent some of its members, a number of whom would obtain prominent positions, into the division in order for them to gain military training and to prevent it from completely getting out of their hands. Despite this infiltration, Bandera's OUN failed to gain control over the division.
It also had the support of both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the . Among its members was a son of Mstyslav Skrypnyk, the Orthodox Bishop of Kiev.
Commanders and personnel1943 propaganda leaflet in Ukrainian containing a description of the division inauguration ceremony
The Division SS "Galizien" was commanded by German, Austrian and Ukrainian officers. Training for the recruits began within the SS-Special Purpose Training Battalion (SS-Ausbildungs-Battalion z.b.V), commanded by SS Sturmbannführer Bernard Bartlet while the man appointed to oversee the forming of the Division was (until October 1943). Schimana never commanded the actual division, as up until the point of his departure it was still a training battalion, staffed mostly by temporary training personnel. From 20 November 1943 it was led by SS- . Wolf Dietrich Heike (temporarily seconded from the ) was the chief of staff from January 1944. All regimental commanders were Germans.
In total 81,999 men enlisted for service in the division. Of these, 42,000 were called up during the first 'recruitment phase' which took place in May and June 1943 from which only 27,000 were deemed fit for military service and 13,000 were enlisted. To boost the recruitment figures the height minimum requirement was lowered from 1.65m to 1.61m.SS Galizien volunteers march on Kosciuszko Street in , 1943 May
Anti-partisans actions with Kampfgruppe Beyersdorff
In mid-February 1944, the division received an order to form a battle group known as SS Beyersdorff for action against Soviet and Polish . It operated in the area together with elements of the 5th Regiment, while elements of the 4th Regiment were sent to the area. The SS Kampfgruppe performed its duty well enough that it earned the rare praise of German Field Marshal .
In July the division was sent to the area of Brody, where was under way, and was 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 kilometres (50 mi). On 8 July, the 13th Corps was transferred to the 1st Panzer Army. The Galician Division was placed in reserve. Deployed at Brody were the division's 29th, 30th, 31st regiments, a fusilier and engineering battalion, and its artillery regiment. The 14th SS Field Replacement Battalion was deployed fifteen miles (24 kilometres) behind the other units.
On 13 July, Soviet forces under the command of Marshal launched their attack. By the next day, they routed a German division to the north of the 13th Corps and swept back an attempted German counterattack. On 15 July, the and Panzer Divisions along with the Galicia Division bore the brunt of a fierce assault by the Soviet , who in only a five-hour period flew 3,288 aircraft sorties and dropped 102 tons of bombs on them as they attempted a counterattack. On 18 July, the division's Field Replacement Battalion was destroyed with its remnants fleeing west, whilst the remainder of 13th Corps, consisting of over 30,000 German and Ukrainian soldiers, was surrounded by the Soviets within the Brody pocket.
Within the pocket, the Galician troops were tasked with defending the eastern perimeter near the and . The Soviets sought to collapse the Brody pocket by focusing their attack of what they perceived to be its weakest point, the relatively inexperienced Galician Division, and on 19 July attacked. The 29th and 30th regiments of the division, supported by the division's artillery regiment, put up unexpectedly fierce resistance. Pidhirtsy changed hands several times before the Galicians were finally overwhelmed by the late afternoon, and at a major Soviet attack using tanks was repulsed by the division's Fusilier and Engineer battalions.
On 20 July, the German divisions within the pocket attempted a breakout which failed despite early successes. The Division's 31st regiment was destroyed in fighting. A second German breakout attempt that began at 1:00 am on 21 July ended in failure. ten miles (16 kilometres) to the west of the pocket, however, a German Regiment broke through Soviet lines and briefly established contact with the Brody pocket, resulting in the rescue of approximately 3,400 soldiers, including approximately 400 Galicians, before being repulsed. By the end of that day, in the face of overwhelming Soviet attacks, the 14th Division as a whole disintegrated. Its German commander, Fritz Freitag, resigned his command and decreed that everyone would be on his own during the breakout. He and his staff formed their own battle group and headed south, abandoning the division. Some Ukrainian assault groups remained intact, others joined German units, and others fled or melted away. The Ukrainian 14th SS Fusilier battalion, which at this point had also largely disintegrated, came to form the rearguard of what was left of the entire 13th Corps. Holding the town of , it enabled units or stragglers to escape to the south and was able to withstand several Soviet attempts to overwhelm it. By the evening of 21 July, it remained the only intact unit north of the .
In the early morning of 22 July, the 14th Fusilier battalion abandoned Bilye Kamin. The Brody pocket was now only 4 to 5 miles (6.4–8.0 kilometres) long and wide. The German and Galician soldiers were instructed to attack with everything they had by moving forward until they broke through or were destroyed. Fighting was fierce and desperate. The German and Ukrainian soldiers surging south were able to overwhelm the Soviet 91st Independent Tank Brigade "Proskurov" and its infantry support, and to escape by the hundreds. The remaining pocket collapsed by the evening of 22 July.
Despite the severity of the fighting, the division maintained its discipline and most of its members were ultimately able to break out of the encirclement. Of the approximately 11,000 Galician soldiers deployed at Brody, about 3,000 were able to almost immediately re-enter the division. Approx 7,400 were posted as "Missing in combat".
It has been mistakenly suggested that the losses for the 14th SS Division in Brody ran at 73%, higher than the rest of the Corps. The other battle-hardened German units which had formed XIII.A.K. produced similar casualty reports. About 5,000 men of Korpsabteilung 'C' which formed the spearhead of the breakout forces escaped the encirclement with sidearms but without vehicles, horses, and other weapons, supplies, and equipment. A total of 73 officers and 4,059 NCOs and men were listed as killed or missing. By comparison, the which deployed fewer troops at the beginning of the battle than the Galician Division and together with it formed the rearguard, suffered equal losses. Between 16–22 July, it sustained almost as many casualties with total losses amounting to 6,310 officers and men (dead, missing or wounded). The necessary manpower required to rebuild this and the other German formations was not available and they were subsequently disbanded and the survivors incorporated into other divisions.
As for XIII.A.K., the final report of the Corps's liquidation commission (applicable to its regular army units only) recorded 21,766 killed or missing in action, which together with the 7,000 killed or missing men from the Galician Division brings to the total lost to about 29,000. This figure corresponds with General Lange's own estimate of a total of 25–30,000 killed in the encirclement. On the other hand, the recently declassified secret Soviet General Staff report states that during the course of the battle their forces destroyed more than 30,000 soldiers and officers, 85 tanks and self-propelled guns, over 500 guns of various calibres, 476 mortars, 705 machine guns, 12,000 rifles and submachine guns, 5,843 vehicles, 183 tractors and trailers and 2,430 motorcycles and bicycles. It also claims that over 17,000 soldiers and officers were taken prisoner, 28 tanks and self-propelled guns were captured, as were over 500 guns of various calibres, more than 600 mortars, 483 machine guns, 11,000 rifles and sub-machine guns, over 1,500 vehicles, 98 tractors and trailers, 376 motorcycles and bicycles, in excess of 3,000 horses and 28 warehouses full of military goods. An estimated total number of survivors of all XIII.A.K. units has been given by the adjutant of the as 15,000 officers and men, while a slightly lower figure of 12,000 was subsequently given by Oberst Wilck.
The division in Slovakia
The Germans rebuilt the division over two months using reserve units. From the end of September 1944, the division was used against the .
The first unit, the 29th regiment with auxiliary units, arrived 28 September 1944. Eventually all divisional units were transferred to Slovakia. From 15 October 1944 they formed two Kampfgruppe, Wittenmayer and Wildner. (Both of approx reinforced battalion strength) The division operated in coordination with the , the , the and other SS and SD formations until 5 February 1945. Jan Stanislav, the director of the National Uprising Museum in Slovakia, denied that the division or that Ukrainians took part in any brutalities committed against the Slovak people at this time.
Anti-partisans actions on the Slovenian-Austrian border
In the end of January 1945, it was moved to , where from the end of February until the end of March 1945, it together with other SS and SD formations fought in the and areas near the Austrian-Slovenian border. During this time, the division absorbed the 31 Schutzmannschafts Battalion, also known as the Ukrainian Self Defense legion. When on 31 March Soviet forces commenced an that ruptured the German front, the division was ordered to advance northward to Gleichenberg in a desperate attempt to halt the Soviet advance.
From 1 April 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 in Austria where in early April it seized the castle and village of from Soviet forces (including elite Soviet airborne troops from the ) during a counterattack and on 15 April repulsed a Soviet counterattack. The division at this time maintained a 13-km front. During one critical situation, Freitag became so alarmed by the developments at the front, that in the presence of the commander of the 1st Cavalry Corps General der Kavallerie Harteneck, he reacted instinctively and announced his abdication as Divisional commander and responsibility for its performance in action – as he had done at Brody. General Harteneck refused Freitag's resignation and ordered him to remain at his post. Due to his performance during the battles surrounding Gleichenberg, Waffen- Ostap Czuczkewycz was awarded the , 1st class. The Division suffered heavy casualties while in Austria, with an estimated 1,600 killed or wounded.
1st Ukrainian Division UNA
On 17 March 1945, Ukrainian émigrés established the Ukrainian National Committee to represent the interests of Ukrainians to the Third Reich. Simultaneously, the , commanded by general , was created. The Galician Division nominally became the 1st Division of the Ukrainian National Army, although the German Army's High command continued to list it as the Ukrainian 14th SS Grenadier Division in its order of battle. The Division surrendered to British and US forces by 10 May 1945.
Most of The Ukrainian soldiers were interned in , Italy, in the area controlled by forces. The UNA commander requested a meeting with Polish general a prewar Polish Army colleague, asking him to protect the army against the deportation to Soviet Union. There is credible evidence that despite Soviet pressure, Anders managed to protect the Ukrainian troops, as former citizens of the . This, together with the intervention of the prevented its members from being deported to the USSR. Bishop Buchko of the had appealed to to intervene on behalf of the division, whom he described as "good Catholics and fervent anti-Communists". Due to Vatican intervention, the British authorities changed the status of the division members from POW to surrendered enemy personnel. 176 soldiers of the division, mainly prewar Polish Army officers followed their commander in joining 's .
Former soldiers of SS "Galizien" were allowed to immigrate to Canada and the United Kingdom in 1947. The names of about 8,000 men from the division who were admitted to the UK have been stored in the so-called "Rimini List". Despite several requests of various lobby groups, the details of the list have never been publicly released, however the list is available on line and the original List is available for public inspection at the Schevchenko Archive in Linden Gardens London. In 2003 the anti-terrorist branch of launched an investigation into people from the list by cross-referencing patient, and pensions records; however, the order to release confidential medical records was met with outcry from groups.
Although at the , the Waffen-SS as a whole was declared to be a criminal organization, the Galizien Division has not specifically been found guilty of any war crimes by any war tribunal or commission, however numerous accusations of impropriety have been leveled at the division and at particular members of the division from a variety of sources. It is difficult to determine the extent of war criminality among members of the division. If prior service in Nazi police units is a measure of criminality, only a small number were recruited from established police detachments. Among those who had transferred from police detachments, some had been members of a coastal defence unit that had been stationed in France, while others came from two police battalions that had been formed in the spring of 1943, too late to have participated in the murder of Ukraine's Jews. According to Howard Margolian there is no evidence that these units participated in anti-partisan operations or reprisals prior to their inclusion into the division. However, a number of recruits, prior to their service within the police battalions are alleged to have been in Ukrainian irregular formations that are alleged to have committed atrocities against Jews and Communists. However, both the Canadian government and the Canadian Jewish Congress in their investigations of the division failed to find hard evidence to support the notion that it was rife with criminal elements.
However, the division destroyed several Polish communities in western Ukraine during the winter and spring of 1944. Specifically, the 4th and 5th SS Police Regiments have been accused of murdering Polish civilians in the course of anti-guerilla activity. At the time of their actions, these units were not yet under Divisional command, but were under German police command. Yale historian noted that the division's role in the was limited, as the murders were primarily carried out by the , however the division participated in one of the most infamous massacres on 28 February 1944, in the Polish village of , and in the Pidkamin and Palikrowy massacres.
Heinrich Himmler in a speech to the soldiers of the 1st Galician division stated:
Your homeland has become so much more beautiful since you have lost – on our initiative, I must say – those residents who were so often a dirty blemish on Galicia's good name, namely the Jews... I know that if I ordered you to liquidate the Poles... I would be giving you permission to do what you are eager to do anyway.
In June 2013, the Associated Press published an article stating that an American, , who was alleged to be a former "deputy company commander" in the Division, was implicated in war crimes committed before he joined the Division in 1945. According to Associated Press, before joining the Division Karkoc had previously served as a "lieutenant" of the 2nd Company of the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion (USDL). The USDL was a paramilitary police organization in the . Karkoc was found living in . , arrived in the United States in 1949 and became a naturalized citizen in 1959.
Main article:One of the stone tablets of the monument which lists the names of Poles killed at .
The Polish historian has stated that the Germans formed several SS police regiments (numbered from 4 to 8) which included "Galizien" in their name. These police regiments would later join the division in Spring 1944. Before being incorporated into the division in June 1944, the 4th and 5th police regiments had participated in anti-guerrilla action at on 23 February 1944, against Soviet and Polish partisans in the village of which had also served as a shelter for Jews and as a fortified centre for Polish and Soviet guerrillas. Huta Pieniacka was a Polish self-defence outpost, organized by inhabitants of the village and sheltering civilian refugees from . On 23 February 1944 two members of a detachment of the division were shot by the self-defense forces. Five days later a mixed force of Ukrainian police and German soldiers shelled the village with artillery before entering it and ordering all the civilians to gather together. In the ensuing massacre, the village of Huta Pienacka was destroyed and between 500 and 1,000 of the inhabitants were killed. According to Polish accounts, civilians were locked in barns that were set on fire while those attempting to flee were killed.
Polish witness accounts state that the soldiers were accompanied by Ukrainian nationalists (paramilitary unit under Włodzimierz Czerniawski's command), which included members of the , as well as inhabitants of local villages who took property from the village's households.
The of the concluded that the 4th and 5th SS Galizien Police regiments did indeed kill the civilians within the village, but added that the grisly reports by eyewitnesses in the Polish accounts were "hard to come up with" and that the likelihood was "difficult to believe." The Institute also noted that at the time of the massacre the police regiments were not under 14th division command, but rather under German police command (specifically, under German and command of the ). The Polish Institute of National Remembrance stated "According to the witness' testimonies, and in the light of the collected documentation, there is no doubt that the 4th battalion 'Galizien' of the 14th division of SS committed the crime"
Pidkamin and Palikrowy
Main articles: and
The village of had a monastery where Poles sought shelter from the encroaching front. Around 2,000 people, the majority of whom were women and children, were seeking refuge there when the monastery was attacked on 11 March 1944, by the (unit under command), allegedly cooperating with an SS-Galizien unit. The next day, 12 March the monastery was captured and civilians were murdered (at night part of the population managed to escape). Other civilians were also killed in the town of Pidkamin from 12 to 16 March.
Estimates of victims include 150 by Polish historian , and 250 according to the researchers of the Institute of History of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
Another sub-unit also participated in the execution of Polish civilians in located in the Lwów area () near (former ). It is estimated that 365 ethnic Poles were murdered including women and children.
The Canadian Deschênes CommissionMemorial to SS-Galizien division in Chervone, , western Ukraine
The Canadian "" of October 1986, by the Honourable Justice concluded that in relation to membership in the Galicia Division:
The Galicia Division (14. Waffen grenadier division der SS [gal. #1]) should not be indicted as a group. The members of Galicia Division were individually screened for security purposes before admission to Canada. 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. 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.
However, the Commission's conclusion failed to acknowledge or heed the International Military Tribunal's verdict at the , in which the entire organisation was declared a "criminal organization" guilty of . Also, the Deschênes Commission in its conclusion only referenced the division as 14. Waffen-Grenadier-Division der SS (Galizische Nr.1), thus in legal terms, only acknowledging the formation's activity after its name change in August 1944, while the massacre of Poles in Huta Pieniacka, Pidkamin and Palikrowy occurred when the division was called SS Freiwilligen Division "Galizien". Nevertheless, a subsequent review by Canada's Minister of Justice again confirmed that members of the Division were not implicated in war crimes.
The division during its short history changed its name a number of times, being known as:
- SS Schuetzen Division "Galizien" or Galizien Division – from 30 July 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 – from Spring 1945.
- Waffen Regiment der SS 29
- Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 30
- Waffen-Grenadier Regiment der SS 31
- Waffen-Artillery Regiment der SS 14
- SS-Waffen-Füsilier-Battalion 14
- SS-Waffen- Company 14
- SS-Volunteer Battalion 14
- Waffen Signals Battalion der SS 14
- SS-Radfahr-Battalion 14
- Waffen-Pionier-Battalion der SS 14
- SS-Versorgungs-Company 14
- SS-Division-Signals Troop 14
- SS Medical Battalion 14
- SS-Veterinary Company 14
- SS-Field post department 14
- SS-War Reporter platoon 14|
- SS troop 14
The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Galician) is today honored by many Ukrainian nationalists. Since 2010 every year on April 28 a march is held to celebrate the foundation of the division. In addition streets were named after the division in (Ukrains`koi Dyvizii Street) and (Soldiers Division "Galicia" Street). A monument commemorating those who served in the division exists in the Canadian city of . Many Ukrainian Canadian historians have decried the recent articles as being inspired by Russian provocateurs and their fellow travellers who have done nothing other than regurgitate Soviet-era propaganda.
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