A photograph has been discovered of the then Prince Charles receiving an award from a former member of the Waffen-SS.

Charles was given an honorary law degree during a ceremony at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada in 1983. 

In his acceptance speech, Charles praised those who had “sacrificed their lives 40 years ago” in the fight against Adolf Hitler.

Yet the award was conferred on him by a Nazi collaborator – the university’s chancellor Peter Savaryn.

Originally from Ukraine, he served in the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS – the so-called Galicia division – during World War Two.

Savaryn was among thousands of Waffen-SS Galicia men who escaped to the West after 1945, often with British assistance.

He included a photo of himself on stage with Charles in his Ukrainian-language autobiography From Ternopil to Alberta published in 2007, a decade before his death.

Princess Diana was also pictured with Savaryn several times, with one photo still hosted on the University of Alberta’s website.

Savaryn (left and inset) with Diana and Charles. (Photo obtained by Hunter Pauli for Declassified UK)

The admiration was mutual. Savaryn himself received a Royal honour, the Order of Canada, in 1987.

Governor General Mary Simon, the British monarchy’s representative in Canada, apologised for that last year. 

She stated: “Historical appointments to the Order of Canada reflect a specific moment in time, and would have been based on limited information sources available at that time.”

However Simon did not mention in her apology that Savaryn had awarded Charles an honorary degree in 1983.

Savaryn’s memoirs also include a photograph of him with one of Simon’s predecessor’s, Governor General Ray Hnatshyn. 

He received an honorary degree from the University of Alberta in 1994 in similar fashion to Charles.

This pattern of Savaryn and the British monarchy exchanging honours was omitted from Governor General Simon’s apology.

Charles and Diana outside the Alberta Legislature in June 1983 (Photo: Ron Bell / PA via Alamy)

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace told Declassified: “During a Royal Visit in 1983, His Majesty received an honorary degree from the University of Alberta, a highly respected Canadian institution.

“As is customary, the University’s Chancellor bestowed the honour. As all normal vetting procedures had been followed by his hosts it was recommended that The King accepted the honour at the time.”

Britain’s Foreign Office, which organises Royal trips abroad, could have known about Savaryn’s Nazi past as it helped resettle Waffen-SS veterans in the UK and Canada, recording many of their names on a secret list.

The department declined to comment about its knowledge of Savaryn’s past.

The revelation that Charles received a degree from Savaryn will cause intense discomfort for the Royal family, which has previously been accused of being too close to the Nazis.

In the 1930s, Charles’ disgraced great-uncle, King Edward VIII, went to Germany to meet Adolf Hitler and his grandmother was filmed giving a Nazi salute.

Cruelty and pillage

Savaryn rarely spoke publicly about his wartime experiences, but admitted in an interview to joining the Galicia division in 1944 after much of the unit was encircled and destroyed during the Soviet liberation of Ukraine. 

Rather than fighting to free Ukraine from Soviet rule, the Galicia division retreated deeper into German-occupied Europe. Savaryn confessed to hunting down partisans during Slovakia’s uprising against the Nazis in 1944. 

According to the Military Historical Institute of Slovakia, “If we compare them to regular Wehrmacht units, the way they behaved, the cruelty and the pillage by the Galicia Division was much worse. The Galician Division was the most cruel, the worst of all.”

Savaryn then fought with the Galicia division in Yugoslavia against Tito’s communist partisans before his unit was withdrawn by the Nazis to protect Austria’s capital, Vienna, from the Soviets.

“They sent us to Austria to defend the German Reich, and again there was a lot of action,” Savaryn said.

He added that in Austria his unit was cut off from the rest of the division while holding its line of retreat. Rather than surrender to the Soviets he instead crossed the Alps into Bavaria, southern Germany, with 1,500 other Waffen-SS men and surrendered to American troops. 

He spent a year as a prisoner of war before being released into a displaced persons camp near Stuttgart.

There Savaryn met his wife-to-be who had family in Alberta’s Peace River Country. When the option to emigrate to Canada came, he took it, obscuring his Waffen-SS past.

“I did not say anything about my service at all,” Savaryn recalled in the interview.  “I said ‘I want to go to Canada’ and they said ‘well we need some farmers, we need some woodworkers,’ so I agreed to go to cut lumber.”

Savaryn arrived in Canada in 1949 alongside thousands of other Galicia division volunteers and headed west, eventually enrolling in the University of Alberta. 

MI6, the UK’s foreign intelligence agency, helped many Waffen-SS veterans migrate to Canada, according to the historian Stephen Dorril.

Watch Hunter Pauli discuss his story with Declassified

British protection

The British government began lying to protect the Waffen-SS Galicia Division before the Second World War was even over. 

At the Potsdam Conference in occupied Germany in July 1945, prime minister Winston Churchill personally deflected a Soviet inquiry into the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator unit, members of which were then detained in a British prisoners of war camp, by referring to them as “a Polish division”.

In 1992, professor David Cesarani of the University of London’s Holocaust Research Centre published a book, Justice Delayed, detailing how Britain spirited the Galicia division out of prisoner of war camps into the UK early in the Cold War. 

The operation was led by the Foreign Office, then overseen by staunch anti-communist foreign secretary Ernest Bevin in the Labour government.

Facing extradition to the Soviet Union – and likely severe prosecution for collaborating with the Nazis – Bevin and his colleagues successfully lobbied to reclassify the captured SS soldiers from POWs to “Displaced Persons” (DPs).

This civilian refugee status allowed their importation into Britain as much-needed labour under the European Voluntary Workers system.

According to Cesarani, EVW programmes “were turned into a chute down which to eject ‘politically embarrassing elements’”. Despite official protests from other segments of the British government, “the political impetus built up relentlessly, crushing all opposition”.

Complaints about the import of an entire Nazi division of Waffen-SS soldiers into Britain made it to the House of Commons, where Jewish MPs vocally opposed the Foreign Office’s plan.

“Is my Right Hon. Friend aware that members of this Division were exceptionally brutal, that they murdered hundreds of people in cold blood? Will he take all steps necessary to see that none of those who come into this country took part in any of these sadistic and vicious incidents?” Labour MP Barnett Janner, a leading member of the Jewish community in Britain, told parliament in 1947.

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Rehabilitating the SS

The Foreign Office’s response to criticism of its plan to import Savaryn’s unit to Britain involved a pattern of lies Cesarani called “the quiet rehabilitation of an entire Waffen SS division.”

“The transportation of the 14th Waffen-SS Galizien Division to Britain in May 1947 was not a covert operation, but the division’s history was sanitised and efforts were made to minimise its public profile”, Cesarani wrote. 

He added that “parliamentary questions were deflected and the protests from other departments of state were neutralised by the use of misleading and selective information”. Cesarani commented: “At times it appears as though the FO [Foreign Office] was actually operating a cover-up”.

Also lobbying in favour of the Galicia division was Tracy Phillips, a long term British intelligence officer who published a letter in the Guardian in 1947 defending the SS men in Britain by whitewashing their bloody legacy and Nazi service. 

Phillips had been sent to Canada in 1940 as a propagandist by Britain’s Ministry of Information to convert pro-Hitler Ukrainian fascist groups such as the Ukrainian Nationalist Federation, to the Allied side.

The Ukrainian Nationalist Federation was the Canadian affiliate of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), the openly fascist Ukrainian independence group closely associated with Waffen-SS Galicia men and other Nazi collaborators.

Working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Phillips organised what came to be known as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress as a pro-Allied umbrella group for Ukrainian nationalist organisations, which soon became dominated by the OUN.

Canada was also home to large pro-Soviet Ukrainian socialist groups, who between the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in 1939 and the German invasion of the USSR in 1941 were suppressed by the Canadian federal government, which confiscated most of their meeting halls and handed them over to the right-wing Ukrainian Canadian Congress.

Sinister legion

Repression of left-wing Canadian Ukrainians continued into the postwar era. Today their legacy is continued by the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, whose Edmonton branch has demanded apologies from Canadian leaders and the removal of Edmonton’s Waffen-SS memorials.

This was after the Canadian House of Commons gave a standing ovation to fellow Waffen-SS Galicia veteran Yaroslav Hunka last year, prompting Speaker Anthony Rota to resign.

“If honoring Yaroslav Hunka in the House of Commons was a shameful act that had to be corrected, then so must all these other cases be corrected,” the Association said in a statement.

Its president, Glenn Michalchuk, told Declassified: “A very thorough investigation of this whole history is necessary and needs to be published.”

The first popular English-language history book on the Galicia division to push back against Ukrainian nationalist whitewashing, Pure Soldiers or Sinister Legion, was published in 2003 by Sol Littman, a Canadian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi hunter, was born and raised in the same Ukrainian city as Savaryn, Buczacz, which had a mixed community of Jews, Poles and Ukrainians. Most of the city’s Jews were murdered by the Nazis or collaborators affiliated with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. 

The violence in Buczacz is described in exacting detail by Holocaust and genocide historian Omer Bartov, whose mother emigrated from Buczacz to Palestine, then under British rule, before the war, in his 2018 book, Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz.

According to Bartov, the most intense killing occurred from spring 1942 to 1943, when most Jews of Buczacz were exterminated in local massacres or deported to concentration camps.

“At precisely the same time, hundreds of young Ukrainians in Buczacz were volunteering to serve in the Waffen-SS Division ‘Galicia,’ established in spring 1943 to symbolize Ukrainian participation in the German fight against the approaching Red Army,” Bartov wrote.

Waffen-SS Galicia volunteer recruits march through Buczacz in 1943. (Photo: Poshuk Archive)

Rise in Canada

Before he died in 2017, Savaryn was the most high profile and politically successful of the Galicia division veterans in Canada. 

He allied with future Alberta premier Peter Lougheed of the Progressive Conservative Association during the long reign of the province’s Social Credit Party to deliver votes from Edmonton’s large Ukrainian population.

In a 2014 oral history interview, Savaryn traces his loyalty to Alberta’s Tories to a 1956 speech in Edmonton by soon-to-be-elected Canadian prime minister John Diefenbaker.

Diefenbaker eulogised Ukrainian independence leader Symon Petliura on the 30th anniversary of his assassination. The killing was perpetrated by a Jewish anarchist in Paris in retribution for the tens of thousands of Jews slaughtered by Petliura’s forces during the Russian civil war. 

Savaryn’s memoirs picture him placing flowers on a memorial to Petliura in Paris, as well as a photo with Diefenbaker.

“He was a fantastic speaker, Diefenbaker. And he called for the dismemberment of the Soviet empire to free freedom-loving Ukrainians. I liked him so much that from then on I was Conservative,” Savaryn said.

Lougheed and the Conservatives won big in Alberta in 1971, taking over the province and governing it uninterrupted for decades. Savaryn rose with the party, and in 1976 was unanimously elected as president of the Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta.

“I kept telling Peter [Lougheed]: ‘broaden the base, involve the ethnics, like Ukrainians and Germans, that no one is enlisting,’” Savaryn said in an interview with the Edmonton Journal, the mouthpiece of Alberta’s Conservatives.

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Knights of the Golden Lion

In 1974, Lougheed cut the ribbon to open Edmonton’s Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex, a Ukrainian nationalist community centre featuring a bust of Roman Shukhevych, an infamous Ukrainian Nazi collaborator. 

Shukhevych’s troops killed thousands of Jews and Poles during the war, with units he commanded later folded into the Galicia division.

In his memoirs, Savaryn refers to the Galicia division as “the Knights of the Golden Lion” – a reference to an old Galician kingdom’s coat of arms adopted by the Ukrainian SS men as their unit’s insignia.

Also pictured in Savaryn’s memoirs is his presence at the consecration of the Galicia division memorial in Edmonton’s St. Michael’s Cemetery in 1976 by Catholic Cardinal and Ukrainian nationalist Josyf Slipyj. The memorial lies close to the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex.

Both memorials have made news in recent years after being defaced, with calls for their removal by local Jews ignored.

Savaryn’s memoirs, available only in Ukrainian, have been mentioned by English-language scholars critical of the postwar Western historiography of Ukrainian Nazi collaborators, much of which was propagated by Galicia division veterans and their ideological allies in Canada. 

This includes the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, a nationalist revisionist research institute Savaryn helped found.

Other luminaries photographed with Savaryn who appear in his memoirs include former Canadian prime ministers Lester B. Pearson and Joe Clark, Pope John Paul II, Archbishop of Canterbury Desmond Tutu, and Mother Teresa.

The post King Charles accepted award from Nazi veteran appeared first on Declassified Media Ltd.

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