Former concentration camp prisoners called on Ukraine’s president not to recognize Ukrainian Insurgent Army members as heros.
In an open letter to Victor Yuschenko, members of the International Union of the Former Juvenile Prisoners of Fascism wrote, “The resurrection of the nationalistic forces from the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA, in Ukraine, and your personal rather strange attitude to this issue alarms us.”
Last October, Yuschenko signed a decree calling for a law recognizing Ukrainians who fought alongside the Nazis. For years after Ukrainian independence in 1991, UPA fighters have demanded official veterans’ status similar to that of Soviet Red Army veterans.
Several international Jewish organizations called on Yuschenko in 2007 to reverse his decision to award Gen. Roman Shukhevych, a commander of the insurgent Nachtigal battalion, with his country’s highest award, the Hero of Ukraine. Some of the celebrations honoring Shukhevych included anti-Semitic manifestations.
Holocaust researchers and Jewish groups have charged that a force under Shukhevych’s command took part in pogroms in 1941 in which 4,000 Jews were killed.
Visiting Israel last November, Yuschenko defended the top honor for Shukhevych and said he did not deliberately massacre Jews.
“This is immoral to award those who were related to pogroms and murdered Jews and others during and after WWII,” Boris Zabarko, the chairman of the All-Ukrainian Association of Former Jewish Prisoners of Ghetto and the Nazi Concentration Camps, told JTA. “That is why we are protesting.”