Canada Should Remove Its Nazi Monuments For Good

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History | Politics | Racism

I have written in the past about my visit to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

It’s a painful experience, but it’s one that I highly encourage everyone to seek out. Such memorials exist all around the world, and they’re an incredible reminder of how horrible human beings can truly be to one another.

It’s hard to look at the images and read the horrible stories. Do it anyway.

When you take the time to immerse yourself in the history of the Holocaust, you develop a seething disgust towards those who participated in it. It takes root in you, and it flexes its claws whenever you see denial or minimization of the facts.

As you can imagine, it’s hard to square with the idea that my own country is one of those that keeps the denial of the atrocities alive.

In Canada, there are monuments to volunteer Nazi soldiers. The most well-known of these is the infamous Oakville cenotaph that commemorates the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS.

Recently, after years of being defaced and vandalized, after years of protests, it has finally been removed. A sign proclaims that it is only gone for repairs and that it will return soon.

I’d rather see it broken down into rubble.

The fenceline of an old Nazi concentration camp.
It’s a chilling sight. | Photo by Darshan Gajara on Unsplash

On September 22nd, 2023, the Canadian parliament was caught up in a scandal.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to the House of Commons to give a speech on behalf of the Ukrainian people, asking Canada to continue providing aid to his country during their ongoing conflict with Russia.

In the wake of his speech, a guest was acknowledged and asked to stand. The guest was 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka. He was introduced as a Ukrainian-Canadian war hero who served in World War II, and naturally, he was met with thunderous applause.

In the aftermath, it was revealed which unit that Hunka had served in.

The 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS, also known as the Galizien. The Canadian parliament celebrated a Nazi soldier after a speech by Ukraine’s Jewish President.

Talk about a perfect propaganda storm for Putin.

Canada took in quite a few former Nazi soldiers in the years following World War II, just like the United States. This is especially insulting, given the fact that we refused Jewish refugees entry during the early years of the Holocaust.

There are times when I love my country, and then there are times like this when I’m reminded that no nation exists that doesn’t have skeletons in its closet.

The cenotaph in Oakville is — or was, here’s hoping — not the only monument to the 14th that exists in Canada. There’s at least one other memorial to the unit in Edmonton.

There are people who claim that the 14th Waffen Grenadier Divison existed only to fight back against Russia and that the members were just Ukranian patriots fighting for their country.

The last time I wrote on the subject, I saw firsthand the level of denial that some people have, and the justifications some people will use to excuse their crimes.

Like I said then, tell that to the people of Poland. As a matter of fact, tell that to the victims of the Babi Yar massacre that took place in Kyiv two years before the 14th was formed.

Anyone who wants to claim that these men signed up unknowingly and had no part in the mass murder needs to brush up on their history.

They knew the Nazis were murdering civilians, and they signed up anyway.

A line of candles in the national Holocaust memorial in Washington D.C.
Never forget, and never allow it to happen again. | Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

We cannot whitewash and downplay the history of the Holocaust. Not back then, not now, not ever.

The moment we started letting things like this go, we sent a signal to the modern-day hate groups that their presence was tolerable. We validated them, and we gave them leave to build up more and more influence.

If you need proof, consider the neo-Nazi pilgrimage to the Oakville cenotaph. They regard it as a memorial to their heroes. What does that tell you?

The threat of fascism and the rise of the far-right cannot be overlooked. It is a clear and present danger to democracy, both here and abroad. And now, more than ever, we need to send a strong message.

Hate does not belong here. It doesn’t belong anywhere. It should be rejected, pushed out, and consigned to the fringes where it can no longer sink its teeth into our laws and politics.

The Nazis were our enemies, the enemies of humanity itself. Anyone who wants to glorify and celebrate them can consider themselves a part of the same dung heap.

Now is the time when we need to send a strong message to white nationalists, Christo-fascists, and neo-Nazis that want to drag us down to the level of collaborators.

I for one have no interest in silencing myself so that they can evade judgment.

These memorials are no more welcome here in Canada than the Confederate flag should be welcome in the United States. They are not a symbol honoring freedom fighters, they are sigils that memorialize participants in the war crimes.

You want to honor Ukrainian soldiers? Then honor Ukrainian soldiers, not volunteer members of the SS. There is no place for that here.

If we want to pretend that Canada is a good country full of good and honorable people, then we can start by making the Oakville cenotaph’s removal a permanent one. That would be a good start.

After that, we can turn our attention to the rest of them. Preferably with a sledgehammer clutched in our hands.

Solidarity wins.

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