Ukrainians in the Waffen-SS & Wehrmacht

Discussions on the foreigners (volunteers as well as conscripts) fighting in the German Wehrmacht, those collaborating with the Axis and other period Far Right organizations. Hosted by George Lepre.
Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 04 May 2006 20:50

Hello Marc,

Nice to hear from you as you always have something interesting and constructive to say.

I researched the backgrounds of all the senior German officers from the Galician division and with less than half a dozen exceptions, the rest were in my view from the bottom of the barrel.
With regard to Freitag's Knight's Cross. I agree with your view except to say that circumstantial evidence thus far suggests the wording of the recommendation is simply a verbatim copy of FREITAG’S own post battle written report given to Himmler in August 1944. As yet I have been unable to find a hard copy of that report. However based on Heike’s account and those of two other senior officers who were in a position to know what was said, it is likely that to all intents and purposes Freitag simply wrote his own recommendation. Rauss just endorsed it for the sake of appearances.

I think Degrelle deserved his award. Freitag did not.

Yes, it appears that his former comrades from the SS-Polizei Division did think well of him. They still lay a wreath on his grave from time to time.

Himmler hoped Freitag would impart "Prussian discipline" to "soft Ukrainians" –

Interesting idea. There is no doubt Freitag would have greatly preferred a different assignment. During his meeting with Himmler post Brody (referred to above) he actually asked to be reassigned back to the 4th Polezei div, a request which Himmler refused. But the truth is, Freitag did not like the Ukrainians, and was suspicious of them. He actively and blatantly discriminated against them – hardly something that would win their support. The majority of the young Ukrainian officers who graduated from the German academies received better marks than the Reich Germans with the Galician Div did.

There may have been other Waffen-SS commanders who were unfit, but did any others receive the Knights Cross after resigning their commands?

It is also worth bearing in mind that in mid April 1945, when the Galician Division was deployed at the front in Austria as part of 1st Cavalry Corps, elements of the Soviet forces opposing it made a temporary breach in the Galician Division’s lines. Freitag became so alarmed by the developments at the front, that in the presence of the commander of the 1st Cavalry Corps General de Kavallerie Harteneck, he instinctively announced his abdication as Divisional commander and responsibility for its performance in action - as he had done at Brody. On this occasion General Harteneck refused Freitag's resignation and ordered him to remain at his post. In due course, with additional support from the veteran 3rd Cavalry Division, the crisis passed and the front held.
Perhaps Freitag thought that Himmler would be so impressed that he had resigned his command a second time at a critical juncture, that he would add the oak leaves to his Knights Cross.

Mike Melnyk

Top: Ukrainians from the Galician division doing shooting practice at Heidelager. This picture is another which appeared in the Divisional newspaper – hence the highlighting. It originated from the former KGB collection and was amongst those I bought.
Bottom: I know that this shows members of the Galician Division but I am unsure of the location and date. The photo came from a vet in Ukraine.

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 04 May 2006 20:52

Mike Melnyk

Top: Ukrainians from the Galician division doing shooting practice at Heidelager. This picture is another which appeared in the Divisional newspaper – hence the highlighting. It originated from the former KGB collection and was amongst those I bought.
Bottom: I know that this shows members of the Galician Division but I am unsure of the location and date. The photo came from a vet in Ukraine.

Mike Melnyk
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Askold
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Post by Askold » 04 May 2006 22:40

Great shot of Freitag Mike! Never seen one like this before. The last photo looks like Slovakia to me.

Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 05 May 2006 08:11

Hi
top: Ukrainian officers at Heidelager
bottom: Gauard outside Freitags HQ

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 05 May 2006 08:15

April 1944 at Neuhammer. Left to right Gov WAECHTER, FREITAG, BISANZ, (facing them BEYERSDORF kdr of 14 Arty Rgt)

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 05 May 2006 18:59

Georg S. Was worked for the KGB in the propaganda dept. His department was provided with liberal amounts of material which the KGB obtained in order to produce anti- Ukrainian nationalist publications. His department received a very large number of photos and documents. Whilst making negatives of the photos he made a second set for himself.
In the early 1990’s when the Soviet Union was on it’s last legs, Georg S. offered his material to anyone who was interested. He would arrange to meet at an underground station in Kiev, whereupon he would produce two carrier bags full of reels of negatives as well as some prints all of which he claimed showed the Galician Division. The price was exorbitant. Sadly, as you might expect, the KGB had borrowed liberally from a variety of sources to make their somewhat bias point. The results were that Georg S. had perhaps 500 photos, none of which were captioned. Once prints had been made of all the photos, a pattern began to emerge. The majority of the photos were of the UPA. The quality was excellent and they showed many individuals and groups. Then there were genuine shots of the Galician Division including many I had seen previously and a large number used in official publications and newspapers at the time. There were also dozens of photos of partisans being hanged, and executions taking place – again several of which I had seen before and none of which showed the Galician Division. Of this I am certain as for example anyone with any knowledge whatsoever of the German Soviet conflict can determine the difference between a regular army uniforms and that worn by SS units. Worse still some of the photos had been crudely doctored.
Sorting through the pictures was a lengthy and expense process and ultimately only one of his pictures made it to my book.
Here are three examples of photos mixed in with the Galician Division pictures which are typical of those which were of other Waffen-SS units.

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 05 May 2006 19:02

More KGB pics

Mike
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 05 May 2006 19:06

The real thing. One of the KGB pictures which did show the Galician Divison, and which had not been altered that I used in my book

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 08 May 2006 20:09

Hi

SS-Standartenführer und Oberst der Schutzpolizei Rudolph Pannier. Kdr WGR 31. The serious wounds which he received during his service had left him with a permanent limp. Pannier often took morphine injections to which he later became addicted. As a result according to a Ukrainian officer who served on his staff, "he often gave foolish and unreasonable orders". I have several examples to support this thesis. On 9th April, Pannier was wounded whilst inspecting the front in his Regiments sector in Austria. Two separate and entirely independent accounts by witnesses of how Pannier received his wound concur that it was due to his arrogance and failing to conduct himself properly when in an exposed position.

Mike Melnyk
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Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 09 May 2006 21:10

Hi
A civilian organisation called the Military Board (Wehrausschuss) was established to support the activities of the Galician Division. Its main concerns were recruitment and administration of welfare support to the families of the recruits and other related matters. It also held the archive of the Divisional newspaper, initially entitled Do Peremohy (To Victory). The first issue appeared on 21st December, 1943, and publication continued until 7th January, 1945.

In 1945, the archives of the Military Board were evacuated in 2 trucks. They included all the documentation relating to the division and the entire photographic archive of the Divisional newspaper. The latter consisted of many hundreds of prints, all the same size (10 x 8) and each one captioned in purple type on the back. The trucks ran out of fuel in Breslau and the archive was lost although the fate of the material was never established. Rumours abounded that the archive survived and having been looted from the trucks and that it was still in Poland. I spent many years searching for this archive and found nothing until one of the photos turned up in the USA. Shortly thereafter I discovered another two pictures from the archive in Canada in the hands of another vet. Both had been sent the prints from friends in Poland, but were unable to obtain anymore as both had been acquired as a one off.


Here is one of the pictures. It is of one of the older Ukrainians who were former officers but who underwent a retarining programme before they could be given a commissioned rank in the Galician Division. I have another picture from the same sequence.

About 15 months later I received a note from a researcher friend in Poland which stated that he had come across a dealer at a flea market in Warsaw who had 200+ photos of the Galician Division. These were 10x8 and each had a typed caption on the back. I asked him to obtain an example which he did the following week. As soon as I received it I realised that it was from the missing archive and contacted my friend immediately and asked him to negotiate a price on all the remaining pictures. Unfortunately, the seller did not appear at the flea market the following week and has not re-appeared since. All efforts to trace him have thus far been to no avail. It would however appear that the archive or at lest a part of it did survive and is still in Poland. It is also possible that one of the pictures posted earlier by Orlov (interestingly also in Poland) is from the same archive although I have not seen the original print and do not know where he obtained his picture.

Mike Melnyk
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Askold
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Post by Askold » 10 May 2006 19:15

Amazing story! All the luck finding the archive - it would be very interesting to see such photos.

Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 13 May 2006 22:19

Hi,

During one of my trips to Canada to interview former members of the Galician Div, I received an invitation from a former officer to visit and stay with him at his home during my stay. He had previously read a draft of my manuscript and sent me several important corrections and additions.
I asked him if he had any war time material relating to the Division and all he said was “you will see, you will see”, but produced nothing whatsoever. On the third night he had had rather a lot to drink, and began a rather lengthy justification of why the Ukrainians served in the Waffen-SS. He then unlocked a cabinet and removed several items including half a dozen EK.II’s and a few wound badges in black along with the most astounding photographic collection of the Galician division and its’ affiliated units that I have ever seen in private hands.

He was part of the administration staff of WGR 31, part of which withdrew from the front together with part of the supply unit – including 3 field kitchens. Whist retreating they encountered a shot up column from another unit which had been heavily staffed by enemy aircraft. The vehicles had been abandoned and he took the opportunity to look through the wreckage to recover anything of use; food stuffs, wine and amongst other things several crates of un-issued decorations including the wound badge in black and an entire crate of un-issued EK II’s. He took handfuls of each decoration and the crate of EKII’s and hid it in one of the field kitchens. Later his group surrendered to the British, who searched him and his comrades and ‘confiscated’ watches and other personal items. They did not however search the filed kitchens which they allowed them to retain as they were useful in helping to feed the Ukrainian prisoners of war. In this way he managed to keep the decorations. When the Galician Division was interned en-masse, at the Rimini enclave on the Adriatic in Italy, he swapped them one at a time with the British guards for food and cigarettes, which in turn he traded with his comrades for their photos and other memorabilia. Over the course of several months he acquired an outstanding collection of pictures of photos of the Galician Division and its affiliated units.

He told me that he had allowed some into circulation via the veterans organisation (most of which were published by over the years in its newsletter VISTI KOMBATANTA – Veterans News. He added that he had he never shown most of them to anyone – not even his son (who in fairness would probably only have thought them to be dads old army photos).

To my eternal shame, I recall lying awake that night, trying to think of ways of getting the pictures I wanted. I thought of re-photographing them with my camera when I was alone at his home, or simply taking the very best pictures by my conscience got the better of me and I decided to try and persuade him to voluntarily loan me the pictures. Ultimately after a lengthy debate over the next 3 days, on the day I returned to England, he allowed me to take some pictures with me (they numbered around 50), but these were subject to his vetting and the vast majority that I wanted he withheld.

Later, I met the keeper of the Division’s photo archive and discussed the collection with him. He told me that he too had seen a few excellent pictures belonging to a vet officer who was living in Spain, but that he too refused to let them out of his hands. When asked why he replied “My family just would not understand if they saw them”. This is because many of them featured Ukrainians giving the NAZI salute, in settings that featured large Swastika banners and SS emblems. We concluded that the same reasoning must apply to this collection which consisted of literally hundreds of pictures some of which were without exaggeration, historically important in the context of the Galician Division and from time to time the Waffen-SS per se. Photos he refused me included pictures of the German training staff at the various officers schools / courses the Ukrainians attended, some graphic training shots, many of ceremonial occasions (passing out, graduation, oath taking, presentation of decorations and such like) as well as a host of others. The only plus point was that I do not recall seeing any combat shots.

Mike Melnyk

Bix
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Post by Bix » 19 May 2006 01:14

Hello all,
I must first apologise if Im posting in the wrong area. I am new to this site and it is my first post. I found the site whilst Google searching 14 SS Galicia Division.

My reason? My Grandad was a Ukrainian who fought in WWII on the Axis side. Now through the wonders of the Net I am trying to shed more light on a part of my family history that without care will vanish forever and my Grandad deserved more than that. Unfortunately I know very little as he rarely spoke of his time in the war , I think a combination of hard memories and a fear of being misunderstood by the younger English generations of his family kept him silent. :(

I do know that he was a POW in Italy and that the camp was probably by a lake as he did mention once about the camp guards telling tales of giant Eels that would attack any man who tried to swim across. :) He settled in the UK after the war.

And as a boy I remember seeing a few BW photos of him in his uniform that my Granny kept. I am certain the uniform bore the Lion and three crowns on one side of the collar on his tunic. Which is what guided me to seek out info on the Galicia Division after hearing that this was their insignia.

I am waiting on a copy of Michael O.Logusz's Galicia Division to read up on the units history. But after seeing the wealth of knowledge displayed here I was wondering if any of you could give me any pointers on where else I could search for information. Obviously my ultimate goal is to try and piece together some kind of war record of my Grandad , his unit where he served etc... are there any records in existence that can be researched on a name basis?

Any help would be much appreciated , thanks for your time.

Bix

Melnyk
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Post by Melnyk » 20 May 2006 19:05

Hi

Although he was 100% Ukrainian and therefore officially an Untermensch, or ‘subhuman’ the Germans do not appear to have been able to reconcile this against the fact that he was a first class officer and a brave man – more so than most of the Germans assigned to the Division. Uniquely (as far as I know), in the official photo for his Soldbuch KOSAK is wearing the SS rune on his collar patches. Moreover unlike his Ukrainian subhuman comrades whose rank always carried the prefix of Waffen, Kosak’s rank was sometimes referred to as Obersturmfuehrer as in the document on the left which is the citation for the wound badge in Silver. His correct rank (w.-Obersturmfuehrer) is seen on the document of the right for the Infantry Assault Badge. He was also one of only two Ukrainians to receive the EKI whilst serving with the Division. He was not always popular with his men: during an interview one former member of his company wrote “he was more German than the Germans. At Gleichenberg [April 1945], we took the castle Schloss Gleichenberg, but the Soviets soon launched a strong counterattack and we were forced to withdraw. As we began to pull back Kosak came towards us with his gun and said he would personally shoot anyone who retreated”.

At the end of the war Kosak was one of only 80 or so Ukrainians who remained in Germany. Here (again uniquely) he established a wine export business with financial assistance from HAIG – the Waffen-SS self help organisation.

Mike Melnyk
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Ivan Ž.
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Post by Ivan Ž. » 21 May 2006 17:59

Melnyk wrote:...examples of photos mixed in with the Galician Division pictures
which are typical of those which were of other Waffen-SS units.
This is LSSAH in Charkow, 1943.
Same 3 men can be seen in both photos.

Image

Great thread, Mike, thanks!

/Ivan

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