Canadian police are investigating as a hate crime vandalism at a war memorial commemorating Ukrainians who fought in a Waffen-SS unit on behalf of Nazi Germany during World War II, the Ottawa Citizen reported on Friday.
The phrase “Nazi war monument” was daubed on the stone cenotaph, according to the report.
The monument is located in Oakville in the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery and remembers the 14th SS Division, also known as the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which consisted of Ukrainians who fought on behalf of Germany and joined the Waffen-SS.
Some former member have been accused of murdering Jewish people during the war, as well as Polish women and children. The division, formed in 1943, is celebrated by Ukrainian nationalists because it fought against Soviet forces.
Halton Regional Police assessed that the graffiti was sprayed on the monument around June 21. Police said that the incident was being investigated as a “hate crime” but, according to the report, did not release images of the graffiti so as to prevent “further spreading” its message.
— Ottawa Citizen (@OttawaCitizen) July 17, 2020
The notion that vandalism against Nazis is being investigated as a hate crime drew criticism from Bernie Farber of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“Yes, it’s destruction of property for sure,” Farber told the Ottawa Citizen of the graffiti on the monument. “But a hate crime? Far from it.”
Posting to his personal Twitter account, Faber offered to provide education for police officers as to what a constitutes a hate crime.
“I am frankly dumbfounded!” Farber tweeted. “What could Halton Police be thinking? Would be pleased to provide our [workshop] on Hate & Extremism to police. This requires a retraction by police!”
I am frankly dumbfounded! What could @HaltonPolice be thinking? @antihateca would be pleased to provide our wkshp on Hate &Extremism to police. This requires a retraction by police! @ONAttorneyGen https://t.co/NUYhwAKzkM
— BernieFarber (@BernieFarber) July 17, 2020
Halton police on Friday issued a clarification saying in a statement that an initial investigation found the graffiti “may have been hate-motivated, targeting the identifiable group of Ukrainians in general, or Ukrainian members of this cultural center. At no time did the Halton Regional Police Service consider that the identifiable group targeted by the graffiti was Nazis.
“We regret any hurt caused by misinformation that suggests that the Service in any way supports Nazism,” the statement said and noted the investigation as ongoing.
Earlier this year a retired Minnesota carpenter whom The Associated Press exposed as a former commander in the 14th Division, prompting investigations by Germany and Poland, died.
Michael Karkoc, whose family maintained that he was never a Nazi or committed any war crimes, lived quietly in Minneapolis for decades until AP’s review of US and Ukrainian records in 2013 uncovered his past.