The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Canada is renewing a call for the removal of two longstanding memorials in the Edmonton area that many say honor Nazi collaborators. The request comes after the monuments were vandalized last week.

A bust of a Ukrainian man, Roman Shukhevych, was defaced with the words “actual Nazi” spray-painted on it. While Ukrainians revere him as a former military leader, others say he was a Nazi collaborator who killed Jews and Poles, and played a role in the July 1, 1941 pogrom in Lvov in which some 4,000 Jews died. The statue of Shukhevych is on the grounds of the Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex in North Edmonton, which is a recipient of funding from the Canadian government.

The second monument, located in North Edmonton’s St. Michael’s Cemetery, is festooned with wreaths, memorial candles and flowers, and serves as a memorial to the “freedom fighters.” FSWC and other groups say those fighters were members of the 14th Waffen SS Division that carried out massacres of women and children. The monument was spray-painted with the words “Nazi Monument 14th Waffen SS.”

Vandalism on a monument in North Edmonton’s St. Michael’s Cemetery in Canada, dedicated to “freedom fighters,” August 2021. Credit: Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Canada.

“It is beyond shameful to have monuments here in Canada honoring Nazi collaborators and war criminals,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of policy at FSWC. “These monuments are nothing less than a glorification and celebration of those who actively participated in Holocaust crimes, as well the mass murder of Polish civilians. They represent an intolerable affront not just to the Jewish community but to all victims of Nazi horrors, to our veterans who fought and died to defeat the Nazi regime, and to the core Canadian values of tolerance and respect for human rights.”

For its part, Ukrainian community leaders have denied that the monuments are Nazi-related.

It’s not the first time the monuments have been vandalized or Jewish groups have called for their removal. However, given the current climate in North America with many re-examining old monuments and the messages they convey, such as those in the United States that honor Confederate leaders, people are hopeful the Ukrainian community may be more responsive than in the past.

Kirzner-Roberts told JNS that her organization has discussed concerns about the statues with the Ukrainian community many times, but members have refused to take them down. Still, she said, “we are hopeful that in this present moment, they will choose to reconsider this decision.”

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