CBC Journalist Laments “Cruel” Spotlight Shone on Yaroslav Hunka, WW2 Nazi-Unit Veteran

October 2, 2023

The fallout from the Yaroslav Hunka affair continues. Following the September 22 standing ovation on Parliament Hill given to the 98-year-old veteran of the First Ukrainian Division, a unit affiliated with the Nazi Waffen-SS during World War Two, condemnations from politicians, human rights organizations and the news media have been swift and widespread, and calls have grown for more concrete action against Ukrainian Nazis and memorials in their honour.

But in one recent incident, a journalist with CBC News seemingly expressed sympathy for a surprising character in the scandal: Yaroslav Hunka, a volunteer collaborator of the SS.

In the September 27 broadcast on CBC News, producer and host Natasha Fatah was asking an interviewee about the fallout from the controversy on Parliament Hill, and made the eyebrow-raising comment that Yaroslav Hunka and his family must be feeling embarrassment as a result of his appearance.

“And now this horrible series of events have happened. (Speaker of the House Anthony) Rota has lost his job, the government is again fractured on an issue, and in the meantime, the Hunka family, this man in question, is now in international spotlight. What was his role? And this is a 98-year-old man who would likely not have wanted this type of attention, so what consideration needs to be given? Because the spotlight can be so cruel. How do we manage to make sure that guests that are invited are also protected,” Fatah asked.Fatah’s question, appearing to seek sympathy for a 98-year-old who voluntarily joined a Nazi unit which was responsible for crimes against humanity during the war, displays a shocking lack of self-awareness. The victims of the scandal in Ottawa were not House Speaker Anthony Rota, and certainly not Yaroslav Hunka, but the innocent victims who perished in the Nazi genocide, including 6 million Jews, Poles, and others.

As former Member of Parliament and current CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, Michael Levitt, told CTV News: “The Nazi units, like the one he was involved with, did not give the victims of the Holocaust, the millions of them, Jews and others, an opportunity to live their lives, have children and grandchildren and live to be 98 years old.

”In a twist of sick irony, Fatah’s comments came only two days before September 29, the beginning of the Babi Yar massacre in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

Over a two day period in 1941 beginning on that date, the Nazis and their Ukrainian allies brought 34,000 Jews to the Babi Yar ravine in Kiev, where they machine gunned them to death.

Almost unbelievably, Fatah’s thoughtless comments were not the only ones made by journalists in recent days, expressing sympathy for Yaroslav Hunka.

In a column published the same day as Fatah’s broadcast, National Post Columnist Colby Cosh wrote that he “found myself having a strange sympathy for the 98-year-old ex-Nazi at the centre of the whole mess,” adding that as a result of his newfound notoriety, “the little old man in the wheelchair will have to live his last days knowing that, after a youth spent fighting for Ukraine and a long life praying for it, he has betrayed the land of his birth badly, in wartime, or been enticed into betraying it.”In a column published September 26 in The Toronto Star, Columnist Heather Mallick shared her own sarcastic whitewashing of the First Ukrainian Division, writing that “…a Ukrainian caught between Hitler and Stalin made a fatal choice. We can hate Hunka for that now. I do. But would every Canadian MP have made immaculate choices inside Stalin’s “Bloodlands” in 1943?”

Let there be no misunderstanding: Hunka’s unit was a part of the Nazi war effort that engaged in war crimes against innocent people, and he voluntarily joined. While the details of his involvement are not publicly known, he was not then, nor is now, an innocent bystander.

While Hunka’s involvement in the First Ukrainian Division is already being predictably whitewashed by pro-Ukrainian advocates and commentators, there can be no excuse for Canadian journalists to engage in such vapid moral relativism.

While an image by itself of a feeble 98-year-old man may elicit sympathy, knowing his background – and how he has been able to live a long life in safety and security – should bring calls for investigations into his background, not for commiseration.

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