New York, NY, March 11, 2010 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on Viktor Yanukovich, the recently elected president of Ukraine, to withdraw the "Hero of Ukraine" title awarded to two partisans who fought alongside the Nazis against the Soviets in World War II and who had direct involvement in atrocities against Jews and Poles.
"The Ukrainian state does a grave disservice to its own history and to its reputation by lionizing those complicit in the mass murder of Jews," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor.
In his final week in office, former President Viktor A. Yushchenko named Stepan Bandera as a "Hero of Ukraine," one of the country's highest honors. Bandera, who campaigned for an independent Ukrainian state in 1941, was aligned with the Nazis during the war and was complicit in mass killings of Jews and Poles by Ukrainian partisans. Bandera was assassinated by the KGB in October 1959.
Another Ukrainian partisan, Gen. Roman Shukhevych, fought in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA, alongside German forces. He was posthumously honored with the "Hero of Ukraine" designation in 2007 by former President Yushchenko.
In a letter to President Yanukovich, the League said both men were unworthy of the honors, considering their history as Nazi collaborators and in stark comparison with so many other Ukrainians who heroically saved lives during the Holocaust.
"Ukraine has many heroes, including more than 2,000 of your compatriots who have been recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust at great personal risk," Mr. Foxman wrote to President Yanukovich. "Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych should not be honored by a democratic Ukraine. We look to your leadership to rectify that mistake."