Polish minister launches attempt to extradite Yaroslav Hunka from Canada

Hunka received a standing ovation in Canada's parliament last week before it emerged he served in a Nazi unit during the Second World War


A Polish government minister has launched an attempt to extradite a Ukrainian man who served in a Nazi unit during the Second World War.

Yaroslav Hunka received widespread attention when was praised as "a Ukrainian hero, a Canadian hero" and was applauded in the Canadian parliament last week.

Hunka, 98, was thanked for his service after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the chamber.

It later emerged however, Hunka is a veteran of the 14th Waffen Grenadier unit of the SS, a volunteer force accused of committing atrocities against Polish civilians in service of Nazi Germany.

Writing on X/Twitter, Polish education minister Przemysław Czarnek said: “In view of the scandalous events in the Canadian parliament, which involved honouring, in the presence of President Zelensky, a member of the criminal Nazi SS Galizien formation, I have taken steps towards the possible extradition of this man to Poland."

In a letter, he has asked that Poland's Institute of National Remembrance, a prosecutorial body, “urgently [establish] whether Yaroslav Hunka is wanted for crimes against the Polish nation or Poles of Jewish origin."

The letter adds: "Such crimes constitute grounds for applying to Canada for his extradition."

The praise lavished upon Hunka in Canada's parliament sparked outrage among Jewish groups and Polish nationals.

Dan Panneton, director of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, told CBC News: "The unit was complicit in the Holocaust. They collaborated with the Nazis and they participated in the massacre of civilians.

"These are in many ways crimes that have not fully been answered for in historical memory and which, by honouring them in our house of legislature absolves the unit... of its historical crime,"

B’nai Brith Canada’s CEO Michael Mostyn said it was outrageous that parliament honoured someone who had fought on behalf of the Nazis.

In a statement, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies said the Galician division “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable”.

It added: “An apology is owed to every Holocaust survivor and veteran of the second world war who fought the Nazis, and an explanation must be provided as to how this individual entered the hallowed halls of Canadian parliament and received recognition from the speaker of the house and a standing ovation.”

Following the incident, the speaker of the Canadian parliament, Anthony Rota, apologised and extended his "deepest apologies" to Jewish communities around the world. He resigned on Tuesday evening.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he was left "deeply embarrassed" by the incident and that neither he nor Zelensky were given advance notice of the invitation to Hunka.

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