What to do about local monument to Waffen SS

Here is a recent, and revolting, development in Elkins Park.

The Inquirer is reporting on a memorial to the Nazi SS, specifically the 14th Waffen Grenadier Division of the Schutzstaffel, on the grounds of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery.

The SS was the worst of the worst, and the worst part of this story is that the monument was erected in the 1990’s, when the misdeeds of the SS were well known. It is a monument to tone-deafness.

It is disgusting, but it is on private ground, and there is another side to the story.

In an abundance of fairness, I will report that to some of its supporters, the 14th Waffen Grenadiers was organized to fight Russia and communism, which sought to dominate Ukraine. Similarly, Finland aligned with Germany in World War II not because it supported the Nazis, but because the Axis was fighting Russia, Finland’s traditional bully and enemy.

But to revise history to present the 14th Waffen SS as freedom fighters is an unnatural stretch.

The memorial resembles the German Iron Cross, and in English says, “In Memory of Ukrainian Soldiers.” Ukrainian, not German or SS. The monument notes 1943-45, which seems to be the life span of the unit.

The monument may have escaped notice until now because of the English inscription, and the German Cross, rather than a swastika. 

OK — so I have been fair with them.

Now, why aren’t they fair with the overwhelming majority of Americans who see Nazis as evil incarnate? Can’t they see how utterly offensive this monument is to all Americans, but most especially Jewish Americans?

Not surprisingly, Jewish groups have deep reservations about the monument.

“We don’t feel good that there is a memorial to any SS unit in our area,” said Jason Holtzman, an official with the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Andrew Goretsky, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said, “We do object to monuments dedicated to Waffen SS soldiers.”

So do I, but what do we do about it?

This is different from the controversy over monuments to Confederates in the Civil War, because most of those were on public land. Such placement could be understood as public approval of men who took up arms against their own country. 

If the statues are on private land, they should be left alone, protected, in my view, under free speech.

21st Century cancel culture is more like attacks on American leaders, whose statues were removed or vandalized. These include Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Francis Scott Key,  Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses A. Grant, and Frank Rizzo. Not to mention Christopher Columbus.

Some Americans have problems with each of the above, and that’s OK. Free speech, again. 

But their free speech should not veto the free speech of those who support the leaders mentioned.

Here’s how reasonable people should address whoever is behind the Waffen SS memorial.

“We find the memorial offensive, but recognize your freedom of speech. We ask you to recognize our serious concerns by adding a plaque to the memorial explaining the totality of the role of the Waffen SS in World War II.”

They can do the right thing, or they can suffer being shunned by their neighbors. 

That is up to them. But it is not up to us to destroy the memorial.

15 thoughts on “What to do about local monument to Waffen SS”

  1. I agree Stu. Where is the outage? Is support for Ukraine a reason to not be appalled by a monument honoring Waffen ᛋᛋ. Your point is well taken. The same group who demanded Rizzo Statue, Columbus statue even statues of our founding fathers be removed have nothing to say about Ukrainian Catholic Church honoring WWII Waffen SS with a monument. I equate this with Confederate statues and people should demand it be removed or at least an addendum plaque attached to it, condemning SS.

  2. A monument to the SS on American soil — public or private — is repugnant. And a shock to the senses.

  3. This is very sad to see, but what’s even sadder is seeing goddamned Nazis marching in the streets of America, in Florida. Again, free speech and all that, but I can’t help but wish that the Blues Brothers were real and driving around Florida to do what they did to the Illinois Nazis in the movie. Nobody in this country should normalize this bullshit or find it even remotely acceptable, and the governor of that state should be speaking out against it in no uncertain terms. But he doesn’t do that. We need to ask him why.

  4. It’s history, an open wound yes, but none the less history. Just as tearing down statues of confederates, slave owners, and even the showing of Japanese and Nazi aircraft today. All History. You can stop looking at it, never visit it, or tear it down, but, does it change history?

  5. Stu:
    With regard to cancel culture, don’t forget Kate Smith, an American songbird who raised millions of dollars singing at war bond rallies to finance the American drive to defeat the Nazis and Imperial Japan during the Second World War. Today her statue, along with that of Frank Rizzo, is in cold storage at an undisclosed location, doomed to obscurity. They both deserve better treatment, but the political progressives running this city will continue to keep them in bondage.

    1. Oh, so true. Ed Snider never would have caved into the howling mob. Hmmm. Maybe it’s time to do an Open Letter to the Flyers.
      They could reverse that stupid decision.
      Rizzo? No politician would have the guts to restore it.

  6. Support for Ukraine does not mean support for a Nazi memorial it should not be on American soul. We fought and defeated that evil regime

    1. I understand your feelings, but the Bill of Rights gives Americans the right to be Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, Atifa and a host of other things I don’t approve of. It is the price of freedom.

  7. Channel 6 announced about an hour ago that police commissioner Danielle Outlaw resigned and will be leaving office later this month.

  8. In Munich, Hitler built a memorial to those who fell in his aborted putsch. It was right next to the now music school that Hitler and Chamberlain made the Munich agreement that sealed the deal for Czechoslovakia. It was grand in scale and looked like something the Greeks built in ancient times.

    After the war, we dug those guys up, cremated them and buried them in unmarked graves. We dynamited the structures. All that is left standing are the foundations, which now have fully grown trees in them.

    I am not suggesting the same for this monument but losing the unit designation would be a start.

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