To the Editors:
In his review of Norman Davies’s Rising ’44: The Battle for Warsaw [NYR, July 15, 2004], Simon Sebag Montefiore mistakenly identifies Mieczys/law Kaminski as a “Ukrainian renegade” and also the members of his brigade as the Germans’ “Ukrainian protégés.”
In fact, Kaminski’s father was an ethnic Pole and his mother an ethnic German, and Kaminski regarded himself as a Russian. The unit he headed was called the Russian National Army of Liberation (known by its abbreviation in Russian as RONA) and it was composed of soldiers of many Soviet nationalities, including Ukrainians and Russians.
These facts are to be found in the authoritative scholarly monographs and source collections on the Warsaw Uprising in Polish (Antoni Przygonski), German (Hanns von Krannhals), English (J.K. Zawodny, Joanna K.M. Hanson), and Ukrainian (Vasyl Veryha).
The legend about Kaminski being a Ukrainian crept into some literature from Polish memoirs. During the war there was bitter fighting between Poles and Ukrainians, and in particular the Ukrainian Insurgent Army slaughtered tens of thousands of Poles in Volhynia. Also, Ukrainian nationalists generally considered the Germans to be a lesser evil than the Soviets and often enough collaborated. This is the context in which some Poles erroneously concluded that the former Soviet soldiers of Kaminski’s brigade were Ukrainians.
Professor of History
University of Alberta
January 13, 2005