Simon Wiesenthal   Letter 13   03-Sep-1997   The Rusinek slap
September 3, 1997

Simon Wiesenthal
Jewish Documentation Center
Salztorgasse 6
1010 Vienna

Dear Mr. Wiesenthal:

On April 28, 1996, I received a letter from a Jewish faculty member at an American University, from which I quote the following:

I do not doubt for a moment ... that Simon Wiesenthal is a fabulist which is the fancy literary word for an unmitigated liar.  My father (an Auschwitz inmate) told me many terrible stories about Wiesenthal's role after the war in the Austrian DP camps.  Wiesenthal is of the same ilk as Elie Wiesel: a secular saint, he can make the most absurd claims without fear of exposure.

That you are a fabulist, of course, goes without saying of that I think my letters to you have amply demonstrated, and your refusal to respond to any of my letters perhaps reinforces.  What I am interested in at the moment, however, is not the "fabulist" part, but rather the "many terrible stories about Wiesenthal's role after the war in the Austrian DP camps."  Upon examining your biographies for information as to just what that "terrible role" might have been, I come up with nothing.

However, I do come up with some indication that hostility toward you in the DP camps after the war was virulent, as evidenced in these two accounts of what appears to be the same event:

Former inmates took over command.  One of them was the future Polish Cabinet Minister Kazimierz Rusinek.  Wiesenthal needed to see him at his office to get a pass.  The Pole, who was about to lock up, struck him across the face just as some camp officials had frequently treated Jews.  It hurt Wiesenthal more than all the blows received from SS men in three years: "Now the war is over, and the Jews are still being beaten."

...  He sought out the American camp command to make a complaint.  (Peter Michael Lingens in Simon Wiesenthal, Justice Not Vengeance, 1989, p. 12)

A Polish trusty named Kazimierz Rusinek pounced on Simon for no good reason and knocked him unconscious.  When Wiesenthal woke up, friends had carried him to his bunk.  "What has he got against you?" one of them asked.

"I don't know," Simon said. "Maybe he's angry because I'm still alive."  (Alan Levy, The Wiesenthal File, 1993, p. 69)

As the purpose of the present letter is not to further test your credibility, I do not draw attention to the fact that these two accounts are somewhat different some might even say discrepant.  What I am wondering, rather, is whether they might not constitute evidence that even at the time of those Austrian DP camps, some of the inmates might already have begun to perceive you as playing a "terrible role" in them?

As a matter of fact, I too found myself in an Austrian DP camp after the war.  Maybe if you are ever in Vancouver, we could get together and reminisce.  I was only four years old at the time, so we might be able to give each other insights from our contrasting perspectives.  So if you are ever in Vancouver, be sure to look me up.

In the meantime, however, I wonder if you would care to comment on the Rusinek slap?  Was it really as inexplicable as your biographies seem to be saying or might you now begin to acknowledge that it was an expression of righteous indignation for that "terrible role" of yours?

Sincerely yours,

Lubomyr Prytulak