Simon Wiesenthal   Letter 20   13-Sep-1997   Jews killing Ukrainians in Lviv
September 13, 1997

Simon Wiesenthal
Jewish Documentation Center
Salztorgasse 6
1010 Vienna

Dear Mr. Wiesenthal:

In my letter to you of September 12, I presented the testimony of Erwin Schulz to the effect that in the few days prior to the arrival of German forces in Lviv in 1941, some 5,000 inhabitants of the Lviv region, predominantly Ukrainians and Poles, had been killed, and that the killing had been conducted "under the leadership of Jewish functionaries and with the participation of the Jewish inhabitants of Lemberg."

The continuing question before us can be broken down into two parts:  (1) Were such large numbers of Ukrainians and Poles killed?  (2) What ethnic groups were most responsible for the killing?

On the first question, there does not appear to be much doubt every one of the half-dozen sources that I consulted agree that the slaughter did take place.  In fact, in the last quotation of the following set of six, you yourself, Mr. Wiesenthal, can be seen to agree:

Before fleeing the German advance the Soviet occupational regime murdered thousands of Ukrainian civilians, mainly members of the city's [Lviv's] intelligentsia. (Encyclopedia of Ukraine, Volume 3, p. 222)

The Bolsheviks succeeded in annihilating some 10,000 political prisoners in Western Ukraine before and after the outbreak of hostilities (massacres took place in the prisons in Lviv, Zolochiv, Rivne, Dubno, Lutsk, etc.).  (Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopaedia, Volume 1, p. 886)

The Soviets' hurried retreat had tragic consequences for thousands of political prisoners in the jails of Western Ukraine.  Unable to evacuate them in time, the NKVD slaughtered their prisoners en masse during the week of 22-29 June 1941, regardless of whether they were incarcerated for major or minor offenses.  Major massacres occurred in Lviv, Sambir, and Stanyslaviv in Galicia, where about 10,000 prisoners died, and in Rivne and Lutsk in Volhynia, where another 5000 perished.  Coming on the heels of the mass deportations and growing Soviet terror, these executions added greatly to the West Ukrainians' abhorrence of the Soviets.  (Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, 1994, p. 461)

Right after the entry we were shown 2,400 dead bodies of Ukrainians liquidated with a shot at the scruff of the neck at the city jail of Lemberg [Lviv] by the Soviets prior to their marching off. (Hans Frank, In the Face of the Gallows, p. 406)

In Lvov, several thousand prisoners had been held in three jails.  When the Germans arrived on 29 June, the city stank, and the prisons were surrounded by terrified relatives.  Unimaginable atrocities had occurred inside.  The prisons looked like abattoirs.  It had taken the NKVD a week to complete their gruesome task before they fled.  (Gwyneth Hughes and Simon Welfare, Red Empire: The Forbidden History of the USSR, 1990, p. 133)

When the German attack came on 22 June the Soviets had no time to take with them the people they had locked up.  So they simply killed them.  Thousands of detainees were shot dead in their cells by the retreating Soviets.  (Simon Wiesenthal, Justice Not Vengeance, 1989, p. 35)

The first question having been settled I trust to the satisfaction of all, we turn now to the second question: Is there any ethnic group that might have been particularly responsible for the killing?  Well, if the slaughter was conducted by the NKVD or was directed by the NKVD, then the question reduces to What was the ethnic composition of the NKVD?

The evidence that I have come across points to the conclusion that the NKVD was dominated by Jews.  Here is one such piece of evidence.  The speaker is Yoram Sheftel, John Demjanjuk's Israeli defense attorney, describing his visit to the Simferopol, Ukraine, KGB headquarters in 1990 what Sheftel seems to be saying is that out of a sample of some 30 members of the wartime NKVD, every last one was a Jew:

On the right-hand wall was a stone memorial plaque engraved with the names of about thirty KGB men from Simferopol who had fallen in the Great Patriotic War, as the Soviets call World War II.  I was shocked and angry as I read the names: the first was Polonski and the last Levinstein, and all those between were ones like Zalmonowitz, Geller and Kagan all Jews.  The best of Jewish youth in Russia, the cradle of Zionism, had sold itself and its soul to the Red Devil.  (The Demjanjuk Affair: The Rise and Fall of a Show-Trial, 1994, p. 301)

Of course a sample of 30 is not necessarily a sample that is representative of the entire NKVD; however the Jewish domination of the entire NKVD is not a rare or dubious hypothesis, but is one, rather, that is upheld from more than one direction:

As a Jew, I'm interested in another question entirely: Why were there so many Jews among the NKVD-MVD investigators including many of the most terrible?  It's a painful question for me but I cannot evade it.  (Yevgenia Albats, The State Within a State: The KGB and its Hold on Russia, Past, Present and Future, 1994, p. 147)

Jews abounded [also] at the lower levels of the Party machinery especially in the Cheka and its successors, the GPU, the OGPU and the NKVD....  It is difficult to suggest a satisfactory reason for the prevalence of Jews in the Cheka.  It may be that having suffered at the hand of the former Russian authorities they wanted to seize the reins of real power in the new state for themselves.  (Leonard Shapiro, The Role of Jews in the Russian Revolutionary Movement, Slavonic and East European Review, 1961, 40, p. 165)

The question that I would be interested in hearing your views on, then, Mr. Wiesenthal, is whether the assertion you made on the 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom of October 23, 1994 may have been diametrically opposite to the truth specifically, that whereas you held out that during the interval prior to the occupation of Lviv by German forces Ukrainians were slaughtering Jews by the thousands, in reality during this same interval it may have been closer to the truth to say that Jews were slaughtering Ukrainians by the thousands.

Sincerely yours,

Lubomyr Prytulak