Simon Wiesenthal   Letter 21   14-Sep-1997   Altered dates of death
September 14, 1997

Simon Wiesenthal
Jewish Documentation Center
Salztorgasse 6
1010 Vienna

Dear Mr. Wiesenthal:

In connection with the possibility of a massive, pre-German Lviv pogrom, Morley Safer (in his 60 Minutes broadcast, The Ugly Face of Freedom of October 23, 1994) inserted into the pre-German interval two events which gave the viewer the impression that the pre-German pogrom in question was well-documented and incapable of being doubted: (1) the arrest of your mother, and (2) the shooting of your mother-in-law:

SAFER:  But even before the Germans entered Lvov, the Ukrainian militia, the police, killed 3,000 people in 2 days here.

LUBACHIVSKY:  It is not true!

SAFER:  It's horribly true to Simon Wiesenthal like thousands of Lvov Jews, his mother was led to her death by the Ukrainian police.

These are remnants of a film the Germans made of Ukrainian brutality.  The German high command described the Ukrainian behavior as 'praiseworthy.'

WIESENTHAL:  My wife's mother was shot to death because she could not go so fast.

SAFER:  She couldn't keep up with the rest of the prisoners.

WIESENTHAL:  Yes.  She was shot to death by a Ukrainian policeman because she couldn't walk fast.

SAFER:  It was the Lvov experience that compelled Wiesenthal to seek out the guilty, to bring justice.

The above passage starts by mentioning Lviv prior to arrival of the Germans, and it ends with a reference to "the Lvov experience," which invites the viewer to imagine that the events bracketed in Mr. Safer's discourse by these two references happened during that same pre-German interval.  Specifically, Mr. Safer gives the distinct and unmistakable impression that the pre-German anti-Jewish activities on the part of Ukrainians cannot be doubted because among the events that occurred during these activities were the arrest of your mother and the shooting of your mother-in-law.

However, examining your biographies for confirmation of these two events the arrest of your mother and the shooting of your mother-in-law turns up the following (it will help at this point to recollect that Lviv was occupied by the Germans on June 30, 1941):

In August [1942] the SS was loading elderly Jewish women into a goods truck at Lvov station.  One of them was Simon Wiesenthal's mother, then sixty-three.  ...  His wife's mother was shortly afterwards shot dead by a Ukrainian police auxiliary on the steps of her house.  (Peter Michael Lingens, in Simon Wiesenthal, Justice Not Vengeance, 1989, p. 8)

"My mother was in August 1942 taken by a Ukrainian policeman," Simon says, lapsing swiftly into the present tense as immediacy takes hold.  ...  Around the same time, Cyla Wiesenthal [Mr. Wiesenthal's wife] learned that, back in Buczacz, her mother had been shot to death by a Ukrainian policeman as she was being evicted from her home.  (Alan Levy, The Wiesenthal File, 1993, p. 41)

We see, therefore, that Morley Safer seems to have advanced the date of arrest of your mother as well as the shooting of your mother-in-law by more than a year in order to lend credibility to the claim of Ukrainian-initiated actions against Jews prior to the German occupation of Lviv.

As this error appears to be Mr. Safer's and not your own, I do not ask you to account for it.  However, I do ask if you at any time subsequent to the 60 Minutes broadcast became aware of Mr. Safer's error, and if so, if you as a result asked him to issue a correction?

Also, if you are only now for the first time learning of Mr. Safer's error, I wonder if you could tell me if you now intend to ask Mr. Safer to issue a correction?

Sincerely yours,

Lubomyr Prytulak