Simon Wiesenthal   Letter 24   18-Jan-1998   Reversing victim and victimizer
The caption at the top of the photographs shown below is from LIFE magazine, 11Jun45, p. 50.  The caption in German and Latin at the bottom of the Simon Wiesenthal drawing below was, of course, included with the drawing in Simon Wiesenthal's KZ Mauthausen, 1946, p. 64.  This caption says:

The Gallows

The Marquis de Sade would have been in ecstasy if he could have seen the gallows in a KZ [concentration camp].  His faithful successors the SS-hangmen had daily execution fever.  It provided some variety, beyond the eternal, monotonous shootings and beatings.  Something one could photograph with pleasure.  They placed bets for rounds of beer on how long the offender could hold out.  He must not die too quickly.  When he threatened that, he was bound, and when he had somewhat recovered, it continued ... to the greater glory of the devil!

I refer to Simon Wiesenthal's drawing as a "1946" drawing because that was the date of publication of the book in which the drawing appeared.  Clicking here produces a discussion of the Lviv pogrom referred to in the letter below, and after that clicking BACK in the browser will return the reader to the present document.

January 18, 1998

Simon Wiesenthal
Jewish Documentation Center
Salztorgasse 6
1010 Vienna

Dear Mr. Wiesenthal:

In the course of the October 24, 1993 60 Minutes broadcast The Ugly Face of Freedom, you leveled the accusation, echoed by Morley Safer, that immediately prior to the occupation of Lviv by German forces in 1941, Ukrainians killed some 5 to 6 thousand Jews.  I have already brought to your attention evidence that your accusation is unfounded, and that the more likely reality is that during approximately that same interval, the NKVD dominated by Jews killed approximately that same number of Ukrainians.  This evidence was presented to you in five letters, dated September 8, 9, 12, 13, and 14, 1997.

That the NKVD was dominated by Jews is not an irrelevancy which I am introducing gratuitously, but, rather, is germane in that it offers a motive for your reversal of the truth.  That is, it is possible that your reason for falsely portraying Ukrainians killing Jews is to cover up the reality that Jews were killing Ukrainians, and to make any claim on behalf of the latter seem implausible should it ever be put forward.

What I ask you in the present letter is whether you had not begun a comparable reversing of victim and victimizer earlier in your career almost five decades earlier, as a matter of fact and on a smaller scale?

Specifically, I am enclosing copies of two similar, and yet contrasting, images:

Three LIFE magazine photographs, 1945

Enclosed you will find a photocopy of three photographs from LIFE magazine (June 11, 1945, p. 50) which appear at the end of a photo essay titled "FIRING SQUAD: Army executes three German spies who were caught in U.S. uniforms."  The story appears on three pages 47, 48, and 50.  There are a total of nine, mutually-consistent photographs in the essay.  The first paragraph of the story is:

During Nazi breakthrough at Bastogne last December the Germans managed to smuggle some of their intelligence officers behind U.S. lines.  Three of these spies were captured, tried and shot.  Last week the War Department released pictures on this and the following pages, taken by LIFE Photographer Johnny Florea, which show their speedy execution.  (p. 47)

One Simon Wiesenthal drawing, 1946

Enclosed you will also find a photocopy of one of your drawings, signed "SWiesenthal," from p. 64 of your 1946 book of drawings KZ Mauthausen showing three individuals in striped uniforms, tied to stakes, and apparently either unconscious or executed.  As your book is dedicated to depicting the suffering of Jews at the hands of the Nazis at the Mauthausen concentration camp, and as your caption indicates that the drawing depicts victims of Nazi torture, the reader is encouraged to the conclusion that the drawing represents a scene witnessed by yourself of Jews tortured to the point of unconsciousness or executed by Nazis at Mauthausen.

However, the similarity between the three individuals shown in the 1945 LIFE magazine photographs and in your 1946 KZ Mauthausen drawing is striking and unmistakable, and suggests the alternative conclusion that you copied the LIFE magazine photographs, added striped uniforms to the victims, and then misattributed the result.


I would appreciate your answering the following three questions:

(1)  How do you explain the similarity between the LIFE magazine photographs and your drawing?

(2)  Do you not feel it appropriate at this time to issue a retraction of the misattribution of your KZ Mauthausen drawing?

(3)  Might it not be even more appropriate to issue a similar retraction of your more extreme, more recent, and more damaging reversal of victim and victimizer in the case of the pre-German Lviv massacre of 1941?

Yours truly,

Lubomyr Prytulak