Yitzhak Arad   Letter 04   24-Mar-1999   Perjury in attempted murder?
"Unless you are able to clarify your denial of the existence of forensic evidence, you stand in danger of leaving the impression of having employed perjury in the service of attempted murder." Lubomyr Prytulak
Errors within quotations from the February 1987 trial of John Demjanjuk in Jerusalem were present in the original court transcript, and were not introduced by the Ukrainian Archive.
  March 24, 1999
Yitzhak Arad
Yad Vashem
PO Box 3477
91034 Jerusalem

Yitzhak Arad:

Being new to the area of World War II studies, I find that scarcely a day goes by without my stumbling across some startling new revelation.  Just yesterday, I came across what may be the most surprising revelation of all.

You testified that there was
no forensic evidence of Treblinka

According to your testimony at the trial of John Demjanjuk in February 1987 in Jerusalem, the Treblinka death camp was totally dismantled and every trace eradicated:

BLATMAN:  Now, Dr. Arad, could you tell us something about the setup of the camp.  I gather that the camp was obliterated entirely.  There are no original maps extent and that all descriptions and all research into the manner in which it were set up are based on evidence and trestimonies by witnesses.

ARAD:  Both Treblinka and other camps, once they had fulfilled their task of extermination they were liquidated, disbanded, they were obliterated, they were turned into agricultural land and some greenery was planted.  All we do have is survivors' evidence and testimony, especially Yaakov Vernick, who a few months after he escaped from the Treblinka Camp at the time of the revolt I will come back to that at a later stage he had prepared a drawing, a sketch or diagram of the Treblinka Camp and he in fact constructed in Israel, at a later stage, a scale model of Treblinka on the basis of the drawing he had brought along.  And this is the main source for our information about the camp.  (Morning Session, 17Feb87, pp. 229-230)

ARAD:  At any rate they took apart everything, they dismantled everything, the centers and the buildings that remained, they took away everything that could possible be removed and this continued until November [1943].  The area was plowed under and on it a farm set-up and one of the Urkanian guards brought his family there and took up residence as farmer and looked after the whole area.  (Afternoon Session, 17Feb87, p. 293)

ARAD:  The site of the Treblinka camp nothing remains of what existed at the time it was in operation.  No buildings, no structures, no fences nothing.  (Morning Session, 18Feb87, p. 405)

And I urged you to collect
some forensic evidence of Treblinka

However, in my letter to you of 9Mar99, I detailed the forensic evidence of Treblinka that common sense indicated must still be in existence.  Furthermore, I urged you to initiate the search for this evidence, and believing your testimony that no forensic evidence existed expressed astonishment that such a search had not been conducted to date:

Let's get the evidence now!  In short, the substantiation by means of hard forensic evidence of your testimony concerning the Treblinka death camp in particular, and of other zero-hard-evidence scenes of mass execution in general, bears an overpowering urgency for Jews, and such substantiation is readily within their reach, both in the matter of financing, and in the matter of having available institutions capable of implementing or of expediting such investigation.

Why hasn't this been done already?  And while taking the first steps toward substantiation of the above central Holocaust stories, the question must concurrently be asked, what has kept such a substantiation from being conducted over the course of the past half century?  Why have not historians of the Holocaust risen with one voice and demanded that it be done?  Why am I a layman in the field of Holocaust studies instructing you one of the world's leading experts on the Holocaust as to the many fundamental and obvious steps that need to be taken to render your incredible Treblinka testimony credible, that need to be taken to transform the myth of Treblinka into the history of Treblinka?

However, there appears to already exist
considerable forensic evidence of Treblinka

To my surprise, information has been forwarded to me that there have been investigations which have gathered precisely the sort of evidence that you testified did not exist, and that I urged you to collect.  Specifically, there appear to have been at least two post-liberation forensic inquiries into Treblinka: one conducted in 1944 by a Soviet-Jewish commission attached to the 65th Red Army, and the other conducted in 1945 by a Polish Magistrate in the district court in Siedlce.

I do not have either of these reports, and my information concerning them comes from a source of unknown reliability.  Borrowing from this information, I provide below my own summary concerning the second of these two reports.  My summary,then, is intended as an indication of the sort of information that the reports may contain, and not as my affirmation of the information that they do contain.  If you were able to point out any errors in my summary, I would be grateful:

In November 1945, in preparation for the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal trials, the Polish magistrate of the district court in Siedlce ordered an examination of the former Treblinka II camp, prompted by incredulity at the Soviet claim that 3,500,000 victims had been executed there.  The forensic examination was conducted with the help of over 30 laborers under the personal supervision of the Jewish Chairman of the Siedlce District Court, J. Szlebzak.  Four former inmates representing the "Circle of Former Treblinka Inmates" assisted in the work: S. Rajzman, T. Grinberg, S. Friedman and M. Mittelberg.  Their particular role was to locate the installations which they claimed to have observed daily for about a year, and which were said to have been dismantled only about 24 months earlier particularly the Lazaret where about 50,000 sick, elderly, and children were purportedly shot; the gigantic mass graves; and the two masonry buildings housing the thirteen gas chambers which were said to be lined with red terra cotta tile.

The location of the Lazaret pit, where survivors claimed that 50,000 victims had been shot, was quickly found.  However, while the excavation did succeed in unearthing some personal articles, partially-burned camp refuse, and a few dozen foreign coins, it failed to discover any residue of human bones, any of the 50,000 or so reputed execution bullets, or any of the 50,000 spent cartridges.

The location of the Treblinka II gas chambers, the two largest masonry buildings in the district (one purportedly measuring about 30 x 15 meters), could not be agreed upon by the survivors.  Since these buildings were reputed to have stood within the two-hectare-small "Upper Camp," the commission attempted to locate their remains by cutting long and deep exploratory trenches running in a north-south direction.  However, from these trenches emerged not a single shard of red, nor any other color, terra cotta tile.  Neither was there discovered any trace of the concrete slab which would have had to serve as a base for the ceramic tiled walls and floors of the gas chambers, nor any trace of concrete or masonry foundations capable of supporting such heavy structures in Treblinka's sandy soil.

Were you unaware of this forensic evidence?

Did you know of the two above forensic reports at the time of your Demjanjuk testimony in February 1987?  It would seem that you must have known.  Treblinka was in Poland, and you were born in Poland, you lived for some years in Warsaw, you had fought in the Soviet-Polish partisans, one of your areas of expertise had become Treblinka, you had written a book called "Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka," you had been head of Yad Vashem for 15 years, and Yad Vashem had close ties with Polish organizations investigating the Holocaust:

ARAD:  Between Yad Veshem and the Polish Commission for the Investigation of Nazi German War Crimes there has been over many years a cooperation and collaboration which is expressed in an exchange of material in reciprocal visits of research personnel as well as scientific discussions on subjects concerned with the period of the Holocaust.  (Morning Session, 19Feb87, p. 596)

Furthermore, in your Demjanjuk testimony, although you claimed that no forensic evidence of Treblinka existed, you nevertheless showed awareness of evidence being sought, and you distinguish "evidence" from "testimonies" as in your statement below:

ARAD:  The evidence and the testimonies which were collected over a number of years, both in Israel and Yad Vashem and other institutions, evidence immediately collected in 1944, in Poland by Jewish historical institutions and committees, which were set up immediately the place was liberated, in order to preserve such evidence, as well as the Nazi War Crimes, Comissia which the Polish Government set up in 1945.  (Morning Session, 17Feb87, pp. 251-252)

Thus, given all of the above, it seems inconceivable that you were unaware of the existence of the two forensic investigations of Treblinka that appear to have been conducted.  Or, if you were truly unaware of such critical evidence, then at least one would be drawn to conclude that you were unqualified to testify as expert witness at the trial of John Demjanjuk.

Or did you suppress it?

Unless you can offer some alternative explanation of why you denied the existence of any forensic evidence relating to Treblinka at the Demjanjuk trial, some impartial reviewers of the trial might be drawn to the conclusion that you were indeed aware of the forensic evidence, but that you suppressed it.  One way this suppression could have come about is by the prosecution having warned you that the forensic evidence that you were about to present would undermine the eyewitness testimony that was essential to convicting John Demjanjuk.

Thus, unless you are able to clarify your denial of the existence of forensic evidence, you stand in danger of leaving the impression of having employed perjury in the service of attempted murder.

Lubomyr Prytulak