Letter 01   13-Mar-2004   Who's afraid of holocaust denial?
Irwin Cotler
"Every time we bring a Nazi war criminal to justice we strike a blow against the Holocaust-deniers." Irwin Cotler

  13 March 2004

The Honourable Irwin Cotler
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
284 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario    K1A 0H8

Irwin Cotler:

I Experience An Impulse To Suppress Ken Kalturnyk

When I came across the Ken Kalturnyk article The Famine That Never Was which I reproduce below, my first thought was that it was even more eligible for suppression by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) than was Did Six Million Really Die? for the simple reason that Kalturnyk flat-out denies the Ukrainian Induced Famine it "is an event which never happened" he says whereas Did Six Million Really Die? at least from the title seems merely to raise the question of whether six million is the accurate figure.  Did Six Million Really Die? would be as extreme as Kalturnyk if it were titled The Holocaust That Never Was.

In any case, my initial impulse to suppress Kalturnyk was natural to someone who has had a CHRC bludgeon poised over his head for more than three months, and suddenly seeing that same bludgeon lying within reach, feels an impulse to pick it up himself and give the deserving person before him a good thwack.

I Count Myself Fortunate To Be Denied the CHRC Suppression Service

My second thought, however, brought that vengeful impulse to a halt.  I remembered that in fact the Canadian Human Rights Commission offered me no recourse, as it was the leading practitioner of ethnic and religious discrimination in Canada in that it supported Jewish complaints of "hate messaging" with perhaps a million times the resources that it supported Ukrainian complaints of "hate messaging."  Seeing that even if I picked up that tempting cudgel which suddenly lay within my reach, I wouldn't be permitted to hit anyone with it, I held back and quickly came to recognize the CHRC denial of services to Ukrainians as my good fortune, and indeed the good fortune of all Ukrainians, and a contribution to the advancement of truth.  I was reminded too that the CHRC supply of suppression services to Jews has been their curse.

Ken Kalturnyk Is Serviceable As A Foil

That is, I recognized that Ken Kalturnyk must not be suppressed because he was doing me, and Ukrainians, and everybody a favor.  The study of the Ukrainian holocaust must necessarily include an appreciation of what critics or opponents might say, and must include the exploration of answers that could be made to their objections, and so that students and scholars of the Holodomor would be put to the trouble of imagining what these objections might be but here was Ken Kalturnyk, a real opponent, really itemizing the weaknesses that he thought he saw in the story of the Holodomor, and not just the minor, straw-man weaknesses that a believer in the Holodomor might propose because of their easy refutation, but the more substantial and troubling weaknesses that only someone hostile to the story of the Holodomor would be likely to dig up.

In other words, I came to realize that if Ken Kalturnyk did not exist, we would have to invent him.  Without pay and without thanks, he plays the indispensible role of devil's advocate.  He deserves gratitude according to the maxim, Be grateful for your enemies, because they tell you your faults.  To the work of upgrading the history of the Holodomor, Kalturnyk is a positive contributor.  His essay, and others like it, should be included in discussions of the Holodomor, and I do publish it along with the present letter on the Ukrainian Archive web site.

Admittedly, Kalturnyk is a bit of a straw man, a little too easy to refute, and thus of use mainly at a rudimentary level of analysis.  To begin with, he arrives at a serious historical debate wearing a clown suit the clown suit of being a flaming Communist which does little to raise expectations that his arguments will be meritorious.  Next, one notices that he cites not a single source, offers not a single quotation, discloses not a single statistic, and proposes not a single credible date, his placing the Holodomor in 1933-34 clashing somewhat with everybody else placing it in 1932-33.  Only on hyperbole can he be said to show no insufficiency.  For instance, "Dozens of American and British newspaper reporters spent weeks criss-crossing Ukraine during the height of the alleged famine and found no evidence of widespread hunger or deaths."  Well, now, were there really "dozens"?  Of these dozens, Kalturnyk actually names according to my preliminary count exactly none.  Everyone is already aware that Kremlin sotrudnik (which is what they call a stooge in that part of the world), Walter Duranty, is one journalist who did indeed report "no evidence," but when Kalturnyk says "dozens," then he must mean that he is aware of at least 23 additional Walter Durantys, which estimate might be high.  Also, one wonders whether Duranty did much "criss-crossing" of Ukraine, or whether he found everything he needed in Moscow, as for example the whores that the Kremlin supplied him with in partial payment for his agreeable reports.  Anyone who succeeds in reading to Kalturnyk's last two paragraphs will recognize that he is an adherent not of some milder variation of Communism, but of Stalinism, going so far as to deny that Stalin committed any crimes against the Soviet people.  And when in his last paragraph Ukrainian-holocaust-denying Ken Kalturnyk expresses disapproval of Jewish-holocaust denial, perhaps he drops a clue as to the readership he writes for.  Anyway such might be the opening of the profitable exercise of deconstructing Ken Kalturnyk.

Ken Kalturnyk May Be Partly Right

But Kalturnyk has a value beyond that of a schnook whom it will prove a useful exercise to refute.  That additional value is that he may to some degree be right.  Possibly there were a few other Walter Durantys.  Possibly Ukrainians did assassinate some Soviet officials.  Possibly some Ukrainian farmers did go on strike.  Possibly some photographs were misattributed.  Possibly the Hearst newspapers did exaggerate the Holodomor to embarrass the Soviets.  Without a hostile Ken Kalturnyk reminding everyone of these many things, it would be easy for Holodomor true believers to relapse into simplistic, stereotypical thinking which summarized the Holodomor as "Stalin starved six million Ukrainians to death because they refused to collectivize," which, however, would not do justice to the complexity of events.  If Kalturnyk were suppressed, then those who at first glance appeared equally wrong would be suppressed along with him, but where some of those might in reality reveal greater hidden truth than does Kalturnyk.

Without a hostile Ken Kalturnyk, it would be easy also for the true believers to ratchet six million up into ten million and twelve million and twenty million, and with not one true believer in a thousand able to demonstrate the calculation which produced his favorite estimate.  The danger to Ukrainians is that without this world's Ken Kalturnyks, the Holodomor might be condensed into a one-liner, and Ukrainians would find themselves bereft of any response but anger upon encountering the slightest challenge.  The danger to Ukrainians, in other words, would be their following in the footsteps of those Shoah promoters who know only to erupt in anger upon encountering any questioning of their one-liner that "German anti-Semitism resulted in the gassing of six million Jews."

Where's The Hatred?

As your position, in harmony with that of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), is that holocaust denial incites hatred, let us look for some of this hatred in the wake of Kalturnyk's Ukrainian-holocaust denial.

My own search turns up none.  My expectation is that most Ukrainians would experience a sense of disapproval, but in fact the few that I have discussed Kalturnyk with expressed not even this limited emotion, it being perhaps understood that Kalturnyk was half simpleton and half stooge, and so why waste words stating the obvious?  As for the emotions raging in the hearts of non-Ukrainians upon reading Kalturnyk I doubt that there could be any.  The predominant emotions would range between boredom and mild curiousity.

Kalturnyk would likely open many readers' minds to the possibility that the Holodomor was more complicated than they were used to hearing, which would be a good thing, but as for Kalturnyk actually convincing anybody of the non-existence of the Holodomor, we must recollect that we live in a world where everything is being denied somewhere as for example that men have landed on the moon and with the many people of good sense taking the denial with a grain of salt, and with the few gullible ever following their own bent.  To come up with any hatred, we would have to imagine a credulous simpleton failing to notice Kalturnyk's lack of citations and his avoidance of particulars, and the simpleton in possession of no countervailing information which might serve to offset Kalturnyk, and therefore swallowing Kalturnyk hook, line, and sinker, and going on from there to imagine that Ukrainians collectively had collaborated in the creation of the Holodomor lie, and thus were not themselves along with everyone else victims of the lie, but rather deserved to be collectively hated for having collectively authored the lie all of which is to imagine a foolishness on the part of the imaginary hater so staggering as to be necessarily rare.

But might there emerge an outburst of hatred if Kalturnyk succeeded in proving the Holodomor to be a total fabrication?  If he did succeed, then the engineers of the fraud would certainly suffer some loss of trust, though one wonders if they might not at the same time win some sympathy for having relied on dirty tricks in the pursuit of worthy goals as for example, the dirty trick of concocting the Holodomor in pursuit of the worthy goal of uniting the Ukrainian people and at the same time discrediting the Kremlin.  Rather then inciting widespread hatred, though, a total Holodomor refutation should evoke widespread relief that vast suffering had never taken place and that a troublesome impediment to improved relations with neighboring Russia had been removed.  Surely in the course of a murder trial, when the imagined victim walks into the court room quite alive, the dominant feeling is one of relief, and attitudes toward the unjustly-accused rightly soften.  And so, every Ukrainian has an obligation to greet any Holodomor denial that is truthful and scholarly to be expected from somebody other than Kalturnyk with the welcoming attitude "If only it were true!"  To prefer the opposite to prefer millions of Ukrainians to have starved to death and to resist the removal of an obstacle to good relations with a powerful neighbor would be self-defeating and perverse.

With respect to Kalturnyk, then, the Ukrainian position is obligated to be that he must be given full scope, and the greater his success in proving his thesis, the happier everyone will be, though no one should hold his breath in anticipation of airtight scholarship from his direction.

And in any case, if the Holodomor never happened, then the world should know this no matter what negative emotions might be released.  To adopt inoffensiveness as the overriding criterion of permissible utterance is something I do here in the course of refuting the Cotler-CJC proposition that hatred is trigged by secular historical discussion, despite my utter rejection of the principle in practice.

Your Phobic Reaction to Holocaust Denial

Turning now to your reaction to challenges to the story of the Jewish holocaust, it is apparent that you do not share my thinking above, but rather advocate invoking Canada's justice system as a tool of suppressing contradiction of that which you wish to indoctrinate, a use that had earlier been noted with disapproval by a character in a Philip Roth novel:

"Of course Ukrainian anti-Semitism is real.  There are many causes that we all know, having to do with the role the Jews played there in the economic structure, with the cynical role assigned to them by Stalin in the farm collectivization all this is clear.  But whether this ... Ukrainian is Ivan the Terrible is not at all clear, it can't be clear after forty years, and so, if you have any honesty as a nation, any respect left at all for the law, you let him go.  If you must have your vengeance, you send him back to Ukraine and let the Russians deal with him that should be satisfaction enough.  But to try him here in the courtroom and over the radio and on the television and in the papers, this has only one purpose the public-relations stunt à la the Holocaust-monger Begin and the gangster Shamir; public relations to justify Jewish might, to justify Jewish rule by perpetuating into the next one hundred millennia the image of the Jewish victim.  But is public relations the purpose of a system of criminal justice?  The criminal-justice system has a legal purpose, not a public-relations purpose.  To educate the public?  No, that's the purpose of an educational system.  I repeat: Demjanjuk is here to maintain the mythology that is this country's lifeblood."
Philip Roth, Operation Shylock: A Confession, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993, p. 134.

At variance with the Philip Roth character, you advocate conscripting the justice system into the service of public relations, of education, of indoctrination, of thought control and the one thought that you want to control above all others is the thought that the story of the Jewish holocaust might benefit from secular historical analysis.

Worse than that, you demonstrate a flawed understanding of Western justice, and indeed a hostility toward Western justice, in demanding that prosecutions of alleged Nazis be conducted not merely to the degree that is warranted by evidence, but rather that a quota of such prosecutions be filled without regard to the quality of the evidence.  In any other sphere, such quota-filling is immediately recognizable as odious.

Can a Minister of Justice, for example, demand a higher quota of murder prosecutions lest the public become complacent about violent crime?  Or, is it compatible with Western justice for an Attorney General to demand more prosecutions of bylaw infractions at French restaurants because of the French failure to support the invasion of Iraq?  Or (recollecting Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory), can an army general demand that soldiers be found who might be tried for cowardice so as to deflect the blame for defeat to them?  Surely Western justice finds abhorrent the picture of an authority needing more of a certain kind of prosecution for propaganda purposes, and having the power to beat the bushes for victims until a pre-set quota is filled.  "Every time we bring a Nazi war criminal to justice we strike a blow against the Holocaust-deniers" is your call to fill a quota, and it is your recommendation that truth be measured by the volume of official prosecution, a recommendation that Dominican monks Sprenger and Kramer might have seized on to argue that the existence of witches had been proven by the women that had been burned, and that every additional immolation struck a hammer-blow against the witchcraft-deniers:

To combat a Holocaust-denial movement, Cotler urges prosecution of former Nazis to prove its lies.  "If we don't bring criminals to justice, Zundel and others will say it's proof there were no crimes committed."
Ellie Tesher, Nazi hunters press on in race against time, Toronto Star, 11-Nov-1985.

If Pope Urban VIII imitated the Irwin Cotler reasoning above, he might say "If we don't bring Galileo to justice, astronomers will say it's proof the earth moves around the sun."

Even at this late stage, Israel should establish a unit to investigate war crimes, similar to the Office for Special Investigations set up in the U.S. Justice Department 10 years ago, says human rights campaigner Irwin Cotler.  And denial of the Holocaust should be seen as a crime and a collective libel of the Jewish people.  [...]

The last myth, No. 6, concerns the argument that the Holocaust is a hoax.

Cotler said that the hoax issue links up with that of individual prosecution.  The reasoning goes like this: If there was no Holocaust there were no crimes.  If there were no crimes there are no criminals and no one can be prosecuted.

"My reply to that one," Cotler said, "is that unless we prosecute individuals, some people will say that since there are no criminals, there were no crimes, and therefore no Holocaust.  Every time we bring a Nazi war criminal to justice we strike a blow against the Holocaust-deniers."
Ernie Meyer, Human Rights Activist: 'Set Up A Nazi War Crimes Unit', Jerusalem Post, 02-Jan-1989.

If Joe McCarthy followed the Irwin Cotler example above, he might say "Unless we prosecute Communist subversives, people will say that the American Government has not been subverted."

Holocaust denial is both an assault on Jewish memory and an "international criminal conspiracy" to cover up the most monstrous crime in history, a leading Canadian human rights activist says.  [...]  "Those who are prepared to deny the Jewish people their past are the same people who would deny the Jewish people their future," Cotler said.  That is why bringing war criminals to justice is a "moral imperative," because if there were no criminals, there were no crimes, he said.  "Each time we bring a war criminal to justice we strike a blow against the Holocaust denial movement," Cotler said in a passionate speech.
Peter Small, Holocaust denial labelled 'criminal', Toronto Star, 21-Jan-1992.

If George W. Bush talked the way Irwin Cotler talks above, he might say "Bringing manufacturers of Weapons of Mass Destruction to justice is a moral imperative, because if there are no manufacturers, there are no weapons."

Yes, I said and this is the full statement that "it is an example of the Orwellian character of our times that a country like Canada a medina yafat nefesh an innocent, well-meaning country should emerge as one of the centers for Holocaust denial litigation."  But as I added, and as my paper bears out, this is due to the fact that Canada has one of the most comprehensive sets of legal remedies to combat Holocaust denial; and that the Canadian case-law in the matter of freedom of expression and hate speech is the most comprehensive and authoritative there is an exemplary model of judicial review for all democracies confronting the growing phenomenon of hate speech.
Irwin Cotler, Holocaust Denial in Canada, Jerusalem Post, 29-Dec-1992.

Questions Which The Canadian People Might Like Their Minister of Justice To Answer

Is the Justice Minister so convinced that Canada harbors Nazi war criminals as to demand that a quota of their prosecutions be filled?  Is the Justice Minister sure he's got every detail of the Jewish holocaust so right that he wants to throw people in jail for asking questions about it?  Should the Justice Minister not greet every reduction in the estimated number of Jews killed during WW II with rejoicing not only for the lesser suffering that Jews endured, but for the pushing somewhat to one side of an obstacle to their improved relations with those who were thought to have done the killing?  What prevents the Justice Minister from discarding his agitated and paranoid view of Shoah-discussion as equalling an incitement to hatred, and replacing it with the calm and unthreatened Ukrainian view that both Shoah-discussion and Holodomor-discussion are nothing more hazardous than encouragements to historical fidelity?  If I publish Kalturnyk's questioning of the Holodomor on the Ukrainian Archive web site, why does the Justice Minister find himself unable to recommend publication of, say, the present letter on the Canadian Jewish Congress web site?  Is the Justice Minister able to detect any upsurge of hatred as a result of my publishing Kalturnyk's holocaust-denying essay below?  Does the Justice Minister not understand that if a people are given recourse to the suppression-of-free-speech service offered by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, they will incline more to suppression and less to suasion?  Is totalitarian thought control the Justice Minister's best answer to the second-greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish people in the twentieth century, and that threatens to become the greatest tragedy to befall the Jewish people in the twenty-first century:

Two terrible things happened to the Jewish people during this century: [First, t]he Holocaust and the lessons drawn from it.  [Second, t]he non-historical and easily refutable commentaries on the Holocaust made either deliberately or through simple ignorance and their use for propaganda purposes among non-Jews or Jews both in Israel and the diaspora constitute a cancer for Jews and for the State of Israel.
Boaz Evron, Holocaust, a Danger for the Jewish People, published in the Hebrew journal Yiton 77, May-June 1980

And to end with a question of personal interest what would prevent Justice Minister Irwin Cotler from advising Prime Minister Paul Martin to ask the Canadian Human Rights Commission to silence critics of Liberal-party sponsorship misappropriations on the ground that their criticism incited hatred and contempt of Quebecers?  Please keep in mind in formulating your answer that in the course of the CHRC deciding whether criticism of erring Quebecers constitutes "hate messaging," the CHRC would disallow the truth of that criticism as a defense.

Lubomyr Prytulak

The Famine That Never Was

Modern Communism
Manitoba Regional Committee    Communist Party of Canada    (Marxist-Leninist)
Vol. 4    No. 38    08-Dec-2003    Editor: Ken Kalturnyk

A lot of noise has been made in the past few weeks about the 70th anniversary of the so-called "Ukrainian famine" of 1933-34. The media has been full of stories about the millions of Ukrainians who supposedly died in this famine and the Asper family has agreed to include a section on the "Ukrainian famine" in the planned Museum of Human Rights to be built in Winnipeg.

However, the "Ukrainian famine" is an event which never happened.  It was entirely the creation of the Hearst newspaper chain and was exposed as a hoax at the time.  Photos of the alleged Ukrainian famine victims published in the Hearst newspapers were discovered to have been taken in Hungary during the First World War.  Dozens of American and British newspaper reporters spent weeks criss-crossing Ukraine during the height of the alleged famine and found no evidence of widespread hunger or deaths.

What was going on in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union in 1933 and 1934 was a virtual civil war between the rich peasants the Kulaks and the Soviet system over the issue of the collectivization of agriculture.  The kulaks, armed and financed by Nazi Germany and various Nazi sympathizers in the West, including William Randolph Hearst and Henry Ford, had organized a systematic campaign of assassination of local Soviet government officials.  The kulaks also gave a call for an agricultural strike in the spring of 1933, urging supporters not to plant crops and to destroy existing stocks of food.  Their hope was to create food shortages in the cities and undermine support for the Soviet government. In areas where large numbers of peasants took up this call, localized food shortages did result.  However, the vast majority of the Soviet peasantry, including the Ukrainian peasants, supported collectivization and produced bumper crops in those years, so widespread hunger was avoided.  The kulak revolt never did enjoy much support from the peasantry and ended in 1934.

On the basis of massive amounts of evidence that no famine existed, during the 1930s claims of famine in Ukraine were dismissed as right-wing propaganda by all but the most rabid anti-communists and fascists.  However, with the unleashing of the Cold War in the late 1940s, all of the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s was dredged up once again with the objective of discrediting communism.  In North America, fertile ground for this propaganda was found among the million or so Ukrainian refugees and war criminals who had collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War and who were given safe haven in the United States and Canada.  The thousands of Nazi war criminals who were recruited by the American and British intelligence services following the war also played a key role in the Cold War propaganda machine.

During the early 1950s, several books were churned out in Britain and the United States claiming to "prove" the existence of a Ukrainian famine in 1933-34.  All of them shared a number of characteristics.  First, they all claimed that more Ukrainians died in Joseph Stalin's "engineered famine" than the number of Jews who were murdered by the Nazis, with the numbers ranging from seven million to over 20 million.  This was done in order to claim that communism was even worse than Nazism, as well as to attempt to minimize the Holocaust.  The fact is that the entire Ukrainian population within the Soviet Union at the time amounted to some 25 million people.  If these claims about the number of deaths were accurate, it would mean that from 25 to 80 percent of all Soviet Ukrainians died in a matter of less than two years.  However, the first post-war census in the Soviet Union, taken during the late 1940s, shows the population of Ukrainians at about 40 million.  In the interim, Ukraine suffered extremely high casualties during the Nazi occupation and also lost at least another million people to post-war emigration.  So, these figures of Ukrainian deaths are clearly fictitious, as no population could recover so rapidly from such a major loss.

Another characteristic of all of these books is that they openly admit that there is a total absence of credible eye-witness testimony about the Ukrainian famine.  This would be inconceivable if the number of victims were even a fraction of the alleged seven to 20 million.  Given the fact that approximately one million anti-communist Ukrainian refugees poured into North America in the late 1940s, the inability of numerous famine researchers to find a single credible eye-witness is simply too much to believe if the famine had actually occurred.

More recently and closer to home, in 1983 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this so-called famine, the Ukrainian National Foundation, an organization founded by right-wing Ukrainian nationalists and Nazi collaborators, funded a thesis project by a University of Manitoba graduate student to document the "Ukrainian famine".  The project received a tremendous amount of publicity when it was launched.  This graduate student spent several years interviewing Ukrainians in both Canada and Ukraine about their experiences in 1933-34 in Ukraine.  However, despite the enormous resources placed at his disposal and the co-operation of the Soviet government, he was forced to abandon his thesis because, by his own admission, he had failed to find a single credible eye-witness to what was supposedly the greatest genocide of the 20th century.  Needless to say, the news of the abandonment of the thesis received little fanfare.

Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian government fully opened its archives to access by Western scholars.  During the mid-1990s an American research team spent almost two years combing through those archives, searching for evidence of various alleged "crimes of Stalin".  These researchers admitted that they had found no evidence to support the claims that Stalin had committed crimes against the Soviet people.  Despite this total absence of evidence, the news media and various anti-communist scribblers not only continue to repeat these lies as fact, but even claim that the "Ukrainian famine" and other "crimes of Stalin" have been confirmed by documents found in the Soviet archives.

The myth of the Ukrainian famine was created by the most reactionary sections of American society, beginning with open supporters of Nazism, such as William Randolph Hearst and Henry Ford.  The myth was resurrected by the anti-communist Cold Warriors of the 1950s in conjunction with a cabal of former Nazis, Nazi collaborators and Holocaust deniers.  It was also subscribed to by some sections of the "Left" to justify their own anti-communism.  To this mix has now been added the main apologists for the Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people.  It is interesting that an individual who has been dead for 50 years can strike such fear in the hearts of all of these reactionaries that they find it necessary to continuously dredge up 70 year old lies to discredit his memory.
Ken Kalturnyk, Communist Party of Canada (Manitoba Regional Committee), at  www.modern-communism.ca/mc43803.htm