Hilberg   Letter 01   15-Sep-1997   Invitation to deny Lviv Massacre
September 15, 1997

Raul Hilberg
Department of History
University of Vermont
Burlington, VT
USA         05401-3596

Dear Professor Hilberg:

On October 23, 1994, Morley Safer together with Simon Wiesenthal in the 60 Minutes story The Ugly Face of Freedom drew attention to an event which I will refer to as the "Lviv pogrom":

SAFER: He [Simon Wiesenthal] remembers that even before the Germans arrived, Ukrainian police went on a 3-day killing spree.

WIESENTHAL: And in this 3 days in Lvov alone between 5 and 6 thousand Jews was killed.


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

For the moment, let us overlook that the interviewer Morley Safer is not citing the evidence of his own professional witness Simon Wiesenthal but is instead offering an unattributed lower estimate within a smaller time interval.  And let us overlook as well that in another place, Simon Wiesenthal places what seems to be this same Lviv pogrom after the arrival of the Germans:

Thousands of detainees were shot dead in their cells by the retreating Soviets.  This gave rise to one of the craziest accusations of that period: among the strongly anti-Semitic population the rumour was spread by the Ukrainian nationalists that all Jews were Bolsheviks and all Bolsheviks were Jews.  Hence it was the Jews who were really to blame for the atrocities committed by the Soviets.

All the Germans needed to do was to exploit this climate of opinion.  It is said that after their arrival they gave the Ukrainians free rein, for three days, to 'deal' with the Jews.  (Simon Wiesenthal, Justice Not Vengeance, 1989, p. 36, emphasis added)

What does primarily interest me here is that when I attempted to find more information on this Lviv pogrom which I took to be either the biggest single pogrom of the War, or else at least among the biggest in your The Destruction of the European Jews, I was unable to locate anything at all resembling such an event, and in fact, I encountered statements suggesting that such an event did not occur.  Specifically, the following two passages strike me as incompatible with the massive Lviv pogrom described by Messrs Safer and Wiesenthal:

From the Ukraine Einsatzkommando 6 of Einsatzgruppe C reported as follows:
Almost nowhere can the population be persuaded to take active steps against the Jews.  This may be explained by the fear of many people that the Red Army may return.  Again and again this anxiety has been pointed out to us.  Older people have remarked that they had already experienced in 1918 the sudden retreat of the Germans.  In order to meet the fear psychosis, and in order to destroy the myth ... which, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, places the Jew in the position of the wielder of political power, Einsatzkommando 6 on several occasions marched Jews before their execution through the city.  Also, care was taken to have Ukrainian militiamen watch the shooting of Jews.
This "deflation" of the Jews in the public eye did not have the desired effect.  After a few weeks, Einsatzgruppe C complained once more that the inhabitants did not betray the movements of hidden Jews.  The Ukrainians were passive, benumbed by the "Bolshevist terror."  Only the ethnic Germans in the area were busily working for the Einsatzgruppe.  (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1961, p. 202)

The Slavic population stood estranged and even aghast before the unfolding spectacle of the "final solution."  There was on the whole no impelling desire to cooperate in a process of such utter ruthlessness.  The fact that the Soviet regime, fighting off the Germans a few hundred miles to the east, was still threatening to return, undoubtedly acted as a powerful restraint upon many a potential collaborator.  (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1985, p. 308)

And most particularly, your summary of pogrom activity in Ukraine seemed to flatly rule out the possibility that such a massive, pre-German, Lviv pogrom had ever taken place:

First, truly spontaneous pogroms, free from Einsatzgruppen influence, did not take place; all outbreaks were either organized or inspired by the Einsatzgruppen.  Second, all pogroms were implemented within a short time after the arrival of the killing units.  They were not self-perpetuating, nor could new ones be started after things had settled down.  (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, 1985, p. 312)

Examining another work which I also happen to have in my library Leni Yahil's The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, Oxford, New York, 1990 for information on the Lviv pogrom, I again found nothing.  In Yahil's book too I thought that I had in my hands a thoroughly researched work which could not have overlooked a massive, pre-German, Lviv pogrom, if one had ever occurred:

When The Holocaust first appeared in Israel in 1987, it was hailed as the finest, most authoritative history of Hitler's war on the Jews ever published.  Representing twenty years of research and reflection, Leni Yahil's book won the Shazar prize, one of Israel's highest awards for historical work.  (From the dust jacket)

And so, I would very much appreciate your opinion on this discrepancy.  What appears to be the case to myself and to others in the Ukrainian community is that the Lviv pogrom, as described by Safer and Wiesenthal, did not take place, and we have been attempting, with no success whatever, to get 60 Minutes to issue a retraction.  If you were to join your voice to ours in however simple and brief a statement, I think that a retraction might be forthcoming in short order.

I should explain by way of background that my attitude to this sort of misstatement is that it is disrespectful to the memory of the Holocaust dead.  I do not believe that the Holocaust dead authorized Messrs Safer and Wiesenthal to replace the real Holocaust with a grander one which would do more to advance their respective careers.  I believe that by means of their fabrications, Messrs Safer and Wiesenthal do a great disservice to the perception of Jewish credibility, provide ammunition for Holocaust deniers, and at the same time harm Ukrainian-Jewish relations.

Thus, if it were true that the Lviv pogrom in question did not take place, and if you were to release a statement to that effect (if only in a letter to me which I could quote), I think you would be performing an invaluable service toward enhancing the perception of Jewish credibility, toward disarming Holocaust deniers, and as well toward improving Ukrainian-Jewish relations.

Sincerely yours,

Lubomyr Prytulak