Sol Littman   Letter 02   16-Sep-1999   The murderers among us
By "butcher" I mean someone who boasts of having beaten a man to a bloody pulp before shooting him, and who boasts furthermore that this was only the first of many such deeds.
  September 16, 1999

Sol Littman
Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center
8 King Street East, Suite 710
Toronto, ON

Tel: (416) 864-9735
Fax: (416) 864-1083

Sol Littman:

In the current war crimes prosecutions by the Government of Canada, conducted at the insistence of more than any other individual yourself, what many observers find puzzling, and what I ask you to explain, is the lack of proportion between guilt and prosecutorial attention.  Non-Jewish East Europeans, disproportionately Ukrainians, are prosecuted for no more than having worn a German uniform and for some conjectured immigration infraction, while self-confessed butchers walk our streets with impunity.

I do not exaggerate.  By "our streets" I mean the streets of Toronto.  By "self-confessed" I mean published an account of in black and white.  By "butcher" I mean someone who boasts of having beaten a man to a bloody pulp before shooting him, and who boasts furthermore that this was only the first of many such deeds.

I have no doubt that if this self-confessed butcher had been a Ukrainian detailing in a Ukrainian periodical how he had tortured and murdered a Jew during the Second World war, and how this had been only the first of many such Jews, you would have had something to say about his case, and Canada's war crimes prosecutors would have devoted the bulk of their energies to him as by far the most egregious and documentable of all their cases.  However, the fact of the matter is that the self-confessed butcher is the Jew Israel Roitman, and the man he boasts of beating to a pulp and shooting is a Ukrainian farmer, and the many that he tortured and murdered subsequently were in all likelihood mainly Ukrainians whose crime was to resist Stalinism, and the reaction of Canada's war crimes prosecutors is to ignore him.

Israel Roitman, then, walks Toronto streets as one of the murderers among us, and I ask you to explain why he does so with your blessing.

Lubomyr Prytulak

by Israel Roitman

Our View


Once, on the occasion of a talk with students, I was asked: "Did you also kill people?"

What could I answer?  It remained only to smile sadly, and my memory recalled the first cruelty.  Afterward, there were many more, but the first is unforgettable.

It happened, if memory serves, in the Zolochiv region which lies along the Ternopil-Lviv highway (Western Ukraine).  The military SMERSH ("Death to Spies", as military counter-intelligence was named during the war) instructed us intelligence officers to investigate the cause of death of one of our sabotage units.  On the second or third day, we came upon the tracks of the perpetrators who were responsible for the death of our comrades, and caught them relaxing in broad daylight in a large house on a forest farmstead.  There were three men sitting around a table with moonshine and snacks: a thin, tall German, a heavily-armed policeman, and a fat-faced, unshaven Banderite [Ukrainian fighting for Ukrainian independence] wearing a service cap with a yellow-light blue [colors of the Ukrainian flag] cockade and some kind of stripes sewn on his sleeve.  It goes without saying: a merry band.

We had to shoot the policeman right there in the house, his abundance of weapons not helping him a bit.  We took the German and the Banderite out into the yard.  The Banderite, a huge man with long hands large as shovels, just stood there with a crooked smile.  On his unshaven face, his eyes darted nervously about like gimlets.  Evidently, the worsening situation was completely unexpected by him and he didn't know what to do, and couldn't hit upon any course of action.  Of course, under different circumstances, he could have tossed us boys around like puppies, but this time the inveterate beast could not do so: we were the ones with the weapons.

Oh, yes!  By that time, we had seen a lot of these nationalists, as they were contemptuously called, the "Samostiynyks" ["Independents"] (the motto of the Ukrainian Nationalists was "For an Independent Ukraine").  These were veritable beasts, worse than some Fritzes [Germans].

Volodka Seliverstov hit him first, in the solar plexus.  The Banderite groaned, gripped his stomach with his hands, and doubled over like a folding knife.  Then followed a knee upper-cut to the face.  A sobbing was heard and the Banderite started falling backwards.  But we didn't let him fall.  There were five of us.  We stood in a small circle and knocked him from one to another.  We struck silently with backhand blows, putting into them all our accumulated rage and hatred.  We struck viciously, probably like hunters striking huge and especially dangerous maddened beasts.  By the time the Banderite's face was turned into a bloody-hairy pulp, we were exhausted.  The Banderite slumped to his knees, then fell flat on his face.  We shot him.  The German, we delivered safely across the front line and turned him over to the SMERSH people.  (We followed the same practice afterwards.  When police, Banderites, Vlasovites, or Germans fell into our hands, we usually delivered the latter untouched, but the traitors we executed ourselves on the spot.)


The Russian original of the beginning of Israel Roitman's article appears below, the portion translated above shown enclosed in a box:

Our View