Sol Littman   Letter 07   30-Sep-1999   Saddam Hussein's relatively benign occupation of Israel
Imagine that Saddam Hussein occupies Israel.  Immediately, some 20 to 30 thousand Israelis flee to the West.
  September 30, 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:

You say that the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine was "relatively benign."

Among the startling statements that you made in your 31Aug97 Tryzub and Swastika speech is that the Soviet occupation of Western Ukraine had been "relatively benign":

I'm sorry, there's one more thing of which I must remind you.  In 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland and defeated the Poles in six weeks, the Russians, if you will recall, entered Poland from the Eastern frontier, and occupied Galicia.  So in 1941 when the Nazis unleashed Operation Barbarossa, Lvov was one of the first cities to fall to the Germans.

Now the Soviet occupation from 1939 to 1941 was relatively benign.  The Soviets really went out of their way to try to win the hearts of the Ukrainians and Poles in that particular neighborhood.  However, they did arrest thousands of what they considered to be the bourgeoisie.  And amongst them were many Jews, because most Jews were considered to be bourgeoisie.  So that they sent both Ukrainians and Poles and Jews to Siberia.  Now many of the people who were sent to Siberia were eventually grateful to the Russians for doing it to them because they were able to come back after the end of the war.  But in the Ukrainian mind, the Russians and the Bolsheviks were all Jews, and therefore it was the Jews who took the blame for having organized these transports to Siberia.

However, historian Orest Subtelny's description makes the Soviet occupation seem rather harsh.

Soon after their arrival, the NKVD arrested West Ukrainian political leaders and deported them to the east.  UNDO and the other large Ukrainian political parties were forced to disband.  Many cooperatives were eliminated and others were reorganized along Soviet lines.  The Prosvita society's reading rooms and libraries had to cease operation.  Realizing that they were living on borrowed time, between 20,000 and 30,000 Ukrainian activists fled to German-occupied Poland.  [...]

Support for the Soviets came primarily from local Communists who had emerged from the underground and were now especially useful to the new regime in helping it to "unmask" Ukrainian nationalists.  Because Jews were disproportionately numerous among these Communists and because there were also many of them among the officials who arrived from the Soviet Union, anti-Jewish feeling rose among both West Ukrainians and Poles.  But soon many local Communists also became disillusioned with the Soviets, especially after Stalin had some of them arrested on suspicion of Trotskyism.  [...]

Aware of the West Ukrainians' commitment to their church, the new regime initially treated the Greek Catholic church with caution, imposing only relatively minor restrictions at first.  Priests were obliged to carry special passports and the government demanded high rents for the use of churches.  But gradually these restrictions grew more ominous.  Soviet authorities removed religious instruction from the schools, confiscated church lands, and increased antireligious propaganda.  Similar policies were applied to the Orthodox church in Volhynia where, moreover, efforts were made to place it under the patriarch of Moscow.

In spring 1940 the Soviets dropped their democratic guise and repressions began against both Ukrainians and Poles on a massive scale.  The most widespread and feared measure was deportation.  Without warning, without trial, even without formal accusation, thousands of alleged "enemies of the people" were arrested, packed into cattle cars, and shipped to Siberia and Kazakhstan to work as slave laborers under horrible conditions.  Many of these deportees, including entire families, perished.

The first waves of deportees consisted of leading Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish politicians, industrialists, landowners, merchants, bureaucrats, judges, lawyers, retired officers, and priests.  Later, anyone identified with Ukrainian nationalism was liable to arrest.  In the final stages, in the spring of 1941, the regime deported people indiscriminately.  Those who had relatives abroad or who corresponded with them, those who were visiting friends when they were arrested, those who were denounced for personal reasons, or who, by accident, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, were all deported.  "No one, literally no one," wrote an eyewitness to these events, "was sure that his turn would not come the next night."

According to Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, the Soviets deported about 400,000 Ukrainians from Galicia alone.  The Poles, and especially the colonists, suffered even more, for their government-in-exile contended that, during the Soviet occupation of Poland's eastern territories, about 1.2 million people, the majority of whom were Poles, were deported to the Soviet east.
Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, Second Edition, University of Toronto Press, Toronto Buffalo London, 1994, pp. 456-457

And historian Robert Paul Magocsi's description makes the Soviet occupation seem rather harsh as well.

With regard to the Greek Catholic church in Galicia, the authorities tried through various administrative means to weaken the role of the institutions and of its very popular leader, Metropolitan Sheptyts'kyi.  The government put an end to all church publications; terminated church control of all schools, even seizing its seminaries; banned religion and religious symbols from all schools; cut off income formerly obtained from the church's vast holdings in land and other real estate; and imposed discriminatory taxes.  [...]

The churches at least survived.  Other Ukrainian institutions from interwar Poland fared much worse.  All political parties, cultural organizations (including the Prosvita Society and the Shevchenko Scientific Society), cooperatives, and newspapers were abolished.  Accompanying the destruction of the traditional Ukrainian organizational infrastructure was the arrest and deportation of so-called enemies of the people to labor camps in the far eastern regions of the Soviet Union.  The first to be deported in late 1939 were the social elite (professionals, industrialists, bureaucrats) who had not fled westward beyond the San River to Germany's Generalgouvernement.  They were followed by two other waves of deportations (April 1940 and, especially, June 1941), which included anyone suspected of actual or potential disloyalty to the Soviet regime.  Quite frequently in rural villages, individuals suspected of harboring anti-Soviet attitudes were denounced to the authorities by their neighbors.  The denouncers may have been interwar members of the interwar Communist underground or simply opportunists hoping to ingratiate themselves with the new regime.  That some of these pro-Soviet elements were Jews helped to reinforce the popular Ukrainian stereotype of the Soviet Union as largely the creation of a 'Bolshevik-Jewish conspiracy' whose goal was to destroy everything Ukrainian.  Whether such a stereotype had any validity, the fact is that in less than two years an estimated half a million Ukrainians were deported from Galicia and western Volhynia to slave labor camps in Siberia and Kazakhstan.
Robert Paul Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1996, p. 619

And let us not forget that the last days of the Soviet occupation were marked by an NKVD-conducted blood bath.

Here are two summaries of the NKVD blood bath by the same two historians as above:

The Soviets' hurried retreat had tragic consequences for thousands of political prisoners in the jails of Western Ukraine.  Unable to evacuate them in time, the NKVD slaughtered their prisoners en masse during the week of 22-29 June 1941, regardless of whether they were incarcerated for major or minor offenses.  Major massacres occurred in Lviv, Sambir, and Stanyslaviv in Galicia, where about 10,000 prisoners died, and in Rivne and Lutsk in Volhynia, where another 5000 perished.  Coming on the heels of the mass deportations and growing Soviet terror, these executions added greatly to the West Ukrainians' abhorrence of the Soviets.
Orest Subtelny, Ukraine: A History, Second Edition, University of Toronto Press, Toronto Buffalo London, 1994, p. 461

In their hasty and often panic-stricken retreat, the Soviet authorities were not about to evacuate the thousands of prisoners they had arrested, mostly during their last months of rule in western Ukraine.  Their solution, implemented at the end of June and in early July 1941, was to kill all inmates regardless of whether they had committed minor or major crimes or were being held for political reasons.  According to estimates, from 15,000 to 40,000 prisoners were killed during the Soviet retreat from eastern Galicia and western Volhynia.
Paul Robert Magocsi, A History of Ukraine, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1996, p. 624

Details of the NKVD blood bath reveal its sadism.

For elaboration of the NKVD blood bath, please consult my letter to Morley Safer of 04Jul99, as well as my posting of the de Zayas account of the Lviv Massacre.  When you turn to this copious material, here is the sort of testimony that you will encounter:

Russians and Jews committed these murders in very cruel ways.  Bestial mutilations were daily occurrences.  Breasts of women and genitals of men were cut off.  Jews have also nailed children to the wall and then murdered them.  Killing was carried out by shots in the back of the neck.  Hand grenades were frequently used for these murders.

In Dobromil, women and men were killed with blows by a hammer used to stun cattle before slaughter.

In many cases, the prisoners must have been tortured cruelly: bones were broken, etc.  In Sambor, the prisoners were gagged and thus prevented from screaming during torture and murder.  The Jews, some of whom also held official positions, in addition to their economic supremacy, and who served in the entire Bolshevik police, were always partners in these atrocities.

Finally, it was established that seven [German] pilots who had been captured were murdered.  Three of them were found in a Russian military hospital where they had been murdered in bed by shots in the abdomen.
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 24, July 16, 1941, in Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski, and Shmuel Spector, The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads' Campaign Against the Jews July 1941-January 1943, Holocaust Library, New York, 1989, p. 29-33

About 100-150 Ukrainians were murdered by the Russians in Kremenets.  Some of these Ukrainians are said to have been thrown into cauldrons of boiling water.  This has been deduced from the fact that the bodies were found without skin when they were exhumed.  [...]

Before their flight [from Tarnopol], as in Lvov and Dubno, the Russians went on a rampage there.  Disinterments revealed 10 bodies of German soldiers.  Almost all of them had their hands tied behind their backs with wire.  The bodies revealed traces of extremely cruel mutilations such as gouged eyes, severed tongues and limbs.  [...]

As in Lvov, torture chambers were discovered in the cellars of the [Tarnopol] Court of Justice.  Apparently, hot and cold showers were also used here (as in Lemberg [Lviv]) for torture, as several bodies were found, totally naked, their skin burst and torn in many places.  A grate was found in another room, made of wire and set above the ground about 1m in height, traces of ashes were found underneath.  A Ukrainian engineer, who was also to be murdered but saved his life by smearing the blood of a dead victim over his face, reports that one could also hear screams of pain from women and girls.
Operational Situation Report USSR No. 28, July 20, 1941, in Yitzhak Arad, Shmuel Krakowski, and Shmuel Spector, The Einsatzgruppen Reports: Selections from the Dispatches of the Nazi Death Squads' Campaign Against the Jews July 1941-January 1943, Holocaust Library, New York, 1989, p.38-40

Saddam Hussein's relatively benign occupation of Israel.

If you judge the 21-month Soviet occupation of Ukraine as "relatively benign," then it follows that you must also judge the following imaginary 21-month occupation of Israel by Saddam Hussein as "relatively benign" as well.

Imagine that Saddam Hussein occupies Israel.  Immediately, some 20 to 30 thousand Israelis flee to the West.  Saddam Hussein abolishes newspapers in Israel.  He confiscates property.  He bans all political parties and all political activity.  He prohibits all religious publications, terminates religious control or influence over schools, charges high fees for the use of synagogues, confiscates synagogue property, and steps up anti-religious propaganda.  He bans display of the Israeli flag and of the Magen David.

Saddam Hussein stuffs a half-million Israelis into cattle cars, and ships them to Iraq to be used as slave labor in developing the Iraqi desert.  Many of the deported are never heard from again.  The deported are the cream of Israeli society the intellectuals, politicians, teachers, industrialists, journalists, writers, judges, civil servants, leaders of every kind.

When 21 months later NATO troops liberate Israel, the fleeing Saddam-Hussein-secret-police executes some 15 to 40 thousand Israeli prisoners, such that Israeli jails are discovered to be overflowing with bodies.  Evidence of bestial cruelty abounds women's breasts cut off, men's genitals cut off, tongues cut out, eyes gouged, bones broken, nails driven into skulls there is no imaginable cruelty that these Israeli victims have been spared.  Some Israeli bodies are found without skin, which leads to the supposition that the Saddam Hussein secret police had thrown them into boiling water.  Nor are the murders restricted to prisoners for example, the bodies of 370 Israeli students between the ages of 14 and 16 are discovered machine-gunned in a ravine.

Historian or propagandist?

When such treatment was meted out by the Jewish-dominated NKVD to Ukrainians, you saw fit to describe it to your Simon Wiesenthal Center audience as "relatively benign."  And what would be your opinion of a historian who described the above Saddam Hussein occupation of Israel as "relatively benign"?  Competent or incompetent?  Credible or not credible?  Historian or propagandist?

Every day that you continue to broadcast your Tryzub and Swastika speech over the Internet is another day in which you spread hatred, undermine your own credibility, and cast discredit upon your people.

Lubomyr Prytulak