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Sol Littman   Letter 09   05-Oct-1999   Army of the outraged
"In 96 per cent of the cases which the Commission has investigated, it has not communicated with the suspects." Jules Deschênes
  October 05, 1999

Sol Littman
Director, Simon Wiesenthal Center
8 King Street East, Suite 710
Toronto, ON
CANADA,  M5C 1B5

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


Sol Littman:

Canadians should be given information which permits them to protect themselves from malice.

I think that if anyone wished you ill, and took steps to harm you, that you would want to know who that individual was, and what actions he had taken against you.  If the government had information concerning such an individual, you might feel that the government had an obligation to disclose this information to you otherwise, you would be unable to take precautions, and you would be needlessly exposed to injury.

If you are in agreement with the above general principle, then perhaps you will also agree to its application to the case where someone denounces you to the police, and causes investigations to be made of you.  Particularly where such a denunciation is groundless, you would have reason to wonder if it had not been motivated by malice, and whether this malice might in future manifest itself in other ways, and so you might wish to be alerted to its presence so as to ensure your safety.

Well, the fact is that during the course of the Deschênes Commission, large numbers of people were denounced and were investigated, and the denunciations proved to be without foundation and these people were never informed either that they had been denounced or that they had been investigated:

In 96 per cent of the cases which the Commission has investigated, it has not communicated with the suspects.  The latter have not been made aware of the Commission's interest.  There is no reason to alert now, especially, the 606 people, or their successors, whose files the Commission recommends should be closed.
Jules Deschênes, Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, 1986, p. 827

However, as I have just been explaining above, perhaps Judge Deschênes is incorrect to assume that there is no reason to alert the denounced.  Perhaps the reason they should be alerted is so that they can better protect themselves, can better appreciate who around them wishes them ill, and thus who may strike again at some later time and in some other way.  Perhaps the reason to alert the denounced is that they themselves would want to be alerted.  Perhaps in some of these cases, the denounced may wish to press the government to lay criminal charges of Public Mischief, and perhaps this is the reason that Judge Deschênes asserts that there is no reason to alert the denounced that he is in reality protecting Jews from a backlash incited by Jewish irresponsibility.

The probability that any given individual will leak information of a denunciation is not zero.

In addition to the names of the denounced coming to public attention through the carelessness of Deschênes Commission personnel, there is to be considered the possibility of intentional leakage.  That the latter can happen is demonstrated in your own violation of the injunction of the Commission to not disclose the names of any of the denounced:

For the protection of reputations, the Commission has made it a duty not to divulge any of those names and has enjoined parties appearing before it in public sittings to adhere to the same policy.  The Commission has received general understanding and co-operation in this respect, though Mr. Sol Littman came very close to breaching this injunction when he gave a press conference in Ottawa and distributed a list of suspects on 30 October 1986.
In Jules Deschênes, Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, 1986, p. 48

As I have already pointed out to you in my letter of 25Sep99, although you clearly did breach the Commission's injunction, Judge Deschênes considered you to have only come "very close to breaching this injunction" perhaps because the damage was limited by the press declining to publish the list that you had been handing out to them.

The number of individuals able to leak information of a police investigation is large.

The Commission staff can leak the identities of the denounced.  The Commission Report lists 51 "Commission Personnel."  If the average number of support staff for each such leading member of the Commission ranges from one to five, then the total number of individuals who might have access to the lists of the denounced would range from 51x2=102 to 51x6=306.

Jewish organizations can leak the identities of the denounced.  The names of the denounced might have been circulated among several of the organizations that participated in the denunciation, as for example the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith, the Jewish National Legal Committee, or the Simon Wiesenthal Centers in Vienna, Los Angeles, and Toronto.

Agencies within Canada can leak the identities of the denounced.  Within Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) participated fully in all investigations.  On top of that, the names of the denounced were routinely sent to Canadian agencies such as the Department of Employment and Immigration, the Department of the Secretary of State, and the Department of External Affairs.  Supplementary checks were sometimes conducted with the Department of Vital Statistics, with the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), with provincial Departments of Motor Vehicles, and with the Public Archives.  It might be expected that Solicitor General Robert Kaplan's office would be privy to the lists of the denounced, especially since the Deschênes Committee was created at Mr. Kaplan's instigation, and especially since Mr. Kaplan controlled the chief investigative agency, the RCMP, and especially since a large number of the denunciations were funnelled through his office.

Foreign agencies can leak the identities of the denounced.  And finally, the Deschênes Commission sent the names of the denounced around the world.  The names were routinely submitted to several agencies within Germany, primarily, the Berlin Document Center (BDC), the Central Office of Land Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National-Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg (which the Commission sometimes abbreviates as "Ludwigsburg"); the German Military Service Office for notifying the next of kin of members of the former German Wehrmacht (WASt) in Berlin; the Berlin Sick Book Depository; and the Central Information Office of the Federal Archives (at Aachen-Kornelimünster).  Following such initial steps in its investigation, the Commission might further send names of the denounced as follows:

[T]he Commission forwarded specific names on its Master List and in some cases specific questions to Centre de documentation juive contemporaine in Paris, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in Washington, D.C., the Wiesenthal Documentation Center in Vienna, and the Yad Vashem archive in Israel, as well as the appropriate departments or agencies of several Eastern and Western governments.
Jules Deschênes, Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals, 1986, p. 57

One might summarize by saying that once denounced as a war criminal to the Deschênes Commission, the names of the denounced must have appeared before the eyes of a hundred people the world over, and could have appeared before the eyes of a thousand.

The names of the denounced may remain inscribed on permanent lists.

It is plausible to imagine that the names of the denounced continue to be listed in the records of the Deschênes Commission, and that many people continue to have access to the Commission records.  It is also plausible to imagine that certain agencies queried by the Deschênes Commission may have retained permanent records of the names of the denounced that had been brought to their attention.  Thus, some of the denounced might find it unsettling to learn that in the Office of Special Investigations in Washington, they are listed as having been under investigation as Nazi war criminals; and at the same time so listed by the Centre de documentation juive contemporaine in Paris; and at the same time so listed by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem; and at the same time so listed by the Simon Wiesenthal Centers in Vienna and in Los Angeles and in Toronto; and at the same time so listed by the Canadian Jewish Congress; and at the same time so listed with B'nai Brith; and at the same time so listed with "appropriate departments or agencies of several Eastern and Western governments."  Such can be the outcome of a single anonymous letter of denunciation in Canada to leave one's name forever inscribed in perhaps a dozen locations all over the world as a person who has at one time been under police investigation for Nazi war crimes.

No harm done?

To the argument that no harm is done by investigating even an innocent person, it must be pointed out that the mere fact of a police investigation being conducted is sufficient to damage a reputation.  We saw above that Judge Deschênes acknowledged this in his words, "For the protection of reputations, the Commission has made it a duty not to divulge any of those names [...]."

Furthermore, in any investigation, there inescapably exists the possibility not only of false negatives (as a result of an investigation, some real war criminals will appear innocent), but also the possibility of false positives (as a result of an investigation, some innocent people will look like war criminals).  In the case of false positives, innocent people will be subjected to extended investigation and the probability of leakage with its attendant harm will mount.  Thus, a second way in which an individual who has been denounced may be harmed is by becoming a false positive.

Finally, it is naive of Judge Deschênes to imagine that because his Commission failed to notify an individual that he had been denounced, that this meant that the individual carried on his life in tranquility, unaware that he was the focus of a police investigation.  Rathert, a more likely scenario is that some or many or even all of the denounced became aware that inquiries were being made about them, which would have imposed on them a burden of anxiety even if they were innocent.  The possibility exists, furthermore, that unethical denouncers motivated by malice and misplaced vengeance could have placed telephone calls whose purpose was to suggest to the denounced that he was under investigation, merely for the sake of causing him apprehension.

Thus, given that the probability of leakage was not zero, and given the large numbers of people who had access to the lists, and given that the disclosure of the lists would damage reputations, and given that the denounced were subjected to the danger of becoming false positives, and given that some of the denounced may have been subjected to harrassment, there can be little doubt that the act of denunciation was likely to be damaging, and that it was intended to be damaging by the denouncers.

Toward the creation of an army of the outraged.

Mr. Littman, there is no army of the outraged today, but there could be one tomorrow and tomorrow this army could be marching upon your offices.  This army would be composed of the many hundreds of the denounced who today still do not know that they have been denounced, but tomorrow could find out.  Imagine their indignation!  Imagine some Lithuanian who discovers that he has been denounced for writing a letter to the editor defending his homeland will he not want to join the army of the outraged?  Imagine some German who discovers that he has been denounced for speaking English with an accent will he not want to join the army of the outraged?  Imagine some physician who discovers that he has been denounced because he reminded a patient of Dr. Mengele will he not want to join the army of the outraged?  Imagine some historian who discovers that he has been denounced for skating too near the edge of political correctness will he not want to join the army of the outraged?  And perhaps a journalist for being insufficiently supportive of Israel?  And perhaps a lawyer for participating in the defense of someone accused of war crimes?  And perhaps someone for complaining of a barking dog?  And perhaps someone for keeping a barking dog?  And perhaps not exactly one of these, but only the father of such a one for the sin of having such a son, or a colleague for the sin of having such a friend, or an employer for the sin of having such an employee?

And so, if the denounced were informed of having been denounced, they might join an army of the outraged.  And as this army of outrage formed, it might be joined by many who had not been involved, but who suddenly were made to recognize that when the apparatus of the government and the police is hijacked by a malevolent group, then no one is safe; that if the government and the police can be conscripted into the service of Public Mischief, then in the future the target of the Public Mischief could be themselves, or their colleagues, or their friends, or their relatives; that if the government and the police can participate in mass hysteria, then we are approaching a re-enactment of the Salem witch trials; that if the government and the police can be conscripted into investigating lists created from anonymous denunciations, then the Canadian government is taking a step toward totalitarian dictatorship. 

Shouldn't the denounced be alerted?

Therefore, I ask you to join me in calling upon the government to alert all those who have been denounced in front of the Deschênes Commission of the fact that they have been denounced.  What the denounced do with this information is their concern among their options would be to ignore it or to seek further information, and ultimately to request the Government to lay criminal charges of Public Mischief.

In the absence of the proposed alerting of the denounced, the innocent will be less able to protect themselves, those guilty of Public Mischief will be less likely to receive the chastisement which they deserve, and governments which have collaborated in Public Mischief will be emboldened to continue doing so not only in the realm of Nazi war crimes, but perhaps in innovative new realms as well.



Lubomyr Prytulak

cc: Anne McLellan


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