October 20, 1999
What aroused widespread indignation among the general public was the Commission's proposal to admit Soviet-supplied testimony as acceptable accessory evidence in indicting Canadian citizens. On this point as with others, the Commission was at one with Mr Littman, who had already pursued his own researches in Soviet archives. As the Ottawa Citizen reported on 5 June 1985:|
It is true the Soviet archivists proved niggardly in the provision of photocopies of documents in their custody; but as it is uncertain whether Mr Littman can read a word of Russian or any other East European language, they may have felt some justification for their reluctance. At any rate, "the raw material is there, the archivists are helpful, and the resources of a commission of inquiry could accomplish far more" than Mr Littman modestly conceded he was able to achieve.
The Commission accordingly takes the view that it "must go where the evidence is, i.e. Eastern Europe, that Soviet-supplied evidence was accepted in Nurnberg, in the USA and in Canada and that the Canadian judicial system can sort out good evidence from bad."
While conceding that "some basic precautions must be taken," the Commission was confident that evidence provided by the Soviet Government would not prove in essence different from that regularly assessed in Canadian courts: "our legal system is used to it." The fact is that "the Commission is merely pursuing its investigative work through examining documents and witnesses. The action remains the same: it only moves from one theatre to another."
Nikolai Tolstoy, Trial and Error: Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals and the Soviets, Justinian Press, Toronto, 1986, pp. 7-8.
In any case, as Michael Meighen, Counsel to the Commission, candidly explained, whether such evidence was true or false was beside the point. "When you're a commission of inquiry, you investigate all sorts of evidence," he explained. "It may well be that evidence is fabricated in the Soviet Union in whole or in part, but to simply refuse to even hear it is to put restrictions on yourself."|
Or, as the King of Hearts put it:
Nikolai Tolstoy, Trial and Error: Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals and the Soviets, Justinian Press, Toronto, 1986, p. 8.
|In a recent survey it was remarked that:|
Dealing with a particularly obdurate Polish prisoner in 1945, State Counsellor R. Rudenko explained patiently:
It was the same Rudenko who travelled a few months later to act as public prosecutor in the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.
Nikolai Tolstoy, Trial and Error: Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals and the Soviets, Justinian Press, Toronto, 1986, p. 11.
|Also prominent among those arguments put forward by Mr Littman and his associates which led the Deschênes Commission to accept the prima facie validity of Soviet-supplied evidence was the following:|
To this one can only reply in the words of the Duke of Wellington on being taken for a Mr Smith: "If you believe that, sir, you will believe anything."
Nikolai Tolstoy, Trial and Error: Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals and the Soviets, Justinian Press, Toronto, 1986, pp. 10-11.
The fat of the human bodies was collected by Borkner and Reichert. I boiled the soap from the bodies of women and men. The process of boiling alone took from three to seven days. During two manufacturing processes, in which I directly participated, more than 25 kilograms of soap were produced. The amount of human fat necessary for these two processes was 70 to 80 kilograms, collected from some forty bodies. The finished soap then went to Professor Spanner, who kept it personally.|
The work for the production of soap from human bodies has, as far as I know, also interested Hitler's Government. The Anatomical Institute was visited by the Minister of Education, Rust; the Minister for Health, Doctor Cort; the Gauleiter of Danzig, Albert Forster; as well as professors from other medical institutes.
I took 4 kilograms of this soap for my personal needs, for toilet and for laundering.
The trial of German major war criminals: Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Germany, His Majesty's Stationery Office, Part 4, 11Jan46, p. 207.
I submit some semi-finished and some finished soap as exhibit USSR 393. Here you can see a small piece of finished soap, which on the outside, after lying about for a few months, reminds you of ordinary household soap. I hand it to the Tribunal. In addition I now submit to the Tribunal the samples of semi-tanned human skin (exhibit USSR 394). These samples of soap prove that the process of manufacture was already completely worked out by the Danzig Institute; as to the skin, it still looks like a semi-finished product. The skin which resembles most the leather used in manufacture is the one you see on top at the left.
The trial of German major war criminals: Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Germany, His Majesty's Stationery Office, Part 7, 19Feb46, p. 135.
|The use of human fat for soap cannot be established as a fact from available documentary evidence and eyewitness reports.
Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Revised and Definitive Edition, Holmes & Meier, New York and London, 1985, p. 955.
|It is also accurate that scholars have long written that despite wartime rumors to the contrary, the Nazis apparently did not use Jewish cadavers for soap.
Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The growing assault on truth and memory, Plume, New York, 1993, p. 188.
|It was common practice to remove the skin from dead prisoners. I was commanded to do this on many occasions. Dr. Rascher and Dr. Wolter in particular asked for this human skin from human backs and chests. It was chemically treated and placed in the sun to dry. After that it was cut into various sizes for use as saddles, riding breeches, gloves, house slippers and ladies' handbags. Tattooed skin was especially valued by S.S. men.
The trial of German major war criminals: Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Germany, His Majesty's Stationery Office, Part 7, 19Feb46, p. 133.
Q. Therefore, basing yourself on your objective observations at what conclusion did you arrive as to the date of the death and the burial of the victims of Katyn?|
A. What I have just said also applies to very many of my colleagues who participated in this work. The Commission came to the unanimous conclusion that the burial of the Polish officers in the Katyn burial grounds was carried out about two years ago, if you count from January, the month of January, 1944 ... that is to say the time was in the autumn of 1941.
Q. Does the condition of the corpses give any grounds for saying that they were buried in 1940, objectively speaking?
A. Examination of the corpses buried in the forest of Katyn, when compared with the modifications and changes which were noticed by us during former exhumations on many occasions, and also material evidence, allowed us to come to the conclusion that the time of the burial could not have been previous to the autumn of 1941.
Q. Therefore, the year 1940 is excluded?
A. Yes, it is completely excluded.
The trial of German major war criminals: Proceedings of the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Germany, His Majesty's Stationery Office, Part 18, 02Jul46, p. 19.
"Enough has been published to convince anyone who is not a dedicated defender of the Soviets that the massacre did take place in 1940, when Katyn was under Soviet and not German control."
Alfred M. de Zayas, The Wehrmacht war crimes bureau, 1939-1945, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London, 1989, p. 276.