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Sol Littman   Letter 19   20-Oct-1999   Trusting Soviet evidence
"I submit some semi-finished and some finished soap as exhibit USSR 393." Colonel Smirnov
  October 20, 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:

You encourage trust in Soviet evidence

Upon re-reading Nikolai Tolstoy's booklet, Trial and Error: Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals and the Soviets, I was reminded that one of the destructive conclusions that you were partially successful in foisting upon the Deschênes Commission is that Soviet evidence could be trusted:

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:

Sol Littman, the Canadian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says the state archives in Ukrainian and Baltic cities are stuffed with documents that would provide useful hard evidence to the Commission.  Littman has just returned from his second research trip to the Soviet Union, where he visited archives in the Estonian city of Tallinn, the Lithuanian city of Vilnius, and Kiev in the Ukraine.

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:

That's the most important piece of evidence we've heard yet ...  If there's no meaning in it, that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn't try to find any.


Nikolai Tolstoy, Trial and Error: Canada's Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals and the Soviets, Justinian Press, Toronto, 1986, p. 8.


But others hold Soviet evidence in distrust

The bulk of Nikolai Tolstoy's booklet is dedicated to questioning the credibility of Soviet evidence.  If you were to read Tolstoy's statement, and as well the series of three articles below written by Robert Gillette and published in the Los Angeles Times, it might do much to correct some dangerous beliefs that you have adopted and are pressing upon the Canadian government:

Robert Gillette  27Apr86  Did Soviets manufacture evidence?
Robert Gillette  27Apr86  Impossible to treat them worse
Robert Gillette  28Apr86  The main witness was a joke


One reason out of many for such distrust is that the Soviets never acquit

What you will find in all this literature is that the Soviet justice system is so thoroughly corrupt, that no evidence that emerges from it can be trusted.  I reproduce only one short segment, footnotes removed, from Nikolai Tolstoy's larger discussion:

In a recent survey it was remarked that:

There has never in Amnesty International's experience been an acquittal of a political defendant in the USSR.  No Soviet court trying a person charged for his political activity has rejected the prosecution's case on grounds of procedural violations committed during the investigation period or on grounds of insufficient evidence ...  In many cases defence witnesses have not been allowed to give evidence.  Often defence witnesses who have been called have been prevented from giving evidence other than that elicited by the prosecution.  Frequently contradictions and patent falsehoods in evidence given by prosecution witnesses have been accepted by courts without challenge.

Dealing with a particularly obdurate Polish prisoner in 1945, State Counsellor R. Rudenko explained patiently:

After the termination of the interrogation, I have to prosecute you in court and shall have to mention that you did not confess to the alleged crimes.  It will be the first time since the Soviet Revolution that a defendant, who is to be tried in the Supreme Court of Justice of the USSR, has not pleaded guilty.

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.


You say that Soviet-supplied evidence has always been true

Your position appears to be that the Soviets have never supplied false evidence:

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:

There is no known instance in Europe or in North America of a Soviet-supplied document having been falsified or of an Eastern bloc witness having perjured himself.

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.


But at Nuremberg, the Soviets elicited testimony that soap was made from human fat

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.


The Soviets even supplied samples

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.


Today, however, historians do not credit the soap story

In Raul Hilberg's index, there appears the entry "soap rumor," and on p. 955 there appears the statement:

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.

Or, Deborah Lipstadt makes the following acknowledgement:

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.


Also, at Nuremberg, the Soviets testified that human skin was used for various purposes

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.

But today, the human skin story has vanished from all respectable Holocaust books.


And at Nuremberg, the Soviets testified that the Germans were responsible for the Katyn Forest massacres

The following is from the examination of Soviet "medico-forensic expert" Victor Ilich Prosorovski by Soviet prosecutor Colonel Smirnov.  The question at issue is the critical one of the date of execution of the Polish victims if it was in 1940, then the executions would have been conducted by the Soviets, if in the autumn of 1941, then by the Germans:

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.


However today, it is acknowledged by all that the Katyn Forest massacres were perpetrated by the Soviets

Alfred M. de Zayas, for example, quotes The London Times as saying what even the Soviets have by now admitted:

"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.


Conclusion

The above examples of soap from human fat, the use of human skins, and the Katyn Forest massacres are just three of the many false stories coming out of Soviet disinformation factories.  The stories were presented in courts of law, were supported by documents, were testified to by witnesses, and were sometimes even bolstered by physical evidence.  Nevertheless, they were all false.  An endless series of similarly false stories has been discussed in the literature.

Anyone who claims that no instance of Soviet deception exists is either uninformed or duplicitous.  Anyone who convinces the public that Soviet evidence can be trusted allies himself with a malevolent power still operative under a different guise and inflicts harm upon the innocent.



Lubomyr Prytulak


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