Sol Littman   Letter 24   25-Nov-1999   Hyperbolizing sotrudnyk history
"I would not be surprised if some observers came away with the impression that you have been working hand in glove with the KGB." Lubomyr Prytulak
  November 25, 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:

Valery Styrkul's We Accuse

I call to your attention the book by Valery Styrkul, We Accuse: Documentary Sketch, Dnipro Publishers, Kiev, 1984 a tidy little piece of KGB disinformation whose primary purpose is to discredit Ukrainian nationalism by smearing the Galicia Division, and which secondarily seizes the opportunity to stir up opposition to American weapons development, and to incite inter-ethnic antagonisms between Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews.

Can we trust any history published in the USSR?

The Styrkul book deals primarily with the history of the Galicia Division, and already any aware person must grow uneasy.  Can any history published in the Soviet Ukraine of 1984 be relied upon?  Was not all publication at that time in the hands of a totalitarian state ruled from Moscow?  How often has the Soviet Union published any history that deviated from the party line?  Unless among a writer's credentials are that he has seen a KGB prison from the inside, aren't we justified in expecting that he has not ventured beyond regurgitating Soviet propaganda?  Hasn't the Kremlin always been terrified of Ukrainian nationalism, and always outraged against Ukrainians who preferred to fight against Joseph Stalin instead of for him?

We Accuse is not among the KGB's more impressive creations.  The book lacks an index.  It lacks a bibliography, references, footnotes.  It is capable of presenting a quotation which runs on for several pages without providing the least hint of its source.  It is unapologetically one-sided.  It assumes a reader already in agreement with the Soviet world view, and betrays no awareness of what is required to win over a reader who isn't.

Who is Valery Styrkul?

(1) Valery Styrkul writes incognito

The Styrkul book gives no hint as to who Valery Styrkul is.  Were he a historian, then we might expect to be informed what degrees he holds and what institutions they were awarded by.  We might expect to be told of Mr. Styrkul's accomplishments, as for example what other books he has written, or what posts he has held.  We might expect to be told what Mr. Styrkul's current position is, and what university or research facility he is affiliated with.  We might expect to have Mr. Styrkul acknowledge the assistance he has received from individuals and from institutions in writing his book.  We might even expect to be shown his photograph.  All such information would serve at the least to assure the reader that such an author really exists, and at the most that the book is blessed with some modicum of credibility.

However, no such information is presented.  About Valery Styrkul, we are told absolutely nothing, which invites the suspicion that he is not a bona fide historian, but a KGB stooge, which is to say a sotrudnyk like the sotrudnyk Trofim Kichko who takes credit for writing the anti-Semitic Judaism Without Embellishment which the Kremlin ordered to be published in Ukraine.

(2) Valery Styrkul reads the Globe and Mail

I note that a Valerie Styrkul of Kiev, USSR has written letters to the Globe and Mail commenting on earlier Globe and Mail articles and showing familiarity with Canadian affairs, of which letters I have copies of two one appearing on 24Oct85 in which Styrkul signs himself as a "historian," and another on 02Jun86 in which he signs himself as a "journalist."

However, I cannot help reflecting that when I visited Kyiv in 1993 and 1994, I could not find foreign newspapers being sold anywhere, and noted that as the pay of senior academics was the equivalent of $35 US per month, Kyiv academics could not have afforded to buy foreign newspapers even if any had been on sale.  Thus, I wonder if a Kyiv historian reading Canadian newspapers in 1985 and 1986 is a near impossibility, and speculate that at best Valery Styrkul was being sent Globe and Mail clippings either by the KGB or by you on those occasions when he was requested to deliver some comment.

(3) Valery Styrkul writes letters to the Globe and Mail in perfect English

Also in my visits to Kyiv, I noted that a surprising number of Ukrainians had recently acquired near-perfect comprehension of English, and could make themselves clearly understood in English.  However, in no case could any Kyiv Ukrainian write a letter in English which would be free of numerous errors betraying that the writer was not a native speaker of English.

One could hardly expect anything else.  I have earlier documented on the Ukrainian Archive that Jerzy Kosinski, even after years of total immersion in American English, and even after receiving international acclaim for his writing in the English language, was nevertheless unable to write even a short business letter that was free of the gaffes that betrayed his foreign origin.

Thus, Valery Styrkul's flawless letters to the editor call for some explanation, the most lenient being that his letters were translated for him into English by a Canadian, and the most severe being that he was mailed the English letters that he was being asked to affix his name to, that he then copied them longhand or re-typed them on Ukrainian stationery, and that he finally submitted them to the Globe and Mail as if they were his own creations.

(4) Valery Styrkul is distressed by the infiltration of Canada by Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists

What is it that Valery Styrkul says in his letters and in his book?  To refresh your memory not of everything Styrkul says but only of the sorts of things he is capable of saying I reproduce a sample passage from his book.  In this one passage, you will be reminded that Styrkul is acquainted with the work of Communist-front organizations in Canada, and that he makes the following highly-original claims:

(1) Galicia (Halychyna) Division members are not merely guilty of horrendous war crimes during WW II, but today are the "instigators and direct executors of insane plans for the revival of Nazism."

(2) Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists in Canada today support the US Strategic Defense Initiative, which is part of a grand Nazi conspiracy.

(3) Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists in Canada today support American cruise missile testing over Canadian territory, which is also part of this same grand Nazi conspiracy.

(4) Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists in Canada today advocate the nuclear devastation of Ukraine because of their "maniacal hopes of assuming power in a nuclear-blast-charred Ukraine."

Nazi war criminals feel completely at home in other Western countries, too.  Thus, veteran SS men of the Halychyna Division openly associate in different "brotherhoods" in the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Argentina and West Germany.  [...]  The world public demands that these sadists be brought before the tribunal of history and conscience.  Numerous public organizations in the USA, Canada and elsewhere, as well as many lawyers and other individuals are obviously deeply convinced that war criminals should be decisively opposed as the instigators and direct executors of the insane plans for the revival of Nazism, whether or not this doctrine is presented as a "modern" trend.

A repetition of WWII's Nazi genocide the extermination of whole nations is where the current policy of the American Administration, aimed at getting ready for a nuclear holocaust (including the use of outer space for that purpose), is leading mankind.  When, in April 1983, the Canadian government signed the agreement allotting Canadian soil for cruise missile tests, the Canadian public responded with a strong protest effort against that new attempt to involve Canada in the madness of the nuclear arms race, demanding in the most decisive of terms that the country be proclaimed a nuclear free zone.  Progressive Ukrainian organizations such as the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians (AUUC) and the Workers' Benevolent Association (WBA) have taken a most active part in this campaign.  A telegram of protest, addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, read:

"The National Executive Committee of the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians unanimously and unequivocally protests your government's agreement allowing the testing of the Cruise Missile and other United States' military systems on Canadian soil.  We deplore this escalation of the nuclear arms race.  In the name of humanity, rescind this agreement and declare Canada a nuclear weapons free zone."

The above AUUC message served to express the ideas and demands of all progressive Canadians.  Meetings and demonstrations swept Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Vancouver and other cities, its participants joining in the chorus of an impassioned appeal against turning the country into a testing ground for its southern neighbor.

An altogether different stand was taken by the Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists, among them quite a few former SS men and other war criminals.  Rather thoughtlessly, they acted and still do in support of the Pentagon's nuclear stratagems, harboring maniacal hopes of assuming power in a nuclear-blast-charred Ukraine.

Valery Styrkul, We accuse: Documentary sketch, Dnipro Publishers, Kiev, 1984, pp. 13-14.

You two know each other?

Styrkul's book (pp. 10-11) quotes at length from your anti-Galicia Division article published in the Toronto Star of 07Jun80.  You return the compliment by acknowledging Styrkul's book as the source of the anti-Galicia Division accusations in your "These aging men were monsters once" article in the Windsor Star of 16Jul85.  Thus, even my narrow and only occasional monitoring of the press reveals a reciprocal quoting indicative of mutual admiration and collaborative effort.  I would not be surprised if some observers came away with the impression that you have been working hand in glove with the KGB.

Is the Styrkul book your bible?

In my several letters to you, I have been pressing you to disclose the sources on which you base your remarkable Tryzub and Swastika Speech of 31Aug97.  More than that, I have been offering to publish your source documents on the Ukrainian Archive web site without regard to how damaging they might be to Ukrainians generally or to the Galicia Division in particular.  As yet, however, you have neglected to disclose any of your sources, with the inevitable result of creating the appearance that you either don't have any source material and are merely making your stories up, or else that you have sources but that these are too disreputable to disclose.  When I came across Styrkul's We Accuse, I was struck by similarities between it and your Tryzub and Swastika Speech, and wondered whether I had discovered your primary source, and discovered at the same time a possible explanation of your failure to supply documentation the explanation being that even you recognize the inadvisability of disclosing that the primary source of your many peculiar beliefs is Valery Styrkul's sotrudnyk history.

The Himmler Speech

In your Tryzub and Swastika Speech of 31Aug97, you state:

On May 16, 1944, Himmler visited the Division.  And he made a speech, in which we have a record, the record of it in the National Archives in Washington.  And in that speech, he congratulated the Division for having made the Ukraine a much more beautiful place than it had been previously by eliminating the Jews, who had been a blemish on the landscape.

However, the two references that I consulted (Michael O. Logusz, Galicia Division: The Waffen-SS 14th Grenadier Division, 1943-1945; and George H. Stein, Hitler's Elite Guard at War: The Waffen SS) suggest that your story is a falsification in two respects:

(1) Himmler did not address the Division as a whole, but only the officers who were present in the officer's mess.  Although the troops in the Galicia Division were predominantly Ukrainian, the officers were predominantly German.

(2) On the day that Himmler talked to the officers, the Division was nearing completion of its basic training.  As the Division had not yet entered service, it is inconceivable that Himmler could have congratulated it for deeds already accomplished.

The above are just two more distortions of the sort for which your work has become notorious but now we arrive at the aspect of the Himmler speech that is of particular relevance to the present letter.  That relevance is to be found in the description of the Himmler speech that is provided in what may be your primary source Valery Styrkul's book We Accuse.  To begin with, Styrkul joins in contradicting you by stating that Himmler did not address the Division as a whole, but only talked to the officers.  And Styrkul gives the following version of Himmler's allusion to Jews, not atypically offering the material in quotation marks without disclosing its origin:

And, after all, what was there to talk about?  For as Himmler put it, Galicia "became all the more beautiful for having lost on our, so to say, initiative the residents who were so often a blemish on the good name of Galicia that is, the Jews."

Valery Styrkul, We accuse: Documentary sketch, Dnipro Publishers, Kiev, 1984, p. 197.

What we find in Styrkul's account, then, is confirmation that Himmler does not at all congratulate the Division as a whole for ridding Galicia of Jews, and he does not even congratulate the officers of the Division on the Division's ridding Galicia of Jews.  What we find even in this anti-Ukrainian piece of KGB disinformation is Himmler referring to the ridding of Jews as an accomplishment to be credited not to "your initiative" (addressing the Galicia Division officers), but to "our initiative."  And who does "our" include?  Obviously, "our" refers to Nazis, but with its exact membership on this occasion left unelaborated, except that with the Ukrainian recruits still in basic training, the "our" cannot reasonably be understood to include them.

What your distortion of Styrkul's version of Himmler's speech suggests, then, is that you do not rest content with providing a channel for KGB disinformation into Canada.  No, you go beyond that.  For you, KGB disinformation is too tame.  Rather, you start with KGB disinformation, and then you exaggerate what the KGB has already exaggerated, you twist what the KGB has already twisted, and you distort what the KGB has already distorted.

And in doing all this, you rain destruction upon people's lives.  You throw your own credibility out the window.  You cast disrepute upon Jews.  You desecrate the memory of the many real victims who really did suffer and really did die in a real world you desecrate their memory by displacing it with hyperbolized tales of imaginary victims suffering fantastic deaths in a fictitious world.

Lubomyr Prytulak