Morley Safer   Letter 14   25-Jul-1999   Who did Israel Roitman murder?
"By the time the Banderite's face was turned into a bloody-hairy pulp, we were exhausted.  The Banderite slumped to his knees, then fell flat on his face.  We shot him." Israel Roitman
July 25, 1999

Morley Safer
60 Minutes, CBS Television
51 W 52nd Street
New York, NY
USA       10019

Morley Safer:

I bring to your attention the following boastful confession of former SMERSH agent, Israel Roitman

The translation of Isreal Roitman's autobiographical account below, originally published in the Russian-language periodical Our View in Thornhill, Ontario in 1998, recounts the experience of a Jew participating in the torture and murder of a Ukrainian during the Second World War, and boasts that this one crime was only the first of many:

by Israel Roitman

Our View


Once, on the occasion of a talk with students, I was asked: "Did you also kill people?"

What could I answer?  It remained only to smile sadly, and my memory recalled the first cruelty.  Afterward, there were many more, but the first is unforgettable.

It happened, if memory serves, in the Zolochiv region which lies along the Ternopil-Lviv highway (Western Ukraine).  The military SMERSH ("Death to Spies", as military counter-intelligence was named during the war) instructed us intelligence officers to investigate the cause of death of one of our sabotage units.  On the second or third day, we came upon the tracks of the perpetrators who were responsible for the death of our comrades, and caught them relaxing in broad daylight in a large house on a forest farmstead.  There were three men sitting around a table with moonshine and snacks: a thin, tall German, a heavily-armed policeman, and a fat-faced, unshaven Banderite [Ukrainian fighting for Ukrainian independence] wearing a service cap with a yellow-light blue [colors of the Ukrainian flag] cockade and some kind of stripes sewn on his sleeve.  It goes without saying: a merry band.

We had to shoot the policeman right there in the house, his abundance of weapons not helping him a bit.  We took the German and the Banderite out into the yard.  The Banderite, a huge man with long hands large as shovels, just stood there with a crooked smile.  On his unshaven face, his eyes darted nervously about like gimlets.  Evidently, the worsening situation was completely unexpected by him and he didn't know what to do, and couldn't hit upon any course of action.  Of course, under different circumstances, he could have tossed us boys around like puppies, but this time the inveterate beast could not do so: we were the ones with the weapons.

Oh, yes!  By that time, we had seen a lot of these nationalists, as they were contemptuously called, the "Samostiynyks" ["Independents"] (the motto of the Ukrainian Nationalists was "For an Independent Ukraine").  These were veritable beasts, worse than some Fritzes [Germans].

Volodka Seliverstov hit him first, in the solar plexus.  The Banderite groaned, gripped his stomach with his hands, and doubled over like a folding knife.  Then followed a knee upper-cut to the face.  A sobbing was heard and the Banderite started falling backwards.  But we didn't let him fall.  There were five of us.  We stood in a small circle and knocked him from one to another.  We struck silently with backhand blows, putting into them all our accumulated rage and hatred.  We struck viciously, probably like hunters striking huge and especially dangerous maddened beasts.  By the time the Banderite's face was turned into a bloody-hairy pulp, we were exhausted.  The Banderite slumped to his knees, then fell flat on his face.  We shot him.  The German, we delivered safely across the front line and turned him over to the SMERSH people.  (We followed the same practice afterwards.  When police, Banderites, Vlasovites, or Germans fell into our hands, we usually delivered the latter untouched, but the traitors we executed ourselves on the spot.)


The original of the beginning of Israel Roitman's article appears below, the portion translated above shown enclosed in a box:

Our View

I Expand My Summary Table Once Again

The table which I have been developing in my previous three letters to you can now be elaborated with the Israel Roitman entry.  As Roitman gives no dates for his crimes, I conjecture that they began in 1941; as Roitman could have continued his service in the Soviet secret police for several decades, there is no telling what span of time his crimes occupied:

Date of my letter Subject of my letter Date of Attack
Violence that you should have reported in your 23Oct94 The Ugly Face of Freedom
04Jul99 The Wiesenthal-Safer Calumny Summer 1941
25Jul99 Who did Israel Roitman murder? 1941-
15May99 Who murdered Volodymyr Ivasiuk? April 1979
30Jun99 Who murdered Vadim Boyko? February 14, 1992
Violence that you might have encouraged by your 23Oct94 The Ugly Face of Freedom
09Apr99 Who blew the hands off Maksym Tsarenko? Summer 1995
17May99 Who murdered Volodymyr Katelnytsky? July 7-8, 1997
01Jul99 Who murdered Borys Derevyanko? August 11, 1997

And I Find My Earlier Conclusions Strengthened

In your 23Oct94 60 Minutes broadcast, The Ugly Face of Freedom, you urged the conclusion that Ukraine was a place where Ukrainians kill Jews.  However, you found that conclusion difficult to substantiate.  The conclusion that you would have found easy to substantiate as Israel Roitman demonstrates by his lack of inhibition in stepping forward is the opposite one that Ukraine is a place where Jews kill Ukrainians.  What Israel Roitman demonstrates is not only that Jews tortured and murdered Ukrainians, but also that even today, even in Canada, they continue to view the torture and murder of Ukrainians as their right, and they recount how they did so not with self-doubting guilt, but with self-righteous pride.

To Israel Roitman, a Ukrainian fighting for Ukrainian independence was, and continues to be, a "veritable beast," and the chief effect of your broadcast was to demonstrate to the world that your own opinion is not much different.

Lubomyr Prytulak

cc:  Ed Bradley, Jeffrey Fager, Don Hewitt, Steve Kroft, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Mike Wallace.