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Wiesel   Letter 04   24-Apr-1998   Kravchuk flushed deep red
"I can document for you an instance of an entire Ukrainian family being shot by the Nazis for hiding a Jewish woman, but I wonder if you can similarly document for me any instance of an entire Jewish family being shot by the Bolsheviks for hiding a Ukrainian woman?  I can document for you a case of the Ukrainian mayor of a town being shot by the Nazis for helping Jews, but can you similarly document for me any instance of a Jewish mayor being shot by the Bolsheviks for helping Ukrainians?" Lubomyr Prytulak

April 24, 1998
Elie Wiesel
University Professor and
Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities
Boston University
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts  02215
USA

Dear Mr. Wiesel:
A Reuters News Agency report published in the Globe and Mail on 13 Sep 91 begins as follows:

Kravchuk challenged on killings

Wiesel demands Babi Yar answer

Reuters News Agency

KIEV, Soviet Union The face of Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk flushed deep red yesterday as Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel challenged him to explain why 50 years ago Ukrainians stood by as tens of thousands of Jews were sent to a Nazi killing ground called Babi Yar.

With respect to your challenge to President Kravchuk, I have five questions, or at least five categories of questions:

(1) Nobody knew that the Kyivan Jews needed any particular help.  Kyiv's Jews were walking toward Babyn Yar voluntarily, unguarded, unescorted, in response to German posters instructing them to appear for resettlement.  If the Jews themselves traditionally members of a ruling class were unaware that the purpose of their convocation was not resettlement but execution, why would you expect the Ukrainians not having the same access to information as does the ruling class to have known better?

(2) Imagining for the sake of argument that Ukrainians knew that help was needed, then what help would they have been capable of?  What options for resistance does a civilian population under military occupation have?  Were the Ukrainians supposed to gather their axes and pitchforks and scythes and march upon Babyn Yar and throw themselves upon the German army with these?  I recommend your reading William D. Rubinstein's The Myth of Rescue: Why the Democracies Could Not Have Saved More Jews From the Nazis in which many reasons are put forward indicating the difficulty or impossibility of extending help.  Your placing at the feet of Ukrainians the responsibility for rescuing Babyn Yar Jews leaves unexplained the means with which such help could have been rendered.

(3) The majority of Kyiv's Jews who were able to make any contribution to the Soviet war effort or who would have been able to make any contribution to the German war effort had they fallen into German hands had been evacuated eastward prior to the arrival of the Germans.  Thus, the Jews who remained behind in Kyiv and who made their way toward Babyn Yar were predominantly the old, the infirm, and the economically and militarily insignificant who had been abandoned by those of their coreligionists who were young, strong, and enterprising.  Thus, the question you ask of why Ukrainians did not do more to help the Jews is surely of secondary importance.  Surely the overriding question is why the strong Jews did not do more to help the weak Jews?

(4) Innumerable Ukrainians have risked their lives, and given their lives, to assist Jews who found themselves in jeopardy.  However, when the shoe has been on the other foot, when Jews have found themselves to be in a position to help Ukrainians in similar jeopardy, such help has not been forthcoming.

To give one example, Simon Wiesenthal acknowledges that a Ukrainian by the surname of Bodnar risked his life to save that of Wiesenthal; however, Wiesenthal is unable to relate any instance of risking his own life to save that of any Ukrainian.  Or to give a second example, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, at the risk of his own life and that of other Ukrainians, hid large numbers of Jews from the Nazis on church property.  However, I do not know of any instance of a rabbi hiding any Ukrainians on synagogue property to save them from, say, the Bolsheviks.  I can document for you an instance of an entire Ukrainian family being shot by the Nazis for hiding a Jewish woman, but I wonder if you can similarly document for me any instance of an entire Jewish family being shot by the Bolsheviks for hiding a Ukrainian woman?  I can document for you a case of the Ukrainian mayor of a town being shot by the Nazis for helping Jews, but can you similarly document for me any instance of a Jewish mayor being shot by the Bolsheviks for helping Ukrainians?  You surely know that Metropolitan Sheptytsky wrote to Himmler protesting the shooting of Jews, but can you find for me a comparable instance of a rabbi writing to his coreligionist Lazar Kaganovich to protest the starvation of Ukrainians?

Perhaps I am mistaken in this, and you will be able to direct my attention to some instances of Jewish heroism in saving Ukrainians which would qualify certain Jews for a "Righteous Jew" award that might parallel the "Righteous Gentile" award given by Jews.

(5) Someone who allows his intellect to roam freely over many related questions may be construed as searching for truth questions such as:  "Why didn't Ukrainians help Jews more?"  "Why didn't Jews help Jews more?"  "Why didn't Jews help Ukrainians more?"  "Was anyone aware that help was needed?"  "What help if any would have been possible?"  However, someone who asks the first question only, and shows no awareness of the other questions, or acts to suppress the asking of such other questions, should be construed how?  Surely not as a seeker of truth.  Perhaps only as a polemicist or a propagandist.


Yours truly,


Lubomyr Prytulak


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