Simon Wiesenthal   Letter 25   21-Jun-1999   Is Simon Wiesenthal ready to confess?
"Really, Mr. Wiesenthal, how is one to understand your actions generally, and your publication of the smoke photograph in particular, except as a plea to the world to finally recognize you as a fraud so that you can confess and begin leading the life of probity for which you long?" Lubomyr Prytulak


The forged photograph on the left in the letter below had been moved from the url initially indicated in the letter to a Museum of Tolerance page titled Hungarian arrivals after the "Selektion" at Auschwitz, at  motlc.learningcenter.wiesenthal.org/gallery/pg22/pg0/pg22035.html, but has been removed from there as well leaving behind the explanation "Photo Not Available."  Nevertheless, the thumbnail shown on the right can be found even today on the Museum of Tolerance web site at  motlc.learningcenter.wiesenthal.org/albums/palbum/p01/a0068p3.html  in the left-hand column of thumbnails, 23rd position from the top, and 10th position from the bottom, still bearing exactly the same caption, Hungarian arrivals after the "Selektion" at Auschwitz.

A Simon Wiesenthal Center reply to the accusation of forgery is reported as being "Thank you for your inquiry.  The photo was never retouched.  A smudge on the photo was incorrectly identified as smoke from the chimneys" [David Irving, Focal Point  www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/docs/fake/SWCsmokeFake.html].

June 21, 1999

Simon Wiesenthal
Jewish Documentation Center
Salztorgasse 6
1010 Vienna

Simon Wiesenthal:

In my Letter 24 to you of 18Jan1998, I suggested that your drawing of three unconscious, or perhaps dead, individuals was not as you represented a drawing of three Jews who had been tortured by the Germans at KZ Mauthausen, but rather was of three Germans who had been executed by Americans.  I bring to your attention that you have not as yet responded to that letter, nor to the 23 letters that preceded it, and that the number of people who are curious as to what your responses will ultimately prove to be has been growing steadily during the period of your silence.

In the present letter, I will ask you about a similar instance of what appears to be your tampering with photographic evidence.  Specifically, on the Museum of Tolerance web site is presented the photograph with caption that I reproduce on the left below.  At the bottom of that Museum of Tolerance page we see to whom the photograph can be attributed:

Copyright 1997, The Simon Wiesenthal Center
9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90035

However, I reproduce on the right below an earlier version of the same photograph.  You will notice that in this earlier version, no smoke is visible in the photograph and no caption makes reference to any gassing, burning, ovens, crematoria, or smoke:

Wiesenthal's smoke version  

Hungarian arrivals after the "Selektion" at Auschwitz.

As these prisoners were being processed for slave labor, many of their friends and families were being gassed and burned in the ovens in the crematoria.  The smoke can be seen in the background.

Date: June 0, 1944 Era: During WWII

Copyright 1997, The Simon Wiesenthal Center 9760 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90035

[No caption is provided for this particular photograph.]

Peter Hellman, Lili Meier, and Beate Klarsfeld, The Auschwitz Album: A Book Based Upon an Album Discovered by a Concentration Camp Survivor, Lili Meier, 1981, Random House, New York, photograph 143.
Published on the Museum of Tolerance web site at:

In connection with the above photographs, I will be interested in hearing your replies to the following eleven questions:

(1) Was the smoke photograph doctored?  Do you not agree that the smoke photograph that you supplied to the Museum of Tolerance gives the impression of having had the dark area deliberately added so as to give the appearance of smoke?

(2) Does forgery promote tolerance?  Do you think that forging documents and re-writing history are legitimate tools for promoting tolerance?  Are you really sure that it is tolerance that you are promoting, and not fear and hatred?

(3) What does either photograph have to do with Jews?  Throughout Hellman's Auschwitz Album, Jews are shown wearing the Magen David on their left breast.  However, in the photographs above, not a single Magen David is visible.  Therefore, perhaps the people in the photographs are not Jews?

(4) Who is responsible for the doctoring?  In view of your history of duplicity, the suspicion naturally falls on you, especially since among your earlier misrepresentations can be found the misuse of photographs, as documented in my letter to you of 18Jan1998 already cited above.  However, perhaps this time you will be able to displace the blame to someone else.

(5) Couldn't you foresee that the smoke and non-smoke photographs would be compared?  Your smoke photograph is available on the frequently-visited Museum of Tolerance site on the Internet, and the non-smoke photograph is available possibly in most major libraries throughout the world.  In addition, you know that critics are aware of your duplicity and are interested in documenting it further, and so that anything you publish stands in danger of being verified.  How was it possible, then, that you failed to anticipate that a comparison of the two photographs would be made and the forgery exposed?

(6) Can't you see that the forgery is ineffective?  All that smoke in your photograph has no smoke stack that it could be coming from, as the poles underneath the smoke are too thin and crooked to be smoke stacks, and too similar to the several other poles in the photograph not to be poles themselves.  The smoke seeming to emanate from the middle pole horizontally in both directions at once is another non-credible detail.  Therefore, your smoke photograph discredits itself even without the Hellman non-smoke photograph for comparison.  How is it possible, then, that you failed to foresee that the forgery would be detected even by viewers who were unaware of the Hellman photograph?

(7) Why have you not withdrawn the forgery?  The comparison of the smoke and non-smoke photographs is not original with me I came across it on the John Ball Air Photo Evidence cite at:  http://www.air-photo.com/english/1999_mark.html, and merely verified that the smoke photograph did indeed appear on the Museum of Tolerance web site, and that the non-smoke photograph did indeed appear in the Hellman book (although the edition that I was able to lay hands on was 1981 and not 1978).  Thus, despite an existing public demonstration that the smoke photograph is a forgery, you have not retracted it from the Museum of Tolerance web site.  I wonder if you could comment on the interpretation that springs to mind to the effect that the disinformation which is your stock in trade is aimed at people who are insulated from disconfirmatory evidence, so that you cannot foresee the possibility of any expose reaching your audience and damaging your reputation.

(8) What might have been the motivation behind the forgery?  What motive could the forger have had for doctoring the photograph?  I can think of three possibilities:  (1) The forger was alarmed by the paucity of evidence for the mass gassing and mass cremation hypothesis, and so felt the need to bolster that hypothesis by fabricating evidence, and as people in Shoah business tend to be gifted with only modest competence (as evidenced further by the darkness of your smoke version photograph which obscures detail), he did a poor job.  (2) The forger was anti-Semitic and wished to lower Jewish credibility by offering a palpable forgery.  (3) The forger wished to increase Jewish cohesion and emigration to Israel, which he calculated would be assisted by means of the disrespect for Jews that a palpable forgery would contribute toward inciting.  I do not advance any of these as the necessary motive, I only confess to my inability to imagine any others.  If you are able to think of other possible motives, I would appreciate your bringing them to my attention.

(9) Why does the world refuse to hold you up to a minimal standard of integrity?  Refutations of your lies have been in circulation for some time, so that the question arises as to why you have not suffered any decisive discreditation, as demonstrated, for example, in the Prime Minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, dignifying and legitimizing you by meeting with you in Austria a few days ago.

(10) Are you aware of the great insult that is being paid you?  But even though the world by and large does not yet view you as discredited, it does bestow upon you perhaps an even greater insult, which is to recognize that you are not to be held to a minimal standard of integrity.  That is, other men are expected not to lie, and when they do lie, they suffer consequences.  You, however, are not accorded the same treatment as other men.  You are accorded the treatment that is meted out to children or to the simple-minded which is that you are permitted to lie with impunity.  I wonder that you tolerate such condescension, and that you do not prefer to announce to the world that you are not so vulnerable that you would collapse under the burden of being held to average standards.

(11) Do you want to get caught?  You have perhaps heard of how criminals sometimes act so recklessly that criminologists are driven to hypothesize that they are motivated by a desire to get caught.  I have always been reluctant to credit such motivation, and yet in your case, I see no other way to account for your behavior.  Consider that you litter your work with proofs that you collaborated with the Nazis during the war.  With respect to WW II events and the Holocaust, you flaunt your lack of credibility your creation out of thin air (in collaboration with Morley Safer) of the pre-German Lviv pogrom in which you held Ukrainians to have killed some five to six thousand Jews being a case in point.  I have already documented these things in my earlier 24 letters to you.  With respect to the above smoke photograph, you can see that it must inevitably be discredited not only upon inspection, but also more conclusively upon a comparison with a widely-available undoctored earlier version.  And despite all this, you go ahead and publish the forgery.  And to top it all off, when the forgery is publicly exposed, you have the effrontery to not withdraw it.  Really, Mr. Wiesenthal, how is one to understand your actions generally, and your publication of the smoke photograph in particular, except as a plea to the world to finally recognize you as a fraud so that you can confess and begin leading the life of probity for which you long?  If this interpretation is correct, then I would be forced to give you credit for an integrity that I had previously not suspected.  If you are in fact tormented by guilt, then there is still hope for you, and that hope lies in public confession.  Through public confession and only through public confession can you yet achieve the moral heroism that you have discovered you are unable to achieve through lying.

Lubomyr Prytulak

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

In Hellman's Auschwitz Album, there are two other photographs on the same page as photograph 143, and there is text on the same page.  This text is reproduced in the box below.  The text occupies the lower-right quadrant on the Auschwitz Album page, and the three photographs occupy the other three quadrants, with photograph 143 on the upper right.  However, even thought this text is right underneath photograph 143, it begins with the words, "In the photo at right," thus making reference to a photograph on the following page, which is why I wrote above concerning photograph 143 that "No caption is provided for this particular photograph."  Because of the proximity of the text to photo 143, however, the text is reproduced below to demonstrate that it is of small relevance, neither adding to the strength of the accusation against Simon Wiesenthal, nor offering him any defense.  The reference to gassing in the text is part of a historical narrative of what happened at some time subsequent to the taking of the photographs, and so does not support Simon Wiesenthal's claim that evidence of gassing or of cremation is to be found in photograph 143, and does not support the possibility that Peter Hellmen who supplied the text for The Auschwitz Album saw evidence of gassing or of cremation in photograph 143.

In the photo at right, the forest of fence stanchions behind the guard tower formed the northeast corner of camp B IIc and the northwest corner of the adjoining camp B IIb, known as the Czech family camp.  This camp held Jews deported from the "show" ghetto at Theresienstadt.  Alone among Jews at Auschwitz, they were permitted to live as families under comparatively good conditions, including the right to receive food parcels from abroad.  As at Theresienstadt, they were even able to establish schools in the camp.  But it was all for naught.  On March 7, 1944, 3,800 men, women and children from the Czech family camp were delivered to killing facilities No. 1 and No. 2.  At the last moment, from within the gas chamber itself, arose the strains of the Czech national anthem and then the Jewish anthem, "Hatikvah."  The Czech family camp ceased to exist with a second gassing on July 12, 1944.

Furthermore, it has been brought to my attention that "In the photo at right," could mean not "the photo to the right of the present text" but "the photo on the right-hand portion of the present page," in which case the text would indeed refer to photograph 143 alone.  I have two reasons for thinking that this is not the intended meaning of "In the photo at right": (1) a clearer way of expressing the attachment of the text to photograph 143 would have been to say "In the photo above"; and (2) the three photos on that page are similar, so that I would have expected the text to refer equally to all three, and not just to photograph 143.  However, it is just barely possible that the text does refer to photograph 143 alone, but this would not change the legitimacy of my complaint to Simon Wiesenthal.