TORONTO (Aug. 13)
A loose coalition of nationalist Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian organizations has launched a $1 million “information campaign” designed to thwart the Commission of enquiry on War Criminals in Canada and weaken Parliament’s will to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, according to the Canadian representative of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“The coalition is working hard to convince Canada’s political leaders that any effort to bring Nazi war criminals to justice will be unpopular, futile and politically dangerous, “says Sol Littman, the Center’s representative.
“They’re also preparing a number of propaganda smokescreens designed to persuade the Commission of Enquiry that there aren’t enough war criminals in Canada to merit the government’s attention despite the fact that hundreds of war criminals made it to Canada after the war and are living here in relative comfort and security.”
ARTICLES CITED AS EVIDENCE
As evidence, Littman points to the May, 1985 edition of New Perspectives, the official publication of the Ukrainian National Youth Federation, which describes the war crimes inquiry headed by Jules Deschenes, former justice of the Quebec Superior Court, as “the single greatest threat to the Ukrainian diaspora that we have faced since the Second World War.”
In the same article, Lubomir Luciuk, a spokesman for the Civil Liberties Commission of the Ukrainian Canadian Committee is quoted as saying: “The (Ukrainian) community must realize that this is an attack on the Ukrainian National Federation and any other Ukrainians who came to Canada from Eastern Europe.”
Luciuk urged Ukrainian Canadians to contribute to the $1 million war chest, explaining that the money will be used for travel, legal fees and research. Some $250,000 will be set aside for top-ranking legal talent to help the Ukrainian Canadian Committee prepare its submission to the Royal Commission.
Similar articles have appeared in the New Pathway, a Ukrainian-language publication printed in Toronto and other Ukrainian and Baltic weeklies across the country.
“A similar campaign, intended to blunt the work of the U.S. Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting Office of Special Investigations, has been underway in the United States for the past five years,” Littman said. “It hasn’t been effective there and it’s unlikely to succeed in Canada.”
OUTLINES BUGABOOS THAT WILL BE RAISED
Judging from articles which have already appeared in some of the nationalist Ukrainian newspapers, Littman said, the following bugaboos will be raised:
* Any attempt to root out war criminals of Ukrainian or Baltic origin is an attack on all members of the Ukrainian and Baltic communities.
* All “Soviet evidence” is tainted and should be spurned by the Deschenes Commission.
* The Ukrainian SS division, which fought on the Nazis’ side in World War II, committed no atrocities, burned down no villages and did nothing to hinder the Allied cause. (As many as 2,000 members of that division are believed to have settled in Canada.)
* Organizations such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the B’nai B’rith League of Human Rights, which are pressing the government to take action against war criminals who found shelter in Canada, are engaged in a “witch hunt” in which “mere membership” in a Nazi SS division or pro-Nazi political organization will be seen as proof of criminality.
* Service in the ranks of the Waffen (military) SS was no different than serving in the regular German army (the Wehrmacht) or the British Commandos.
* Millions of Ukrainians and Balts died at Nazi hands, and hundreds of Jewish lives were saved by Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians and Ukrainians at the risk of their own lives.
CENTER OFFICIAL REJECTS CHARGES
“We have always recognized that many heroic Baltic and Ukrainian families sheltered Jewish families at the risk of their own lives,” Littman said. “We honor them. May their names live forever.
“But the alleged war criminals were not among them. Indeed, those Balts and Ukrainians who served in Nazi-led police and military units would have been the first to denounce their fellow countrymen for sheltering Jews. They also helped round up their own people for slave labor in Germany and took brutal revenge on the families of the young men who took to the woods to fight the Nazis.
“There is no ‘witch hunt’ underway. The Simon Wiesenthal Center — although it will not bandy names about in the press — is operating on the basis of rather good information.”
Nor is the search for war criminals in any sense an attack on the whole of the Ukrainian and Baltic communities, Littman emphasized. “In the very first paragraphs of the Wiesenthal Center’s presentation before the Deschenes Commission, we made it clear that we were interested only in that very small percentage of individuals in any group that is alleged to have committed war crimes. We do not believe that the sins of the fathers should be visited on the children; nor do we believe in collective guilt or group liability.”
The term “mere membership” is also intended to confuse, said the Wiesenthal Center representative. “At minimum, mere membership in an SS auxilliary police or military unit meant taking up arms against the Allies, “Littman said.” It meant rounding up Jews and Gypsies and forcing them into ghettos. At minimum it meant scheduling the death trains and preparing the mass graves of the victims.”
THE BUGABOO OF SOVIET EVIDENCE
The biggest bugaboo, Littman said, will be the question of “Soviet evidence.”
“It’s just plain silly to argue that because we mistrust the Soviet legal system that all evidence from Soviet sources be automatically rejected,” Littman said.”It would be equally silly to insist that because we do trust our own legal sytem that all evidence from Western sources should be automatically admissable. These are matters for the courts to decide.”
West Germany, Holland and the United States have been making effective use of documents and witnesses from the Soviet Union for a number of years now, Littman pointed out. Soviet archives in Lvov, Kiev, Vilnius, Riga and Tallin contain large caches of captured German documents which offer the best, most convincing evidence of Nazi war crimes.
There are also many witnesses to atrocities still living in the Soviet Union, where some of the worst Nazi crimes were committed. “While one is properly skeptical of Soviet evidence, most of the Soviet documents and witnesses are verifiable from other sources,” Littman said.
“The Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Justice Department states that none of the Soviet documents employed in German or U.S. trials has ever been found to be forged and none of the Soviet witnesses has ever been found to be false.”
Last February 24, Fr. Myron Stasiw, a veteran of the 14th Grenadier Waffen SS Division and pastor of St. Mary’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Toronto, repeated many of the ancient shibboleths about Jews in a speech made over a local multicultural radio station. Stasiw offered the following explanations for 300 years of periodic pogroms against the Jews in the Ukraine:
“(The Jews) do not say what were the causes of these anti-Jewish pogroms, that they held the keys to the Christian churches and would not allow the people to enter to pray. They were the tavernkeepers who robbed the peasants of their land in exchange for whiskey, and made them their serfs.” Fr. Stasiw ended his homily with the warning: “Let them not call the wolf from the forest.”