Montreal Gazette | 06Nov2010 | Orest Slepokura

"Harper tours infamous prison"

The Editor:

Re: "Harper tours infamous prison," Peter O'Neil, Montreal Gazette, 06 November 2010.

To address Brown University historian Omer Bartov's objection to Ukrainians being cast solely as victims, and not also as victimizers of Jews, in the period under review, a little context is required.

Soviets forces abandoned Lviv in such haste in early summer of 1941 that they left intact grisly evidence of the bestial slaughter of hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners, both men and women, conducted by the Soviet secret police, the NKVD, in Lonsky Prison and elsewhere [1]. Some Ukrainians, thereafter, reacted by succumbing to a common human fallacy: Since most of the NKVD operatives were Jews, therefore, most Jews were NKVD operatives; which formed the basis for the violent, anti-Jewish reaction that followed.

Add to this corrective the fact Prime Minister Harper is seeking to remedy President Yanukovych's suppression of historical truth, even as the latter in no sense seeks to evade the history of the Holocaust, but rather is intent on entombing in silence the history of Ukrainians martyred during the Red Terror when, as ably documented by Ukrainian historians, the Soviet NKVD's anti-Ukrainian predations ran rampant.  

[1] Hermann Raschhofer, Political Assassination, Fritz Schlichtenmayer, Tubingen, 1964.


Orest Slepokura
Strathmore, Alta

c. Prime Minister Harper

Montreal Gazette | 06Nov2010 | Peter O'Neil (Postmedia News)

Harper tours infamous prison
Symbol of Soviet, German atrocities
Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited a prison-turned-museum during his recent trip to Ukraine that, according to some historians, highlights atrocities committed by Soviet and German occupiers while ignoring those perpetrated by Ukrainians against Jews.

Harper toured the Prison at Lonsky museum -dedicated to those detained and killed at the infamous prison in Lviv -with director Ruslan Zabily in a gesture intended to send a message to Ukraine's increasingly authoritarian government under pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych.

Yanukovych's security service arrested Zabily in September and interrogated him extensively, allegedly for giving state secrets -- that is, archival records -- to foreigners.

Though he was released soon after, Zabily's case has become a rallying call among
many global academics who have signed a petition condemning the attack on academic freedom.

"It is important that the terrible things here not be forgotten or repeated," Harper wrote in the museum's guest book.

While some historians praise Harper for defending academic freedom, they said the museum gave him an incomplete impression of events that took place there in 1941.

They are referring specifically to the beating, humiliation and murder of Jews in Lviv by Ukrainians -- with Nazi encouragement -- in the days after the Soviets were routed by Hitler's forces in the early summer of 1941. The Jews were also forced to exhume and to clean the mutilated, decomposing bodies in the prison.

"Visits such as Harper's make sense only if they confront the full truth of the past rather than half-truths and half-lies," said Brown University historian Omer Bartov, author of Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine.

"I am sure Harper had no idea that he was given only the half of the story that shows Ukrainians as victims, but not the half in which they were participating in the victimization of their Jewish neighbours."

Harper is being misled by leaders of influential Ukrainian-Canadian groups and his "ethnic vote-handlers," according to University of Alberta historian John-Paul Himka, author of Ukrainians, Jews and the Holocaust: Divergent Memories. Himka said the recent surge in political support for the far-right, anti-Semitic Svoboda party in Western Ukraine is perpetuated when nationalists present a "one-sided" version of Ukraine's history.

The Prison at Lonsky museum was established last year under former president Viktor Yushchenko. According to a statement from Harper's office, it is dedicated to the "memory of those detained and killed there during the Soviet and Nazi occupations during and after" the Second World War.

The statement also said 1,700 detainees were executed by the Soviet Secret Police in June 1941, just before they fled the Nazi offensive.

Montreal Gazette | 06Nov2010 | Roman Korol
Letters to the Editor
[email protected]

Dear Sir or Madam,

As regards your article Harper Tours Infamous Prison (Nov. 6, 2010), there is ample historical evidence that, in the days prior to the German occupation of Western Ukraine in 1941, the Soviet NKVD (later renamed to the KGB and, lately, the FSB) was killing Ukrainians, many thousands of them. Lonsky Prison in Lviv formed part of the killing fields active in this process and it was crammed with the bodies of murdered Ukrainians, both men and women.   Many corpses had been dreadfully mutilated.  

Both prior to, and following, the German occupation, the unvarying agenda of the surviving Ukrainian leadership had been the independence of Ukraine.  

Your article gives voice to all of two sources both of which are apparently inimical to this aspiration and sympathetic to the cause of the assassins of Ukraine; but you cite no sources stating, in counterpoint, the Ukrainian mainstream point of view. By anyone's books, one would have to designate that as very sloppy reporting indeed.

Yours truly,

Roman Korol
Montreal (QC)