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An Open Letter to Yitzhak Arad . . .


August 16, 1999

[To:] Yitzhak Arad
Yad Vashem
PO Box 3477
91034 Jerusalem

Yitzhak Arad:

IBRING to your attention the following photograph of German soldiers attending the execution of Soviet partisans (Keith Simpson, Waffen SS, Bison Books, London, 1990, p. 47). The caption which accompanies the photograph is "Waffen SS and army soldiers taking 'snapshots' of executed Soviet partisans".

Partisan hanged

 The Germans brought cameras

"FROM this photograph we may conclude that roughly from half to all of the German soldiers in this particular sample had cameras on hand with which to photograph the hanging of the Soviet partisans."

In this photograph are visible a total of seven cameras, which I have numbered for your convenience. The camera of the individual, likely German, who took the above photograph constitutes an eighth German camera. In no case can we see a soldier's hands that are not holding a camera. From this photograph, then, we may conclude that roughly from half to all of the German soldiers in this particular sample had cameras on hand with which to photograph the hanging of the Soviet partisans.

This observation is capable of leading to the more general hypothesis that German military personnel knew that they were likely to encounter rare and exotic events in their line of duty, and so tended to bring along their cameras, and that the more grisly the scene that they encountered, the more likely they were to photograph it.

In your February 1987 testimony at the trial of John Demjanjuk in Jerusalem, you testified to events that were far grislier than the one captured in the above photograph, and that took place on a daily basis for something like half a year - and that is the burning on open-air grills at Treblinka of 870,000 bodies, stacked sometimes in excess of ten thousand bodies per pile. Given the gargantuan scale of this operation, and given its duration, it cannot be doubted that numerous photographs of it were taken and continue to exist - not only of the mountains of bodies, but also of the smoke plumes generated by their burning, and also of the mountains of ash and unburned bone that would have been left behind - and not only taken by the evidently camera-toting German personnel, but perhaps also by villagers or travelers who happened to come within sight of Treblinka.

It follows, therefore, that if the monstrous events you testified to at the Demjanjuk trial really did take place, then there is a high probability that a number of photographs of them exist, and it follows conversely that if no photographs exist, then there is a high probability that the monstrous events did not take place.

In fact, in the course of your testimony at the Demjanjuk trial, and indeed over the course of the entire trial, the only photographic evidence of the existence of Treblinka was a single photograph of a model of Treblinka, the construction of the model being attributed to Jankiel Wiernik, whose credibility I have given you reason to doubt in my letters to you of July 9, 1999 and July 15, 1999. No photographs were offered at the Demjanjuk trial of the burning of 870,000 bodies or of any of the events that qualify Treblinka as a death camp.

In my letter to you of March 9, 1999, I have already urged you to begin searching for photographic evidence of the existence of the Treblinka death camp and of the events that are supposed to have taken place there so as to begin to buttress your unsubstantiated and incredible account. I urge you to do so again, not only for the sake of the Germans and Ukrainians whom you may be gratuitously slandering, but also for the sake of the Jews whose perceived credibility you may be dangerously lowering.

And I ask you to reply to my accusation that you mistook your duty as expert witness testifying at the trial of John Demjanjuk. Your duty as expert witness was to point out, among other things, the incongruity between (a) on the one hand, grisly and highly visible events taking place over an extended period of time in the presence of a large number of witnesses equipped with cameras and looking for precisely such grisly scenes to photograph; and (b) on the other hand, no such photographs having been discovered in the half-century since the events transpired. To point out this startling incongruity was your duty - your duty to the court, your duty to truth, your duty to your people. However, you appear instead to have construed your duty quite otherwise - as saying whatever needed to be said to get John Demjanjuk hung.

Lubomyr Prytulak

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