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History should be written by objective and competent scholars

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Sept. 22, 2010, 9:31 a.m. | Op-ed — by Askold S. Lozynskyj
Seven months after I “vehemently…responded” to his exposition of Jewish eyewitness accounts on the role of the OUN-UPA, John Paul Himka offers his defense. Frankly, I am surprised by his tardiness since I thought that he had recognized his errors and let this matter rest. More importantly, I am disturbed by his abysmal lack of scholarship and the impossibility of preventing anyone from spouting canards and defamation without recourse. Case in point, Himka confronts the hearsay charge by offering what I can only assume to be his strongest direct testimony, that of a “ten-year-old boy whose father had been killed by Banderites just two months before he testified to the Jewish Historical Commission.”
The ten-year old is a sympathetic, but traumatized, easily influenced and most eager to embellish witness whose testimony may be given weight for the proposition that his father was killed indeed, but certainly not as to who killed him. In any event , apparently, even that witness does not label the perpetrators as members of the OUN or UPA, but as Banderites. For that witness, Banderites is a generic name for Ukrainians.

On the charge of lack of supporting (corroborating) documentary evidence, Mr. Himka offers a “book of reports of UPA’s Kolodzinsky division, for example, about how they stumbled upon twelve Hungarian Jews hiding in the forest in Volhynia and “dispatched them to the bosom of Abraham.”” Official reports are generally admissible and reliable when they are kept in the ordinary course of business and thus are an exception to the hearsay rule. Naturally, reports must be distinguished from memoirs, which are fertile ground for embellishment. The big problem with this piece of “evidence” offered by Mr. Himka is that Mykhailo Kolodzinsky was the Carpathian Sich Headquarters Chief who fought the the Hungarian army after the proclamation of Carpathian Ukrainian independence. He may have killed Hungarian Jews who were in that Hungarian army which, by the way, was backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. He was shot by the Hungarians in 1939 in Carpathian Ukraine. He never fought in the UPA in Volhynia. By the way, the UPA was formed in 1942, three years after Kolodzinsky was shot. Mr. Himka pays little attention to names and dates, and thus plays loosely with facts.

But wait, there’s more. Mr. Himka offers a new variety of evidence, an alleged OUN document from Soviet archives, a witness protocol from Soviet judicial proceedings, and corroboration as to authenticity of evidence offered by his colleague, Marco Carynnyk, not an attorney, not a paper or handwriting expert, and not a historian. Mr. Himka’s submissions here are disingenuous as he must be aware of Soviet predilection for forging both documents and witness protocols. As to his colleague, Mr. Himka certainly knows Mr. Carynnyk’s lack of credentials.

Finally, he attempts a condemnation of the OUN for murdering Poles in Volyhynia by quoting “the original founder of OUN, Taras Bulba-Borovets.” In this instance Mr. Himka’s playing loose with the facts is obscene as Taras Bulba-Borovets was not involved in any way with founding the OUN.

There is one statement in Mr. Himka’s piece that highlights his sparse attention to detail, his irreverence with names: “Lozynskyj also tries to discredit my research by stating that my award of a fellowship from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum shows that I am working for the Jews.” No, it shows that you are working for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. While, I would never accuse all Jews of having an agenda, it is indisputable that the purpose (“raison d’etre”) of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is to keep the memory alive.

Sweeping generalizations such as “It is an undeniable fact, though, that OUN organized pogroms and mass violence against Jews and others throughout western Ukraine in July 1941,” or hearsay such “OUN leaders communicated among themselves…about the need to exterminate Jews,” or arguing that lack of evidence makes a negative argument “Why is there no paper trail showing similar falsification of evidence about OUN militias?”, all with no corroboration, deserve no credibility or weight. It is precisely that credibility and weight of evidence that is lacking in Mr. Himka’s work.

After the Soviets reoccupied Lviv in the fall of 1944, they set up an Extraordinary State Commission on German atrocities in the Lviv region. The Commission consisted of members of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and other influential members of the Soviet government. Its findings were published in 1945. The Commission's work consisted of hearing eyewitness accounts and reviewing medical reports. It concluded that Gestapo detachments had prepared lists of Lviv intellectuals who were slated for destruction even before the Germans entered the city. The Commission not only compiled a list of victims and description of their suffering, but also provided a record of individuals from various branches of the German security services, who had participated in the criminal activities.

These and other Soviet findings from other regions served as evidence for Soviet Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials General Roman Rudenko and Soviet Chief Counselor of Justice Lev N. Smirnov. The findings at Nuremberg did not accuse, much less even mention the OUN, the UPA, Stepan Bandera or Roman Shukhevych or Nachtigal of any wrongdoing. Hopefully, this will satisfy even Mr. Himka.
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