19 March 2008
Today, Chairman of Yad Vashem Avner Shalev sent a letter to Vice Prime Minister of the Ukraine, Ivan Vasyunik, following misinformation from their meeting earlier this month that has been reported in Ukraine. Following is the full text of the letter.
On February 28th of this year, Yad Vashem was pleased to host the delegation that visited us under your leadership. As you certainly recall, the visit included candid discussions regarding subjects of common interest. We came to these discussions in good faith and with a sense of mutual respect.
We were therefore surprised and disappointed to learn of a most unfavorable and objectionable development that has been reported to us from Kiev.
I refer, sadly, to a press conference in which a member of your delegation took part, and during which glaring and offensive inaccuracies regarding our institution and its supposed positions were belligerently expressed. I object strenuously both to the misleading statements ascribed to Yad Vashem, as well as to the circumstances in which a guest whom we had welcomed cordially and genuinely now seeks, without any prior notice, to publicly misrepresent us.
As no preliminary agenda for our meeting was requested or presented to us in advance, we prepared no specific professional materials for your delegation. However, we were open to spontaneous discussion of various matters that were raised, including that of the wartime activity of the Nachtigal Battalion, commanded by Roman Shukheyvich.
At that time, I emphasized that Yad Vashem’s approach has always been to base historiographical processes, even when controversial and charged, upon sound scientific methods and practices, including thorough and unhurried examination of authentic documents. As always, Yad Vashem will not compromise its renowned academic integrity in the face of internal or regional ideological debates anywhere in the world. Academic research, conducted and published around the world, points to the support of, and intensive and widespread collaboration with, the German Nazi occupation of Poland and Ukraine, by Nachtigal and its commander at the time, Roman Shukeyvich.
Furthermore, I most explicitly stated that Yad Vashem’s Archives is not organized according to personal files, but rather organizes its close to 75 million pages of documentation according to archival collections, based on provenance. Among these documents is material from various sources related to Nachtigal’s activities during World War II. During our meeting, my colleagues and I expressed our willingness to collate the material and to provide you with copies. We saw this meeting as the beginning of our dialogue, as originally envisioned by President Yuschenko, and not as the end.
We look forward to further contact with you and your colleagues in the spirit of respect and cooperation that has, until now, characterized our relationship.