Primo Levi and the Soviet fraudster, Lysenko
WE [the prisoners of Auschwitz] were able to understand very well, then, that on the great continent of freedom, freedom of communication is an important province. As with health, only the person who loses it realizes its true value. But one does not suffer from it only on an individual level: in countries and epochs in which communication is impeded, soon all other liberties wither; discussion dies by inanition, ignorance of the opinion of others becomes rampant, imposed opinions triumph. The well-known example of this is the crazy genetics preached in the USSR by Lysenko, which in the absence of discussion (his opponents were exiled to Siberia) compromised the harvests for twenty years. Intolerance is inclined to censor, and censorship promotes ignorance of the arguments of others and thus intolerance itself: a rigid, vicious circle that is hard to break.
We have heard the name Lysenko before. Oh yes, he was one of the main signatories of the 1945 Soviet commission of investigation into the Auschwitz camp, Nuremberg exhibit USSR-008. He was referred to during the cross examination of Prof Lipstadt's expert witness [$200,000] Prof. Robert Jan Van Pelt.
See Transcript, Day 11, Jan. 28, 2000, pages 142 ff., from which the following is an extract:
MR IRVING: To what degree have you relied on the Soviet Commission Report, the USSR 008?
PROF. ROBERT JAN VAN PELT (right). For my book or for my expert report?
Q. For your expert report.
A. In my expert report, I have just given the Soviet Report as an instance again of the emergence of knowledge about Auschwitz. So it is ----
MR IRVING: My Lord, it is on page 162 of the expert report of this witness onwards, beginning at page 162.
A. So it is for me not so important as a basis for my own investigations to come to a conclusion about the use and design and transformation of crematorium II to V.
Q. My Lord, you will have observed I am not attacking the integrity of all his eyewitnesses and all his sources because that would take us from here until next Christmas. I am just picking on certain elements. This is one of the reports. Is it not true ----
MR JUSTICE GRAY: I think, if I may say so, that is an entirely reasonable attitude to adopt. I think it would just prolong this case absurdly if we are going through every individual account.
MR IRVING: That is also why I am not going to look at every single building, unless your Lordship would wish it .otherwise, on the basis of what I said previously about what my contention was. (To the witness): Is it not so that the Soviet Report is the source of the original 4 million figure?
A. I think it is the first time, yes, that it is in an official report, yes.
Q. Four million people gassed or killed at Auschwitz?
Q. Which figure, of course, is inaccurate now, is no longer believed in?
A. That you are right, yes.
Q. I have only one other question on this particular report.
Do you know the names of any of the signatures on the Soviet Report, any of the experts who signed it?
A. I know that, I think that Dawidowski that was actually involved in, he was actually included at some time at the one, at the thing. I think the major signatory is that of the chief prosecutor of the, whatever, 2nd Ukrainian or Yellow Russian Army who actually commissioned report.
Q. Are you familiar with the name Bordenko?
A. No, I am not.
A. No, I am not.
Q. As two of the signatures of that Report?
A. It is in my file. The whole report is in my file, so I am happy to look at it, but...
Q. Will you accept it from me that these two people were also signatories of the Soviet investigation of Katyn, the Katyn forest massacre, which resulted in the execution of a number of German officers for their role in that atrocity?
A. If you say so, I am perfectly happy to accept it.
Q. Are you familiar with the name Lysenko?
A. No, I am not.
Q. As one of the signatures of the Soviet report, L-Y-S-E-N-K-O?
A. I am not, no.
Q. You are not, no. If I described him as being a biological charlatan or "quack" who has long since been disowned by his peers, would that surprise you?
A. Since I only heard this name right now, it does not surprise me one way or another way.
Q. When you read a report or a source of this importance, do you bother to consider who has written it or what their political motivations might be?