Those to be chased after have turned eighty and, consequently, this operation is called " The last chance ". Efraim Zurov, director of the Israeli branch of Simon Vizental Center, heads it. He is ready to pay 10 thousand dollars to everyone who gives information, which will put the former Nazi executioners in the dock.
The chase starts in Baltic States. Further comes "their answer to Chamberlain": one of the local MPs demands a ban on Zurov's coming to the country. Somebody demonstratively burns the Israel's flag and, driving around the town, turns on Nazi marches as loudly as possible. Somebody advises doctor Zurov to start seeking those who saved Jews instead of those who killed them. Somebody is eager to declare to spite hunters for Nazis that he is ready to pay everyone 20 (!) thousand dollars for the information on Jewish communists who took part in occupation of Estonia. And so on and so forth.
Information from Baltic sites:
"A procession took place not far from Riga with more than 600 people participating. Another SS anniversary was marked. Efraim Zurov, director of Jerusalem department of the Vizental Center, stated that many Lettish legionaries voluntarily took part in murders of more than 30 thousand Jews in 1941-1942."
Nikolay Romanovsky, the head of the Lettish Soldiers' Association said that soldiers who did not support Nazis had to die or were sent to the concentration camps. Romanovsky said, " Mister Zurov went too far, he is not right when he is speaking about the Lettish and the way they acted during the World War II. It would be better for the Jews to start solving the problem with Palestine and not to pry into other people's affairs".
In Riga several youth radical organizations laid flowers to the monument of Freedom, sang anthems and other patriotic songs. They held the following placards: " Support legionaries!" The leader of the Religion and freedom party Aigarskimenis addressed the Lettish with the appeal not to shame legionaries. He said they merited their respect.
Yanis Silis, the head of the radical organization "Club 415", stated in his speech on the Lettish television that the legion was formed in response to Soviet reprisals.
A traditional meeting took place in the center of Tallinn on the day of another anniversary of concluding the Molotov - Ribbentrop pact. It was organized by nationally oriented politicians and veterans of the struggle for liberation of Estonia. This time the participants of the meeting demanded apology from Jewish communities of Estonia before the Estonians. Words of Efraim Zurov, who visited the republic, became the reason to this. He susmitted documents exposing the criminal activity of Miannil, Estonian by nationality, to the Prime Minister Marty Laar. Presently Miannil lives in Venezuela and as a well-to-do person widely supports Estonian political parties. The participants of the meeting threatened to reconsider their hitherto friendly relations with Jews living in Estonia because Zurov had charged hundreds of Estonians with murders of Jews during the World War II.
Simon Vizental is a Polish Jew who lived in Lvov before the war. He is an architect. He was saved by miracle having gone through nine concentration camps. When Americans released Simon Vizental from Mauthausen in 1945 he, 180 centimeters in height, weighed 50 kilograms. After the war he began to hunt for war criminals, at first, as a voluntary aid to the American army. In 1958 he opened his own agency in Linz (Austria). After the trial on Eihman the agency of Vizental moved to Vienna where it has been functioning up to now. The success of neo-Nazi Yorg Heider during the elections in Austria only strengthened Vizental's desire to stay in this country. He says, " If you want to seize criminals you have to live among them". Simon Vizental turned 94. Thank to him, more than 1000 Nazis hiding from punishment were put to trial. The international center of Vizental has existed in the USA since 1977. Efraim Zurov, son of an American rabbi, was the first director of the center. Today he is the Head of Jerusalem department and the initiator of the project "The last chance" we are talking about. Some other Nazis and their accomplices, unlike their victims, happily lived up to their old age. The witnesses of their crimes are less and less every year. Moreover, politicians of different countries are not eager to make war criminals answerable for their actions because it is troublesome and highly explosive (a case of Kurt Valdheim, former Secretary General of the United Nations who was hiding his Nazi past, caused a grandiose scandal).
There are many reasons why Baltic States were chosen as a starting point of the hunt for Nazis Not only Jewish communities of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were practically exterminated in Baltic countries, but thousands of Jews deported there from other countries (Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, France) as well. Moreover, there were many Nazi myrmidons involved into the massacre of Jews. The police units were sent even to Belarus and Poland, where they participated in the executions of Jews.
70 thousand Jews got under the German occupation in Latvia. No more than 3 thousand of them came off unhurt, almost 1 thousand of them survived after the deportation to German camps and 150 were saved by local people.
The Latvian battalion of Arais and local police were involved into mass killings, too. About 1 thousand Jews lived in Estonia before the German occupation. Members of "Omakaitse" and political police killed them together with the German people. On the 20th of January 1942 at the conference in Vanzee (Germany) Estonia was declared the first country free from Jews (" judenfrei") as, practically, all local Jews had been killed by that time. Moreover, thousands of Jews deported from ghetto Teresenstadt and other places were killed here or died of starvation and tortures.
There were about 220 thousand of Jews in Lithuania in the beginning of German occupation. Almost 10 thousand of them survived.
... Part of war criminals, natives of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were made answerable for their deeds by the Soviet authorities, but many of them managed to escape. When Baltic countries regained their independence some of the wanted returned to their native land and live there up to the present time.
Most of them live in Lithuania. But none of four court trials managed to put the accused behind the bar.
The case of Alexandras Lileikis and Kazhus Gimzauskas was suspended in Lithuania because of the accused' state of health, Antanas Getsevichus died before his extradition from Scotland. In all, during the years of independence 11 (!) Lithuanian war criminals hiding in the USA were driven away to return to Lithuania.
The only action of the Latvian government against local Nazi myrmidons was the charge against Conrad Kaleis, a former officer of the Arais battalion. The officer was found in Australia. Kaleis died before his extradition from Australia to Riga...
- Doctor Zurov, your statements have caused a storm of indignation and anti-Semitic splashes at the press conferences in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. How do local Jews react to this? - I ask Efraim Zurov, who has recently returned from Baltic countries.
- On the one hand, they are beware of consequences, of course. For example, one Jew from Latvia, who lives in America, said that our operation " The last chance" can provoke a raging of anti-Semitism. On the other hand, local Jews who lost their relatives during the war support us informally. When I delivered a speech in a synagogue in Riga I saw tears in the eyes of many people.
- Do you have information about those whom you hope to put in the dock?
- Yes, for example, in the archives of Wehrmacht in Germany we found a list of Nazis' accomplices active in Germany and rewarded with the Iron Cross of the Second grade in December 1942. We sent these data to the security service of Estonia, which deals with the investigations of Nazi crimes. In two weeks we got an answer that nobody of the people mentioned in the list lives at present on the territory of the country and, moreover, these people were not involved into murders of Jews. We, referring to different sources, disputed this statement on the spot. And they told us," We do not recognize the authenticity of the Soviet archives because everything is falsified there". But the matter is that we collated the data of the Soviet and Estonian archives. Everything coincided.
This fact proves that Estonians are not much interested in searching Nazi criminals and recognizing Estonians' involvement into the Catastrophe. Pay attention to the fact that Estonia decided to observe the Memory Day of Catastrophe' victims on the 27 of January, following the example of some European countries (Auschwitz was liberated this day). But why not January 20 when Estonia was declared a Jews-free country at the conference in Vanzee? The remarkable thing is that, according to the public opinion poll, 93% of Estonians answered it was to no good to observe the Memory Day.
- In what Baltic country did your offer find response?
- We got many materials from Lithuania, which are in work now.
- Did people do this it because of the promised remuneration?
- In Lithuania nobody asked money for testimonies at all. In Riga the former investigator volunteered to help me disinterestedly. In Estonia one man indicated in his letter the number of his bank account and the information interesting for us.
- How did the local security services react?
- I got a letter from one woman with a testimony against an Estonian war criminal and sent it to the security service. As the result, mass media precipitated to declare this woman irresponsible.
The reaction of the Latvian government to our activity was very hard and one Latvian journalist (Jew by the nationality) charged me with doing business on it. He forgets I'm not speaking on my personal behalf, but on that of victims and their relatives. Such crimes do not have the term of limitation .To my mind, there is one more thing that is extremely important to be realized by Lithuanians, Lettish and Estonians. They have to understand that many Jews were killed by local people in Baltic countries during the World War II, and criminals have to answer for this.
- You are likely to go on the rampage. Are you ready for this?
- Yes, I'm ready. I have the right to this.
P.S. Since January 1, 2001 till March 31, 2002 14 trials on Nazi criminals took place in the world.