Posted on July, 12, 2002
Lithuania offended by Nazi hunters' reward
An offer by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
to provide $10,000 rewards for information about former
Nazi collaborators in Lithuania has stirred strong passions
in the Lithuanian press.
The centre has accused Lithuania more
than once of an inability or unwillingness to try people
suspected of collaboration with the Nazis.
The magazine Veidas takes offence, warning
that the offer suggests Lithuanians are consciously
hiding Nazi collaborators, and that only money would
persuade them to reveal the names of persons who took
part in the genocide.
"Obviously, this attitude hurts the
pride of the Lithuanian people and it could start polluting
the atmosphere in Lithuanian-Jewish relations and arousing
mutual mistrust," the magazine warns.
"One must not forget that... the
Nazis also used similar means to find Jews who were
in hiding," Veidas concluded.
In countries as far afield as Britain
and Australia, Lithuanians have found themselves on
trial, accused of helping the Nazis round up and kill
Jews during World War II.
There have only been two attempts to try war criminals
in Lithuania, both of which were called off on the grounds
that the defendants were too ill to stand trial.
The newspaper Kauno Diena warns that "any
lawyer would agree that a great deal of information
received in such cases is not only useless but also
"Will people's evidence be reliable?
Is it possible to remember precisely enough things that
happened 60 years ago? Moreover, as people are now ready
to go to court over a small plot of land and families
are torn apart by conflicts over property, only God
knows what they might start saying about each other
for $10,000," the paper goes on.
It also notes that the head of the Jerusalem branch
of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Dr Efraim Zuroff, has
admitted that the likelihood of victims recognising
their oppressors is very remote.
"The most valuable information may
only be given by accomplices of the criminals. These
would then be the people to get the reward, although
accomplices should be tried in the same manner as actual
murderers," Kauno Diena concludes.