Posted on July 09, 2002
10,000 reward offered for info on
Nazi war criminals
BY ELLI WOHLGELERNTER
In a last-ditch effort to maximize the
chance to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, the Simon
Wiesenthal Center is offering $10,000 "to any person
who submits relevant information which will lead to
the prosecution and conviction of a Nazi war criminal
who will be punished for his or her crimes."
The reward was announced in Vilnius yesterday
at a news conference kicking off "Operation: Last
Chance," a special program to help identify as
many perpetrators and potential witnesses as quickly
as possible, thereby facilitating bringing to justice
unprosecuted Holocaust perpetrators.
It was designed and implemented by Dr.
Efraim Zuroff, head of the Wiesenthal Center's Israel
office, together with Targum Shlishi, a charitable foundation
founded and headed by Aryeh Rubin of Miami, who conceived
of the project.
"Time is rapidly running out so we
have to devise innovative ways to obtain the maximum
information necessary to enable the prosecution of as
many Holocaust perpetrators as possible," Zuroff
told the Post prior to the news conference. "This
project will hopefully significantly increase the number
of prosecutions and convictions and enable the punishment
of some Nazis who otherwise would never have been brought
to justice," Zuroff said.
The practical difficulties of prosecuting
Nazi war criminals are becoming increasingly difficult
as time goes on, Zuroff acknowledged, and the chances
of their being held accountable are rapidly diminishing.
"First of all, we face serious technical
problems due to the advanced age of the suspects and
the potential witnesses," Zuroff said. "Second,
as prosecution becomes increasingly difficult, there
has been a decrease in the political will of some governments
to prosecute these criminals. Unfortunately, many governments
simply prefer that these killers die rather than go
to the trouble of bringing them to justice. Therefore
if we don't do it now, the monsters will go free."
The $10,000 reward applies to any Nazi
war criminal who committed his or her crimes during
World War II, regardless of his or her current place
of residence, and those submitting pertinent information
will remain anonymous if they so desire.
"Look, we've had some limited success
going through the political and judicial systems of
various countries," said Zuroff. "But we feel
that this monetary offer will provide an added incentive
for the average citizen who has the pertinent information
but has declined to bring it to the local judicial authorities
until now for whatever reason. It is entirely possible
that some of the people who will provide the evidence
are not exactly 'Righteous Gentiles,' but the significance
of prosecuting these criminals in the countries in which
they committed their crimes outweighs our squeamishness
in paying money to people of questionable morality.
We hope that it will be good people providing the evidence,
but if they are good why have they remained silent until
Zuroff said that in the last two years,
more than 15 former Nazis have been convicted, in six
Yesterday's news conference in Vilnius
will be followed by others in Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn,
Estonia, as well as the placing of newspapers ads detailing
the project that will appear in local papers.
In addition, a special website for the
project can be accessed at www.wiesenthal.com.
Zuroff said he chose the Baltics as the
site of the operation's launching because because of
the extremely high percentage of Jews murdered in these
countries, both local Jews and Jews from other countries
brought to the Baltics to be murdered; the extremely
high number of local Nazi collaborators who actively
participated in the murders, both in the Baltics and
in several other countries; the fact that numerous Nazi
war criminals were convicted by the Soviets and can
testify with no fear of being prosecuted again; and
the fact that not a single Nazi war criminal has ever
been convicted and punished in the Baltics since they
obtained their independence in 1991, and that these
societies are badly in need of such trials.