Posted on January 15, 2003
Reward program for Nazis yields leads in Lithuania
BY ADAM ELLICK
NEW YORK -- A reward for information on
Nazi war criminals has led the Lithuanian government
to investigate possible war crimes in two of the country's
In July, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and
the Miami-based Targun Shlishi Foundation launched Operation
Last Chance, offering a $10,000 reward for information
that leads to the conviction and punishment of Nazi
Ludvikas Sabutis, deputy to the senior
prosecutor of Lithuania's Special Investigations Service,
received a phone call last month from an unnamed Lithuanian
who provided the names of those suspected of involvement
in the 1942 killings of at least 20 Jews in the southern
village of Seirijai.
Preliminary information suggests German
soldiers killed Jews with assistance from local Lithuanian
Lithuanian prosecutors said one of the
suspects was charged with war crimes during the Soviet
era and later died in Siberia, while a second immigrated
to the United States, where he possibly died.
The prosecutor also said an investigation
into the massacre of Jews in Gruzdziai, in northern
Lithuania, has been reopened.
Nazi-hunter Efriam Zuroff, director of
the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Israeli office, says the
program has turned up the names of 47 war crimes suspects
in Lithuania, three Estonians and one Latvian.
Ninety-four percent of Jews in Lithuania
and Latvia died during World War II.
Historians say the number of Jewish deaths
would have been far lower had ordinary citizens not
participated in the killings.
None of the people who provided leads
have asked for a reward, said Simonas Alperavicius,
the head of the Lithuanian Jewish community, who has
fielded the phone calls from informants.
Zuroff expects the flow of leads to continue.
Last week he ran ads in Lithuania's largest dailies.