Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
Elsewhere in the world, with the exception of Canada, which does the same thing as America, you have to prove that someone actually committed a crime or was an accessory to a crime.
How about the least cooperative country?
I would place the least cooperative countries in two different categories. There are countries like the Ukraine, which has refused to do anything. In other words, they have never even investigated a local Ukrainian Nazi war criminal since they’ve become independent.
And then there are countries that carry out investigations – and, in some cases, even trials – but they’re just going through the motions while doing everything possible to prevent the criminals from being punished.
The classic examples in that regard are Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. But you also have countries like Austria, which has not successfully prosecuted a Nazi war criminal in more than 30 years – and it’s not because there are no Nazi war criminals in Austria.
Why are these countries so uncooperative?
Because it’s politically incorrect and difficult to punish local Nazi war criminals. They don’t want to draw attention to the serious extent of their own collaboration with the Nazis.
You also see this in the recent and very dangerous attempts by post-Communist Eastern European countries to equate the crimes of Communism with the crimes of Nazism. This is really an attack on the Jewish narrative of the Holocaust. The leaders in this regard are the Baltic countries, and for good reason. In Eastern Europe Jews are very much identified with Communism, so if they can gain recognition that Communism equals Nazism, that means the Jews are as bad as the Nazis. This would then deflect blame from their collaboration with the Nazis during World War II and their failure to bring their own Nazi war criminals to justice.
What would you say has been your greatest achievement?
I think one of my greatest achievements was my role in facilitating the prosecution of Dinko Sakic, who was the commandment of the Jasenovac concentration camp, one of the worst concentration camps in Europe, in which at least 90,000 civilians – mostly Serbs, but also 18,000 Jews, gypsies and anti-Fascist Croatians – were murdered. Sakic was one of the commanders of the camp, and we exposed him in Argentina and saw to it that he was extradited to stand trial in Croatia. He got the maximum sentence of 20 years and died in prison.
How about your biggest failure or disappointment?
The biggest disappointment was that we didn’t find Dr. Albert Heim, the infamous “Doctor Death” from the Mauthausen concentration camp. I went all over the world to search for him. I was in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay trying to find him, but we were not successful.
[The New York Times recently reported] that he died in Cairo in 1992, but it’s impossible to verify that contention because there’s no body. Had we found him it would have been a fantastic coup, and it would’ve been a trial of great importance. But, listen, what could I say? It’s a tremendous job, but it doesn’t always end nicely or with success.
How many new Nazis or Nazi collaborators have you discovered since you launched Operation Last Chance in 2002?
We started Operation Last Chance in 13 different countries, and we received the names of 536 suspects, which passed three tests. Test number one was that the information was credible. In other words, if someone said to me, “I have a very nasty neighbor who’s 87 years old and has a German accent; he must be a Nazi,” that’s obviously not credible. That’s meaningless. But if he said, “I have a neighbor who I know was in a Lithuanian security police battalion that was sent to Belarus,” that’s serious because there was such a Lithuanian battalion involved in mass murder.
About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.
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