NEW YORK (Jan. 10)
“For the first time since 1959, the United States has had a legal victory against Andrija Artukovic, ” Martin Mendelsohn, director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) special litigation unit for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, told a discussion group yesterday sponsored by the Shad Potter Human Rights Memorial Library of the American Jewish Congress.
The deportation proceedings against Artukovic, accused of murder of some 80,000 Yugoslavs, mostly Jews, while he was Minister of Interior of the Nazi puppet late of Croatta during 1941-44 resumed in Los Angeles this week. Mendelsohn said the presiding judge ruled that the INS could question Artukovic on documents, cross-examine him on depositions and require his presence in the courtroom.
Artukovic, who resides in Surfside, Co., had claimed that the INS had violated former court orders by serving him a subpoena for the current hearings, but the federal judge ruled in favor of the INS. The subpoena was served on Artukovic in California. Mendelsohn, who had come to the New York meeting from Baltimore where he had attended the first day of the reconvened Karlis Detlavs deportation hearing, said he was gratified that an overflow crowd had to be turned away from the hearing in Baltimore. Detlavs has been accused of atrocities against the Jews of Riga.
Mendelsohn reported that on Israeli witness, Frieda Michelson, of Haifa, testified she saw Detlavs in the Rumbula woods in 1941, outside of Riga. She had positively identified him, based on a visa photo, and said that while hiding in the woods all day she had heard gunfire, screams and the sounds of people being killed, Mendelsohn told the group.
In addition to the Artukovic and Detlavs cases, Mendelsohn discussed other Nazi war criminal cases that are in progress. He urged American Jewish organizations to support INS efforts by monitoring hearings, assisting in research and seeking out witnesses. Mendelsohn said that the new law sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D.NY) and Sen. Richard Stone (D. Fla.) and signed into law last Oct. 30, which adds new grounds for exclusion and deportation of Nazi war criminals, should make the process of acting against such war criminals more effective.