Civiletti Pledges Justice Department Will Act on War Criminals in the U.S.

U.S. Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti, reporting full support from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in helping to bring to justice alleged Nazi war criminals residing in the United States, pledged “unequivocally” that the Department of Justice will pursue those cases “with all the commitment and vigor that it is able.”

Addressing a B’nai B’rith ###heon here yesterday, Civiletti said the task of ferreting out the Nazis “poses a question of justice for Americans” because it “involves men and women, who, be cause of the quirks of world politics” are now living “comfortable lives” in the U.S. “despite their past.”

He said that in spite of obstacles “there have been encouraging signs of progress.” in the gathering of evidence against these people. With respect to foreign cooperation, Civiletti said that “Yugoslavia has been extremely supportive” and that “Poland and Rumania have been particularly helpful of late.” The U.S., he said, has always received “great assistance from the government of Israel” and from various Jewish social service organizations, particularly B’nai B’rith.

Civiletti noted that a month ago he met with Lev Smirnov, chairman of the Soviet Union’s Supreme Court, who “made a firm and explicit commitment on behalf of his government to do whatever the U.S. felt was necessary to locate, investigate and deport proven participants in Nazi atrocities.” Civiletti emphasized that “Never before have we received such a clear and general expression of support from the country in which so much of the evidence can be found.”

BASIS FOR PURSUIT IS JUSTICE

After his formal address at the luncheon, the Attorney General was asked why the U.S., 35 years after World War II, is still seeking out Nazis and spending time and money to hunt them down and “what is to be gained by this?” Civiletti replied with one word, “Justice.” He said, “I would be quite alarmed if our citizens no longer felt revulsion at the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis less than 40 years ago. “He noted that he was speaking only two days before the 41st anniversary of the “infamous ‘Kristallnacht’ during which there was wanton destruction of Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues and lives throughout Germany. That was only a prelude to the inconceivable horrors which followed,” he said.

He deplored the fact that “refugees from unprecedented horrors” must share “their hard-won American citizenship with these imposters,” Nazi war criminals who gained U.S. citizenship by concealing and lying about their past. “Our children and grandchildren must not be allowed to conclude from their history books some day, that the guilty were not pursued because of the passage of time,” he said.

A NUMBER OF CASES PENDING

Civiletti cited “as a measure of our intense determination” the action the Justice Department in seeking, in Los Angeles, to deport Andrija Artukovic who served as Interior Minister of the Nazi popper state of Croatia during World War II. He also noted three other cases “soon” to go on trial, all involving alleged war criminals who concealed their crimes when they entered the U.S. years ago.

One defendant is Bishop Valerian Trifa who is “accused of concealing his activities as a student leader of the fascist, Nazi-supported Iron Guard of Rumania.” The others are Ivan Demjanjuk who will be tried in Cleveland, and Serhij Kowalczuk, who faces trial in Philadelphia. Kowalczuk, a member of the Ukrainian militia, commanded a squad that murdered 5000 Jews in Lyboml, Poland. Demjanjuk “allegedly ran the diesel engine in Treblinka which gassed hundreds of thousands of Jews,” Civiletti said.

NEXT STORY