NEW YORK (Apr. 2)
The Reagan Administration “summarily rejected” a request in 1983 from various Baltic and Ukrainian emigre groups that the United States impose the administrative equivalent of a “statute of limitations” to prohibit the Justice Department from instituting legal proceedings against alleged war criminals in America, according to the World Jewish Congress.
The WJC also revealed today that these same groups and activists are engaged in an “intensive” and widespread campaign “fraught with ill-concealed anti-Semitism” — aimed at thwarting the Justice Department’s pursuit of alleged war criminals and directed specifically against the Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the unit responsible for investigating and prosecuting Nazi war criminals in the U.S.
The disclosures were made at a news conference, at the WJC offices here, by WJC vice president Kalman Sultanik and WJC executive director Israel Singer. They released the findings of an investigation revealing the activities of some emigre groups along with excerpts from news articles printed in the emigre news media. Eli Rosenbaum, a former OSI attorney and currently a special consultant to the WJC on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, also attended the conference.
A MOTIVATING FACTOR
A motivating factor behind the activities of the emigre groups, according to Singer, is “the fear that the Justice Department’s prosecutors are exposing the American public to the historical facts that Hitler’s annihilation of six million Jews was carried out not by the Germans alone, but rather with the extensive collaboration of Lithuanians, Latvians, Ukrainians, Estonians and other Europeans.”
The request to the Reagan Administration by various emigre groups that there be a statute of limitations occurred in late 1983 between lawyers representing the Baltic-American Freedom League, the World Lithuanian Community, Inc., Americans Against Defamation of Ukrainians and Americans for Due Process, and officials in the Justice Department, according to Rosenbaum. He said Assistant Attorney General Stephen Trott attended the meetings as did Neal Sher, now head of the OSI.
The WJC contended in its investigation that the “Ukrainian Survivors of the Holocaust” has demanded the Administration “immediately terminate all activities of the OSI.” Latvian American newspapers, meanwhile, recently called for the repeal of the 1978 law that provides the only statutory basis for deporting Nazi war criminals, better known as the Holtzman Amendment, named after former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman. Holtzman is now the Brooklyn District Attorney.
Sultanik said the emigre groups — and the WJC stressed that these activities cannot be attributed to all U.S. -based Baltic or Ukrainian groups and periodicals — seek to mask their activities in the guise of anti-Communism. They have assailed the OSI for using evidence obtained from witnesses and archives in the Soviet Union and East Europe.
“This is a patently dishonest exploitation of current East-West tensions, “Sultanik declared. “No group is more acutely sensitive than are the Jews to the indefensible restrictions on basic rights and freedoms imposed on them by the Soviet Union, but the question of evidence involves whether it is supportable on the rigorous testing group ground of the courtroom.”
This evidence, Sultanik, a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, continued, “has been tested time and again by both government and defense experts and its reliability has been uniformly upheld by Dutch and West German courts and by the overwhelming weight of the U.S. judicial authority.”
The WJC released a sampling of writings from the publications of the emigre groups to support its contention that the campaign included anti-Semitism. The WJC cited as an example the Lithuanian-language weekly, Darbininkas, which asserted that “the Jews murdered not six but seventy million innocent people” and has condemned what it referred to as “the Jewish Eichmanns.”
In the same paper there appeared a detailed description of the ways in which the OSI seeks to obtain witness testimony from U.S. residents. An advisory placed in the paper by the “Committee to Defend Lithuanian Rights” emphasized that no one need “answer any, even the simplest questions about yourself and others” or cooperate with the OSI in any way.
Furthermore, the WJC asserted that some emigre groups have established various defense funds to pay the legal fees of defendants in Nazi cases which included a fund to aid Hans Lipschis, recently deported to West Germany after confessing to serving as an SS-Rottenfuehrer at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland during World War II.
CONGRESSIONAL MEMBERS DECEIVED
In addition, the emigre groups, the WJC contended, have deceived Congressional members into acting on behalf of Nazi war criminals. The latest and most publicized case involved a letter Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R. NY) wrote at the urging of an emigre group in support of Karl Linnas who is facing deportation for concealing his role in the executions of 1,000 people at a Nazi concentration camp.
D’Amato later said he had been duped into writing the letter to Secretary of State George Shultz in support of Linnas, and in a second letter to Shultz affirmed his support for the work of the OSI.