NEW YORK (Sep. 10)
Vigilante action against alleged Nazi war criminals in the United States was resoundingly condemned last night by three persons involved in bringing war criminals to justice, and by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Neal Sher, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, said two recent separate bomb attacks at the homes of alleged war criminals in New Jersey and on Long Island were detrimental to the continuing efforts of the OSI.
“These acts cannot be condoned,” Sher said in response to questions at a forum on the continuing efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, sponsored by the JCRC. “I don’t think (these attacks) help the OSI in the least.”
Last week a bomb exploded outside the Brent-wood, Long Island, home of 70-year-old Elmars Sprogis, a former Latvian policeman once accused by the government of war crimes. An innocent bystander, 23-year-old Robert Seifried, was seriously injured in the blast.
Last month, in a similar attack, a bomb exploded outside the Paterson, New Jersey, home of Tscherim Soobzokov, a 61-year-old former Nazi SS member. Soobzokov died last Friday from injuries suffered in the blast. No one has claimed responsibility for the Paterson attack.
An apparently taped phone message received by the Long Island daily Newsday, after the Brentwood bombing said, “Listen carefully. Jewish Defense League. Nazi war criminal. Bomb. Never again.” The JDL has denied responsibility for the bomb attacks. The case against Sprogis was dismissed by a Federal District Court Judge in 1984.
WARNS THAT EFFORTS TO RESURRECT RUDOLPH WILL FAIL
On other matters, Sher told the JCRC forum that ongoing efforts in the U.S. to “resurrect” German-born rocket scientist Arthur Rudolph will not succeed. Rudolph was last year stripped of his U.S. citizenship and left the country following the disclosure of his past war-time activities as director of production at a V-2 rocket factory attached to the Dora Nordhausen concentration camp.
“Arthur Rudolph, I can assure you, will never set foot in this country again,” Sher declared. Rudolph currently lives in West Germany. A group of former German colleagues living in Huntsville, Alabama, have formed the “Old Timers Defense Fund” to raise funds to lobby Congress and the White House to allow for Rudolph to return to the U.S.
“I can assure you that as far as the United States Justice Department is concerned, the Rudolph case is closed,” Sher said. He said Rudolph reached a formal agreement with the U.S. government in which he admitted he could never return to the U.S.
DEFENDS USE OF SOVIET-SUPPLIED DOCUMENTS
While the OSI, formed in 1979, is “busier than ever filing cases, litigating cases, and investigating cases,” Sher pointed out that the Justice Department unit has come under increased attacks by a group of East European emigre groups in the U.S. who have assailed the OSI, for among other things, using Soviet-supplied evidence in denaturalization and deportation proceedings.
He defended the use of Soviet-supplied documents, saying, “We go to great lengths to establish that the Soviet evidence is credible … There has never been any indication of fabrication or forgery.”
‘WE’RE TALKING ABOUT MURDER’
JCRC president Peggy Tishman said in a statement issued today that “people cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands. The net effect is counter-productive in gaining support for the prosecution of Nazi war criminals in this country.”
Elizabeth Holtzman, Brooklyn District Attorney and a former Congresswoman who was instrumental in the formation of the OSI, expressed similar sentiments. “I cannot condon this. I think it is not only a crime and it is not only wrong, but it could create tremendous setbacks to what” the OSI is doing, Holtzman declared at the JCRC forum.
“We’re not talking about terrorism in the abstract,” she continued. “We’re talking about murder.” She said “terrorist actions of this kind are horrendous …. Our mission here has to be not only to condemn (these attacks) but to make sure the government acts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice.”
Along these lines, Holtzman urged for legislative action in Congress to aid in speeding the deportation and denaturalization process against alleged war criminals. She said that there currently exists two separate procedures needed for denaturalization and deportation.
“The process could be substantially shortcircuited and speeded up” by having deportation and denaturalization handled in the same court, with one appeal to the Supreme Court. “One thing Nazi war criminals in this country can look forward to is an indefinite delay in dragging this procedure out interminably,” Holtzman declared.
Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holo-caust Survivors, also condemned the bomb attacks. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last night, “We unequivocally condemn any act of terrorism. The perpetrators of these bombings are in the same category as members of the Red Brigade and the Palestine Liberation Organization.”