WASHINGTON (Feb. 16)
Rabbi Marvin Heir, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, criticized the U.S. Justice Department for failing to deport Karl Linnas, a convicted Nazi war criminal, to the Soviet Union.
“There is no reason for Karl Linnas, a man charged with horrific crimes, to spend an additional free day in the United States,” Hier said at a press conference here last week. “It’s an insult to democracy and an insult to the victims which he so callously and brutally murdered during the Second World War.”
The press conference was held after the Los Angeles-based Center presented a list of 74 suspected Nazi war criminals living in the U.S. to Neal Sher, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which investigates and prosecutes Nazi war criminals who illegally immigrated to the U.S. after World War II.
Hier, who was accompanied by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Center’s associate dean, and Martin Mendelson, its Washington-based legal counsel, said Sher promised to “vigorously” investigate the cases along with the hundreds of other cases the OSI is now pursuing.
The Linnas case was linked to the 74 new names because the Wiesenthal Center does not want it to be a “signal to all of them” that they could stall legal proceedings for “a quarter of a century,” Hier explained. He noted that the 74 ranged in age from 64 to 85.
Linnas, 67, was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1981 by the Federal District Court on Long Island, NY, after it found him responsible for the murder of thousands of people when he was chief of the Nazi concentration camp at Tartu, Estonia.
The U.S. Supreme Court last December and again last month refused to hear an appeal against the Linnas deportation order.
Hier said he was “very concerned” about the efforts of conservative groups to prevent the deportation. He said the issue of Nazi war criminals was not one in which conservatives and liberals should differ. He said the Wiesenthal Center and others would publicly fight any attempt to prevent the deportation.
The 74 names presented to the OSI included persons who were members of the Ypatinga Buras, a Lithuanian squad which murdered civilians; chief officers of prisons and concentration camps and officers and officials of the 11th, 12th and 13th battalions of the Lithuanian Security Police which was attached to the German SS, Hier said.
The list presented to reporters included birthdates, their war crimes, date of emigration to the U.S. and destination, but no names. Hier explained that the Center wants the persons listed to “be investigated by a government body. We do not want to try them in the press.”
Hier indicated that most of the 74 are still alive, noting that 62 other names were eliminated because they had died.
He said this was only the beginning, since the Center had not completed its investigation of other war criminals from Lithuania, the Ukraine and Germany believed to have come to the U.S. He stressed that no ethnic group was being targeted, only war criminals.
Hier said that the Center has been able to conduct its investigation because it has legally acquired its own access to immigration data. He said previously these data were compiled only by international rescue organizations, such as the International Red Cross, which have refused to make them available.
This is the largest list compiled so far by the Wiesenthal Center, Hier said. Cooper said that in the past four months, the Center has provided 65 names to Australia, 44 to West Germany, 17 to Great Britain, 26 to Canada, 12 to Sweden, three to Venezuela and one to Brazil.
“This is not a question of an eye for an eye,” Hier said. “Our future will be weak if the record reads you can be a mass murderer and a Nazi war criminal and live out the rest of your life in freedom.”