LONDON (Jul. 21)
Britain may send officials to the Soviet Union to examine claims that a Lithuanian living in Scotland murdered more Jews in World War II than Klaus Barbie, recently sentenced to life imprisonment by a French court for crimes against humanity.
Officials conceded this was a possibility after receiving documents from the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center on the war record of Antanas Gecas, a 71-year-old retired mining engineer in Edinburgh.
Gecas is alleged to have ordered and participated in massacres of Jews in Lithuania where more than 200,000 were killed under the Nazis, many by members of special units of Lithuanian police in which Gecas has admitted he served. Gecas has repeatedly denied killing any Jews himself and says he was unable to prevent the activities in which his unit took part.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean of the Wiesenthal Center, told a press conference that Britain has received eyewitness accounts allegedly proving Gecas’ war crimes beyond doubt.
The evidence, including three signed depositions by wartime colleagues of Gecas, were gathered by a team from Scottish Television which went to Russia earlier this year. Their findings will be screened in Scotland Wednesday.
THOUSANDS OF PAGES OF DOCUMENTS
The interviews and signed depositions by three wartime colleagues of Gecas were among a thousand pages of documents which represented to the British Home Office last Friday.
The Center claims to have provided the conclusive evidence the Home Office requested last year when it was given the names of 17 former Nazis who had fled to Britain after the war. The Home Office has established at least eight of those people named might still be alive in Britain.
At its press conference, the Wiesenthal Center said Britain would be considered soft on war criminals if it failed to act on the new evidence it received on former Nazis living in this country. It called on the government to conduct an inquiry into the new evidence, particularly against Gecas, and send investigators to the USSR.
The Home Office said later it was examining the material and did not rule out a mission to the Soviet Union. It denied it was being soft on war criminals. “The passage of time has not lessened war crimes in any way,” an official said. “If we can prove that crimes have been committed and we are in a position to take action against the perpetrators, we will certainly do so.”
Labor MP Greville Janner, a member of the House of Commons War Crimes Group, told the press conference he did not like trial by television and preferred a trial by court of law. “I believe the evidence is now very strong in the case of Mr. Gecas and that the allegations require investigation by the Home Secretary without delay,” he said.