Riga, April 9, 2003 -The Simon Wiesenthal Center today announced at a press conference in the Latvian capital that it had already received the names of some 37 suspected Latvian Holocaust perpetrators in response to its “Operation:Last Chance,” a project launched together with the Targum Shlishi Foundation of Miami, Florida, which offered financial rewards for information which would lead to the conviction and punishment of Baltic Nazi war criminals. According to the Center’s chief Nazi-hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff,who coordinates “Operation:Last Chance,” the information came from 18 informants and relates to crimes which were committed in various cities, towns, and villages all over Latvia. Although several of the suspects were already dead, quite a few were reported to be alive and these cases are currently being investigated by the Center’s researchers prior to their submission to the Latvian prosecutors. Several of the suspects have escaped to Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the United States.
“We are working against the clock and have to do whatever we can to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of these cases.The information received in the framework of “Operation:Last Chance” is information which otherwise would never have reached us and offers new possibilities to facilitate the prosecution of Holocaust perpetrators who should have been convicted and punished decades ago,” said Zuroff, who has played an active role in tracking down Baltic Nazi war criminals ever since Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Zuroff noted that not a single Baltic Holocaust perpetrator had sat for even one minute in jail since the Baltic countries had obtained independence and called upon the local governments to exhibit the political will necessary to mount such trials. “Ultimately, such legal proceedings could have a very positive effect on the willingness of these societies to face their bloody Holocaust pasts. Given the fact that local participation in Holocaust crimes in the Baltics was among the most extensive in Europe the potential importance of such trials should not be minimized,” said Zuroff