July 2002  

The Failure to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia 1991-2002

  Although numerous Baltic Nazi war criminals were brought to trial by the Soviet authorities following the reoccupation of the Baltics in 1944, many Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian Holocaust perpetrators remained unprosecuted when these countries regained their independence in 1991. Some were still living in the Baltics, while many others had escaped towards the end of World War II to Germany or Sweden from whence most subsequently emigrated overseas to the United States, Canada, Australia, and Great Britain or other destinations. In some of these countries of refuge – primarily in the United States – successful efforts were already underway to identify and take legal action against these Holocaust perpetrators, a policy which ultimately led to the return of some of these war criminals to their native land. Thus when Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia once again became independent, there were quite a few cases of Baltic Nazi war criminals which could and should have been dealt with the local authorities. What has been achieved in this regard during the past more than eleven years of Baltic independence? more...

Rosh Hashana 5763  


  It is very rare, if not unprecedented, for an American ambassador to write an op-ed piece in a local newspaper severely criticizing the country he is serving in for failing to take sufficient measures to prosecute local Nazi war criminals, but that is precisely what Joseph De Thomas, U.S. ambassador to Estonia, did in late May this year. In a pointed op-ed piece which appeared on May 28 in the Estonian daily Eesti Paevaleht, Ambassador De Thomas took his host country to task for its failure to adequately deal with three major issues relating to the Holocaust and suggested the following practical steps to help remedy the situation. In his words, Estonia had to “Do justice where justice is needed,” i.e. take a proactive stance on the prosecution of Estonian Nazi war criminals, not a single one of whom had been brought to trial since Estonia obtained its independence from the Soviet Union (as opposed to Communist criminals many of whom have been brought to trial); “Recognize the Holocaust is part of Estonia’s history,” i.e. observe Yom Hashoa in a dignified and significant manner and mark all the sites in the country in which the crimes of the Holocaust were committed; and “Teach our children about the past,” i.e. make sure that the subject of the Holocaust is adequately covered in Estonian textbooks, which as far as Ambassador De Thomas understood is not currently the case. more...