By Elli Wohlgelernter
Operation: Last Chance, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's special campaign offering
a $10,000 reward for information that assists in bringing
Nazi war criminals to justice, has reached a snag in Latvia,
where one local newspaper has refused to publish the center's
Kurzemes Vards, a newspaper in the port city of Liepaja,
about 200 kilometers southwest of the capital, Riga, is the
only one of several newspapers in the country of 2.5 million
residents to not publish the war-crimes ad, which are sponsored
by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Holocaust was too horrifying to try to find those who
are to blame by using such methods," Kurzemes
Vards editor Andzils Remess told The Associated Press. "There are proper investigative offices for this purpose."
Remess said the paper would consider printing the ad if the
reward offer is removed.
This really takes the cake," said
Dr. Efraim Zuroff, Israeli director of the Wiesenthal Center. "The excuses in the Baltics are getting sillier by the day.
The reason that we are offering financial rewards for such
information is that the Latvian authorities who are supposed
to be doing this without using such 'innovative' methods
have absolutely nothing to show for their efforts over the
past 12 years since Latvia became independent."
The Operation: Last Chance ad campaign was kicked off in
July in Vilnius to help identify as many potential witnesses
as quickly as possible, thereby facilitating bringing to
justice Holocaust perpetrators.
It was designed and implemented by Zuroff and Targum Shlishi,
a charitable foundation founded and headed by Aryeh Rubin
of Miami, who conceived of the project.
Lithuanian newspapers ran similar ads in December, but Estonian
papers refused to run them. Newspaper editors said the ads
incited racial hatred, since they noted that Estonians had
participated in the murder of Jews. Police officials complained
that having their phone numbers appear in the ad intimated
they had sponsored the campaign.
These feeble attempts to prevent the ads from running clearly
reflect the fact that far too many people in the Baltics
are in deep denial regarding the cardinal role played by
their nationals in the mass murder of Jews in Lithuania,
Latvia, and Estonia, as well as in other countries in Europe," said
Zuroff. "The fact of the matter is that not a single Baltic Nazi war criminal has sat
a single day in jail since these countries gained independence
during the Soviet Union's 1991 collapse.
While they probably think that this problem will be solved
on its own as the criminals die out, we have absolutely no
intention of ignoring these murderers while they can still
be brought to justice, and that is still the case today," Zuroff
The ad that Kurzemes Vards refused to run includes a grainy,
black-and-white picture of two nude Jewish women, their hands
bound with rope, being led to the edge of a sand pit on a
Liepaja beach to be shot. Most victims were buried in mass
graves near the beach, just outside Liepaja.
"This is about your Jewish neighbors... the ones who were murdered," boldface text above the photograph states.
Some 7,000 Jews from Liepaja were killed during the Nazi
occupation, with both Germans and Latvians taking part
in the killings.
Approximately 80,000 Jews in Latvia 90 percent of the prewar
Jewish population were killed during the Holocaust. Approximately
20,000 Jews were deported to Latvia from Central Europe and
killed there, and Latvian police units played an active role
in the murder of tens of thousands of Jews in Belarus and