September 2003  


  As the site of all six Nazi death camps, Poland was the country in which the majority of European Jewry were murdered by the Germans and their collaborators during the Holocaust. In addition millions of non-Jewish Poles were persecuted and murdered during the Nazi occupation. Although Poland suffered terrible losses during World War II, there were numerous Poles who assisted the Nazis in the implementation of the Final Solution and therefore it is only natural for the Wiesenthal Center to initiate “Operation: Last Chance” in Poland in order to help facilitate the prosecution of those responsible for Nazi crimes in that country.

In that context, it is important to note the important work already being done by the Institute of National Memory under the leadership of its president Prof. Dr. Leon Kieres. Since the establishment of the Institute, Poland has made significant progress in the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals, especially in comparison to other post-Communist and post-Soviet countries. Thus the conviction in 2001 of Henryk Mania for crimes committed at the Chelmno death camp and the recent investigation of the murder by the local population of the Jews of Jedwabne are concrete examples of the existence of political will in Warsaw to investigate the cases of Holocaust perpetrators and bring them to justice, and the ability of the Institute to do so successfully.

The Center expects to work together with the Institute to help maximize the prosecution of Nazi war criminals and is hopeful that the results achieved by “Operation: Last Chance” in Poland will expedite the efforts of the Institute. To help achieve those goals, the Center has maintained close cooperation with Prof. Dr. Kieres and his staff and hopes that this cooperation will be enhanced by the successful implementation of “Operation: Last Chance” in Poland