June 30, 2007 " La Nacion" [Costa Rica]
  "Half-truths and distortions of facts"
Efraim Zuroff

Harry Mannil presented the readers of La Nacion with a very rosy picture of his biography, one designed to convince readers that he truly was “an honorable businessman.” Unfortunately, Mannil’s version of his life is full of half-truths and distortions of the facts that he does not want Costa Ricans to know.

Among the important names that Mannil did not mention are: Ida Frank, Kune Frank, Leo Muller, Agnia Ryzhova, Maria Pavlovski, Kira Rubanovich and Vera Rubanovich. These are seven of the individuals interrogated by Mannil when he worked for the Estonian Political Police who were executed or disappeared. Their murder was part of the Nazis’ plan to annihilate all the Jews of Europe, which they implemented in Estonia with the help of the Estonian Political Police and Nazi collaborators like Harry Mannil.

Mannil wants you to believe that the activities of the Estonian Political Police were harmless. So it is particularly important to read the conclusions of the International Commission appointed by Estonian President Lennart Meri to investigate the crimes committed in Estonia during the Nazi and Communist occupations. In the section entitled “Detailed Assessment of Responsibility” (page 19), the report makes the following assessment regarding the Estonian police (including the Political Police):

“Although Estonian police structures were formally subordinated to the German Security and Order Police, evidence shows that Estonians exercised significant independence of action in arresting and interrogating suspects, and determining and carrying out sentences.

“The Commission reviewed the structure and operational competence of the police through their various reorganizations…[and] believes that the police were actively involved in the arrest and killing of Estonian Jews. The police were also actively engaged in actions against Estonians deemed to be opponents of the Germans….”

It is also interesting to note the Commission chose to “particularly single [out]” Mannil’s direct boss Evald Mikson as one of the individuals most responsible for the crimes committed by the Estonian police against innocent civilians, noting that Mikson “signed numerous death warrants.” In 1991, Mikson, who like Mannil left to Sweden during the war, was exposed by the Wiesenthal Center in Iceland, which opened a criminal investigation for murder against him. Unfortunately, he died before he could be prosecuted for his crimes.

In this context, it is important to read the testimony before the Sandler Commission, which investigated the Baltic refugees who entered Sweden during and immediately after World War II, of Uno Richard Andrusson, who served together with Mannil under Mikson in the Estonian Political Police in Tallinn in 1941. According to Andrusson, he and Mannil carried out arrests of civilians under orders received from Mikson and Roland Leppik. Those arrested were brought to Tallinn Central Prison, where they were interrogated and either freed or sentenced to death. The latter were taken to a forest outside the city where they were executed by the “Omakaitse,” an Estonian group of nationalist vigilantes. Both Mannil and Andrusson participated in the interrogation of the prisoners, and the former, after a few months was promoted to be top assistant in his department. Mannil obviously excelled in these tasks.

The evidence was confirmed by three additional Estonians who testified before the Sandler Commission. As a result of this investigation, Mannil was dismissed from his job at a local archives, and was later denied permission to remain in Sweden. During this period, he was also barred from entering Great Britain.

Mannil tries to claim that the charges against him are baseless but the fact remains that he was kicked out of Sweden, denied entry to Great Britain and remains, to this day, barred from entering the United States, all solely because of his role in the Estonian Political Police in Tallinn during the years 1941-1942. Mannil of course never mentioned the first two facts and downplays the third by claiming that “the Justice Department found no legal evidence against me.” But if that were really true, why was the decision never changed? The reason is obvious. Anyone who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II is barred from entering the US and Mannil’s service in the Estonian Political Police certainly fits that description perfectly. This is also the reason why former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger resigned from the International Advisory Board of the Baltic Institute for Strategic and International Relations established by Mannil after the facts about his World War II activities were brought to his attention.

Notwithstanding all the evidence against him, Mannil has not been put on trial. In retrospect, there are three major reasons for this situation: geography, history, and biography. The fact that Mannil acted in Estonia is very important. Due to the very small size of the local prewar Jewish community (4,500) and the relatively low number of victims (about 1,000, which is practically every Jew living in Estonia when it was occupied by the Germans), the crimes of the Nazis and their Estonian collaborators received scant attention outside the country. The fact that Estonia became part of the Soviet Union made it difficult to obtain documents and witnesses, and thus it was only in the early nineties after Estonia regained independence that I discovered the case of Harry Mannil, in the course of my investigation against his superior Evald Mikson.

Estonia, like her Baltic neighbors Lithuania and Latvia, has proven extremely reluctant to take legal action against local Nazi collaborators, none of whom has hereto ever been prosecuted For this reason, Estonia has been given a grade of “F” or total failure by the Wiesenthal Center’s Annual Status Report on the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war crimes for the past two years.

If we add the fact that Mannil is very wealthy and a generous contributor to Estonian cultural institutions, it becomes increasingly clear why he has not been called to account before any court.

And thus, unfortunately, he remains free to travel to different countries. I do not think that such individuals, rich as they might be, deserve the privilege of visiting a great democracy like Costa Rica and I hope that the government will soon take measures to see to it that this will no longer be possible, because while Mannil might be a “ business man” in Venezuela, his role in Estonia was clearly different.