The following are notes from Dr. Efraim Zuroff's captivating discussion on his life's work capturing Nazis.
Thanks to the extension of life expectancy, there are still some Nazi Hunters. He prays for the good health of Nazis, he’s the only Jew in the world that wants them healthy. They are almost all in their 90s. They try and still look as weak and frail as possible. The motivation for what Nazi Hunters do:
Nazi Hunters ⅓ detective, ⅓ political lobbyist, ⅓ historian.
He has to be a nudnik - someone who bothers people.
The passage of time in no way diminishes the crime.
He wonders how after the Holocaust, does Genocide still happen. He believes its because the small number of people who were punished for Holocaust crimes. The chances of you joining a group like ISIS, the odds of you getting caught if you are not a big leader in it are very small.
This is very important on Holocaust denial and Holocaust distortion. In the western world they have won the fight against Holocaust denial in the mainstream. The Holocaust is the most documented crime in human history. Why would people try and deny the Holocaust took place. It’s because of Anti-Semitism. They criticize Israel unfairly, and only Israel. There is a new wave of Holocaust denial in the Arab and Muslim world. The denial is from the leaders of countries like the former president of Iran. How to deal with Holocaust denials. There are first hand video accounts to disprove this, also documentaries and movies. Some people won’t be convinced no matter what. The goal is to win over the non-crazy ones. Once the majority is convinced, the deniers will go away.
Once the war was over, many countries were liberated into Soviet control. The communist did their own manipulation of the Holocaust. They never acknowledged the Holocaust until the 1980s. They called WWII the Great Patriotic War. They could write their own truth. There was in reality mass collaboration with the Nazis for the Holocaust. When they became independent from the USSR, there first goal was to get into the European Union and NATO. They thought it was going to be important to become friends with Jews, because they believed they had the power to make that happen. The people of these new countries were the people who fought against the Soviet authorities. But what if these “heroes” murdered Jews during the Holocaust? The argument is that superiors told them to do so. There is no case of a Nazi getting killed for not killing someone. This is why this defense was rejected. This argument is allowed anywhere (Canada used to allow it).
Ivan Pemjanjuk - the US can’t try any Nazis in court, because it didn’t happen here and no US victims were hurt. In order to get them in trouble, they had to extradite people or they brought these people on charges of immigration and naturalization. When he was in court he made himself look like he was dying. After each day of court, he would get up and talk with people. You don’t have to be Himmler or Hitler to have responsibility. German prosecution policy… you had to prove that the person who had committed a crime and had done so by racial hate, which is nearly impossible to do. A policy changed and since the death camps were intended to kill people, any person who worked at one is an accessory to murder who could get 15 years. This lasted 30 years for trial. He was sentenced to death in Israel, during the mandatory appeal process, they reversed it and he got 7 years and expelled back to America.
People who committed the crimes must feel guilty is a statement often made. People would think we were brainwashed. He has never experienced a case where a Nazi expressed any remorse or regret.
Accountant of Auschwitz
The procedure of catching them:
He was able to get a list of who was at a Holocaust death camp or the mobile death squads. He found a list of 80 people who were possibly still alive and Germany has tough laws that prevent people from finding out information. He went out to a news station and they helped since the government didn’t. They found 2 people who were at Babi Yar and later a 3rd person. He later found another Einzengruppen member, who spent 65 years in a shooting club, continuing what he did in the war.
His most important case was Dinko Sakić at camp Jasenovac, where 100,000 people died. Most of his victims were Serbs. Most Nazis fled through the rat line to Argentina or to Syria or Egypt. They find Sakic in Argentina. He admits it is him. He says the problem is that the people at the camp deserved to be there, but the problem was that they didn’t finish the job. He said I would do it again the same way and was proud of what he did. The question is where should this person be put on trial. They wanted to try him in Croatia for a lesson, but the leader of the country was a Holocaust denier. He was tried for mass murder (not genocide).
One day a guy stops him and says “thank you”. One of the important incidents was when there was a role call. Sakic called people out of the line to be hung. One guy says it’s against his faith to be hung and Sakic shot him on the spot. This was the guy’s brother.
How to catch them:
One day he gets an email from someone in Scotland who was at a party with someone bragging about him being involved in Auschwitz. The email said he wants to shut him up. The guy they find out is involved with Auschwitz. He tells the paper to make a post about Hungarians in Scotland, since they knew the guy was Hungarian. The guy has the interviewer meet at his house and there a statue he made and it says his real name, Istvan Bujdosoin, and German rank. This leads to another person he knew, Sandor Kepiro who was his boss.
More information. Sandor Kepiro
These are notes taken from Rena Quints inspiring story. There is no survivor who is younger than 80 from the Holocaust. We are the ambassadors of the Holocaust survivors. She brought up the story of a principal in Boca Rotan who denied the Holocaust and said, “He must be an idiot”.
A million and a half children were killed. She was the only one who survived in her family. She was between 3 ½ and 9 ½ during the Holocaust. Most children who survived, did so because of living in Christian camps. She was liberated from Bergen-Beltzen. Her story is different because every time she lost a mother, she gained another. She wrote the book, A Daughter of Many Mothers. She had parents, aunts, and uncles, and grandparents. She was adopted and a good education. She was married to her husband for 60 years until he passed away. He would say, “I was spared for him”.
She was born in Poland in the first ghetto in the city of Piotrków. She went back there in 1989. The Nazi’s came in early on and took the able body people including her father to work in a glass factory, at a smaller ghetto.
One night there was banging on her door from German soldiers telling her to leave and get out. She had to pack whatever she could immediately and there was chaos. Everyone got out into the square in the city center. 2,000 people were gathered. They were herded into the synagogue. There are no Jews left today in the city and the synagogue has been turned into a library. If you couldn’t fit into the synagogue, they took the people outside to dig ditches in the forest, which would be their own graves as they were shot. People were being shot in the synagogue and there was mass confusion. She was 6 at the time of this. A Polish man at the back door told her to “run”. She was with her mother, and two brothers. She ran out and let go of her mother’s hand. She can’t remember what her mother looked like. She wonders what was her mother thinking to let her daughter leave her hand. Everyone left at the synagogue was taken to Triblinka and killed at the gas chamber. Rena says she hopes her mother is looking down on her today to see the happy life she has. She is also sure Hitler is “down there somewhere, and he has to look up”. Any genocide was bad. The man who told her to run, scooped her up and took her to her father. She became a “boy” in order to blend in as girls we seen as useless. The factory work was hard and dangerous. There were dogs that they’d send out on the people in the factory for fun. If the dog bit someone’s arm, they couldn’t work, rendering them useless. She still has a fear of those dogs. In 1944 the Allies were getting closer. The Germans were sending people out to cattle cars. There were 80-100 people into each car. There was nothing to eat or drink. There was one pale to go to the bathroom, where you’d have to go in front of everyone. The smell and stench was everywhere. They used the snow after they got out to eat and drink. They had to divide people with women on one side and men on the other side. The issue being is that she was dressed as a boy at the time and people had to disrobe, which would reveal her identity. Her father gave to a teacher, and promised he’d meet back with her later. He never did as she never saw him again, but knows he was sent to Buchenwald. That’s all she knows about him. As they were walking on the snow with no shoes, if you stopped to take a rest, you would be shot. There was a trail of bodies. As they made there way to Bergen-Belsen, she had her pictures in her hands. A soldier took her pictures and tore them up. He had no idea what those pictures meant to her, as she has no idea who they are or what they looked like. Everyday the most important thing was good. They had horrible soup everyday. One day, an announcement came saying “We are the British army, you are free, you can do what you want”.
The British had to build huge graves to bury the dead. She couldn’t do anything because she had Typhus. The British burned down the barracks because they were so infested. 14,000 people died after the war as people weren’t able to recover or recuperate. They brought her to a make-shift hospital. She was sent to neutral Sweden. A young Christian couple gave her sweets and cookies in Sweden and they asked if she would like to live with them. She ends up not living with them because Jewish people told her she should go to Palestine (Israel) in a displaced persons camp. She met a new “mother”. Israel is so important to Jews, because it is a place for Jews to call home. The mother told her she was going to the United States with this “new” family. In the US, her “new mother” had died, but no one explained what was going on. She was confused because one person died and everyone made a fuss, yet she thought in the Holocaust so many people died and no one made it a big deal. At the funeral, she was the only one who didn’t cry. Now that the mother was gone, the family didn’t want her. They knew another Jewish family that took her in.
She believes strongly in God, but doesn’t understand how God could have let this happen.
Later on that day she invited all 35 of us to her wonderful house. The love letters her husband would write to her were still on display.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.