film production + social action

“The Last Nazi Hunter” Meets “The Last Survivor”

Efraim ZuroffIs there an expiration date on justice? Efraim Zuroff doesn’t think so.

After more than thirty years as the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, Zuroff knows a thing or two about justice. His relentless pursuit of Nazi war criminals has formed the backbone of his life purpose, not to mention his iconic moniker. To the world, Zuroff is “the last Nazi hunter”—and the subject of an upcoming CNN documentary by the same name.

The title suits him, especially in light of the joint project launched by the Wiesenthal Center and the Targum Shlishi Foundation of Miami in 2002. “Operation: Last Chance,” as its name implies, is apt to be the last concerted, international effort to locate Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice. Faced with the increasing difficulties of such a task, the goal of the initiative is to “offer financial rewards of up to 10,000 euros for information which will help facilitate the prosecution and punishment of Holocaust perpetrators.” The project is currently active in Germany, Austria, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Some people question the morality of convicting 80- and 90-year-old men (and occasionally women) for crimes they committed more than half a century ago. Surely they’ve repented. Surely they’ve realized that what they did was wrong. But not only is Zuroff unconvinced; he’s uninterested. The passage of time does nothing to absolve the guilt of a mass murderer. There is no statute of limitations on genocide.

And here we’ve stumbled upon a fascinating issue: the question of justice and accountability. If we cease to hold perpetrators of genocide accountable for the atrocities they committed, what are we doing if not condoning mass murder? There’s no such thing as a geriatric “get out of jail free” card for those who have committed heinous crimes.

Unfortunately, the legal systems in the countries where Operation: Last Chance operates are not always of accord. Even when Nazi war criminals are located, they rarely receive punishments commensurate with the crimes they committed. “In Lithuania, three Nazi war criminals were prosecuted,” Zuroff explains in a recent discussion with Forward newspaper, “but they made a mockery of the judicial process by making sure they never would be punished.”

Does this scenario sound eerily familiar? “A mockery of the judicial process”?

On March 4, 2009, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Omar al-Bashir on seven counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. To date, over 500,000 Darfuris have been murdered by Bashir’s state-sponsored Janjaweed militia, and over 3 million have been displaced from their homes. But the ICC can only act when a state is unwilling or unable to carry out an investigation or prosecution. And, more than a year later, the Sudanese government is still balking at the warrant. Not only is a convicted war criminal still at large; he’s just been re-elected President.

According to Simon Goldberg, President of the Student Holocaust Education Movement:

This dictator shares the same comfort Nazi perpetrators enjoy in their tucked-away villas and their downtown coffeehouses. What’s more, Al-Bashir remains unmistakably free to engage in war crimes, the menu of which defies description. But, with the Sudanese government denying any allegations of direct attacks against the civilian population; Sudanese officials refusing to cooperate with ICC prosecutors; and the unshakable support of the Arab League and Islamic Conference Organization, the indictment is bound to remain just that—an indictment.

Efraim Zuroff has dedicated thirty years of his life to tracking down perpetrators of the Holocaust. The research is never-ending—digging through old newspapers and photographs, traveling the world to collect testimonies of surviving victims, peeling back years of darkness and secrecy for the truth beneath.

Meanwhile, Bashir moves in the clear light of day: a convicted war criminal, a mass murderer, and an avid denier of the charges brought against him. When will he be held accountable for his actions? How long will the other countries of the world stand idly by? And when do we follow the example of Adam Bashar, the Darfuri refugee and activist featured in The Last Survivor, and speak out?

CNN has yet to decide whether to air The Last Nazi Hunter. They’re not convinced that there’s enough public interest in a documentary about a man who has predicated his life’s work on the notion that the fight for justice is justice itself. “What Zuroff achieves,” says Goldberg, “regardless of how many Nazi criminals ultimately die in isolated cells, is the preservation and propagation of human dignity in the purest of forms.”

It’s time we prove the media bigwigs wrong and raise our voices in the battle for human dignity. Please watch the The Last Nazi Hunter on CNN. Then take the 30 seconds to create a (free) account and leave your comments.

We WILL fight for justice, and we won’t be silent until it’s served. Now let’s tell the world.

And so I remain,


6 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Evelyn Fine

    I spent a month in Vilnius last summer. The Jewish community barely exists. The government is concerned only with Lithuanian martyrs to communism. (Who surely deserve their own recognition) The government turns a blind eye to neo nazi nationalism and actively ignores or even thinks to prosecute (!) the Jewish victims of the holocaust. Please air this important show.

    May 20, 2010 @ 5:54 am

  2. Dr. Judy Freier

    When will this be aired on television or was it already? This needs to be shown to the broader public, in its entirety (as this version seems to have only a portion of the documentary). It does not mention how the Jewish surviving partisans are now being persecuted in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia because of their involvement with the Soviets when they escaped the death pits of the ghetto and had no other recourse. WE MUST GET THE WORD OUT TO THE PUBLIC but, more than that, ACTION MUST BE TAKEN to put a stop to the growing anti-Semitism in the Baltic countries and around the world…………..If not now, when?

    May 20, 2010 @ 8:33 am

  3. Israel

    This is a video that shows how so many people can be silent and not do a thing while they see other people being murdered. Thats why we have to learn about the past and make sure that it does not repeat itself. DON’T BE A BYSTANDER!

    May 21, 2010 @ 12:41 am

  4. Larry Mandel

    Now more than ever! I would love to see CNN have the courage and conviction to air this documentary.

    Lithuania is a great nation with a great heritage. It is very sad to see the equation of Baltic Sun Symbols=Nazi Swastika to go along with Communism=Nazism.

    This, hot off the judges bench in Klaipeda, Lithuania:

    Court rules to rank swastika-bearing posters
    Lithuania’s historical heritage
    VILNIUS, May 19, BNS

    – A court of Lithuania’s port city Klaipeda ruled to consider posters with swastikas, which four young locals brought to the Independence Day parade on Feb. 16, as Lithuania’s historical heritage rather than symbols of Nazi Germany. The court on Tuesday ruled to discontinue an administrative case
    against the young men. The verdict found that swastikas – which initially were the sign of the sun and appear in archaeological findings and monuments – are not prohibited.

    “Justice exists in Lithuania. You see, it so turns out we don’t know ourown history,” one of the defendants, Linas Zeniauskis said at the courthearing.The men showed up for this year’s Independence Day parade with
    swastika-bearing shields. Not all demonstrators appreciated the move
    and somebody called the police, which took the case to court. The men in the first court hearing in April brought the shields in as
    evidence, arguing that the objects are heritage of the times past.

    “These are no Nazi attributes, but valuable symbols of the Balticculture. The symbols of our forefathers, which were taken away,
    fabricated and crippled by other nations. It is not fascism, but the architecture of the universe that they represent,” Milvydas Jusakauskas, the defense counsel’s witness from Vilnius said.

    Jusauskas brought the Culture Ministry’s records about ancient rings and bracelets dug out in Kernave and monuments with swastikas thatwere erected in Lithuania and Latvia during the interwar period.

    May 21, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  5. Bree Barton

    I wasn’t aware of the ruling re: swastikas. What a frightening development — and a terrifying historical repeat. All the more reason CNN needs to show The Last Nazi Hunter to a wider audience. The battle is far from won.

    Dr. Freier: CNN has yet to air this documentary. The advocates behind it are at a crossroads with CNN; CNN is waiting to see if there really is a constituency who would tune in and watch it. Obviously, there is! Be sure to post a comment below the film on the CNN website — They’ll be watching, and we’ll be waiting. It’s time they know we’re here.

    May 21, 2010 @ 11:36 am

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