A grim tale of one man’s dedication to a legal and moral cause and a shocking exposé of the widespread indifference and even antagonism that he has encountered.
Historian Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, describes himself as “one-third detective, one-third historian and one-third political lobbyist, all of which combine to constitute a twenty-first-century Nazi hunter.” A scholar of the Holocaust, he began doing research for the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which had been set up in 1979 to take legal action against Nazi war criminals living in America. During his time with the OSI, Zuroff learned of the major role played by collaborators in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Belarus and Croatia, many of whom had escaped notice when they fled to the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain. Zuroff, who later joined the Wiesenthal Center, details his determined and often futile efforts to convince the governments in what he refers to as “Anglo-Saxon democracies” to prosecute Nazi war criminals. He reports that political will was lacking and legal actions were minimal. Political changes in eastern Europe following the breakup of the Soviet Union then led him to turn his attention to this region with the additional aims of fighting local anti-Semitism and promoting the accuracy of Holocaust accounts. The indifference he had met earlier was now combined with open antagonism, including death threats. With the financial aid of an American, Aryeh Rubin, in 2002 Zuroff launched Operation Last Chance, a campaign that offered rewards of $10,000 to anyone supplying information leading to the conviction and punishment of a Holocaust perpetrator. Acknowledging that time is no longer on his side, the author describes his dogged pursuit of those whose names the campaign has brought to his attention. That Zuroff continues his efforts is a tribute to his determination to ensure that “the Holocaust will neither be forgotten, nor ignored, nor denied, nor distorted and that the historical record of its crimes that we leave to future generations will be as accurate as humanely possible.”
A sobering, valuable resource for future historians.