Toronto Star | 21Aug2009 | Carrie Johnson [Washington Post]
As prey die, what next for Nazi hunters?
U.S. war crimes unit gears mission toward new crimes as most WWII
villains now dead
following article is an attempt to extoll the virtues of the OSI
(Office of Special Investigations) and other Holocaust Industry
organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The reader is
encouraged to read my CRITIQUE of Wiseman's Report and my letter to the International Association of Jewish Lawyers to understand the appropriate attitude toward the OSI.
these evil people to persecute modern war criminals (which, by
definition, exclude Israeli crimes) would be a crime against humanity.]
WASHINGTON -- Earlier this summer, 650 kilometres from downtown
Washington, a Gulfstream IV jet carrying one of the country's most
infamous accused war criminals prepared to take flight as U.S. Justice
Department prosecutors watched a live television feed.
The target of their rapt attention: One-time Nazi concentration-camp
guard John Demjanjuk, 89, who had outlasted a generation of American
lawyers vying to deport him from the U.S. for allegedly lying about his
role in the Holocaust.
One department attorney in the elite Office of Special Investigations
died from cancer, another perished in an airplane crash and still more
had retired from public service in the nearly three decades since the
"Even as the plane took off, I thought, `Something's going to happen,'"
recalled OSI Director Eli Rosenbaum.
"Because that was the case for so many years where if something could
go wrong, it did go wrong."
On that day in mid-May, Rosenbaum tracked the plane's ascent from a
Cleveland airport on a journey that would deliver Demjanjuk to Germany
to face charges. But as employees in the Justice Department office
basked in the afterglow of one of their largest victories, their
anxieties turned to a question: What next?
The subjects of their life's work -- people with ties to the Nazis who
lied on citizenship forms to enter the United States after World War II
-- are dead or dying. Current and former employees of the OSI say the
unit is racing against the clock to extradite the few elderly Nazis
still residing on American soil. Jonathan Drimmer, the lead trial
lawyer in the government's case against Demjanjuk, said Demjanjuk's
expulsion is "a coda on a generation of work to bring major Nazi war
criminals to justice."
Since the OSI began operations in 1979, it has won deportation orders
against 107 people and prevented 180 more from entering the United
States through its watchlist program. Yet it remains to be seen how the
close-knit group of lawyers and historians, accustomed to combing
document-rich archives in Europe's former Eastern Bloc for clues, will
recast its mission from capturing Nazis to catching criminals who fled
murderous conflicts in such diverse places as Rwanda and the former
The OSI focuses on revoking the citizenship of Americans who entered
the country on false pretenses by lying about their involvement in war
crimes, rather than targeting criminals based overseas.
The office continues to rack up international accolades for its work on
the defining battles of the 20th century. "It's been the most important
instrument in trying to bring Nazi war criminals to justice," said
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League and a
Holocaust survivor who was hidden as a youth by a Catholic nun.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center gave the OSI an "A" for its efforts and
concluded in a report last winter that it had "conducted the most
successful program of its kind in the world."
But its staff levels have settled around 28 employees after peaking in
the 1980s at nearly double that. And many of the tools that served the
unit so well are no longer available to its history detectives.
Scrupulous recordkeeping practices, characteristic of the Nazis,
largely do not exist in the modern conflicts.
Nonetheless, OSI leaders say they are aggressively shifting their focus
to fresh cases, which now make up the bulk of the workload.
So far, the unit has filed court charges in a half-dozen new war crimes
cases, led by an effort this year to revoke the citizenship of Lazare
Kabaya Kobagaya, 82, of Topeka, Kan., who allegedly took part in the
1994 Rwandan genocide.
Nearly 80 similar episodes involving modern war crimes remain under the
Rosenbaum, who joined the unit as an intern three decades ago, asserted
that "unless mankind stops perpetrating these crimes, we will exist for
the foreseeable future."