English News ArchiveNews between April 26th and May 20th 1999, reversely ordered by date (i.e.: the newest can be found on top). For other News look into our News Archive.
Argentine Central Bank held Nazi gold-officials
By Carlos DeJuana
BUENOS AIRES, April 26 (Reuters) - A committee investigating Argentina's links to Nazi Germany said on Monday it believes it has found proof the country's central bank held Nazi gold after World War II.
``This is a breakthrough case,'' Ignacio Klich at Argentina's Committee to Clarify Nazi Activities (CEANA) told Reuters. ``Until now there was no indisputable evidence about Nazi gold stashed away or shipped to Argentina. Now we know differently.''
Klich said CEANA unearthed a letter signed by Juan Bramuglia, Argentina's foreign minister under Gen. Juan Peron, in which he said he asked Swiss officials in 1946 to deposit gold they had been holding for Germany's Buenos Aires embassy in the Argentine Central Bank.
The Swiss represented Germany in Buenos Aires after Argentina severed relations with Nazi Germany in 1944 to join the Allies.
``What is behind such gold? Are we talking about German embassy funds to defray their local expenses or are we talking about the laundering of Nazi loot?'' Klich asked. ``It opens up a big question mark.''
Peron and his wife, Evita, were known to have sympathies with Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and have long been thought to have been close to the Third Reich, prompting stories of secret trips to Argentina by German submarines.
Klich said the letter did not specify the amount or worth of the gold, or whether it was in coins or ingots. Bramuglia also said that did not know what happened to that gold in the end, Klich said.
A source at the Central Bank said the bank's only current gold holdings were Argentine coins from the past century. Its remaining gold holdings were sold in 1997.
The source said the transaction, if it took place, was also not necessarily tied to illicit German loot.
``This could correspond to trade operations which never went through because Argentina broke its relations with Germany,'' the source said. ``I don't think this says a lot. Obviously we need to research more.''
Post-war Argentina was a sanctuary to numerous Nazis, including Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann and concentration camp doctor Josef Mengele after World War II. In 1995, Argentina deported former S.S. officer Erich Priebke to Italy for his participation in a 1944 massacre.
Two years ago Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal said Argentina should investigate whether Evita stashed Nazi gold in secret Swiss bank accounts. But a U.S. State Department investigation concluded in 1998 there was no proof that the Nazis sent large quantities of gold to Argentina.
Argentina is still struggling to erase the smear of its past Nazi links, especially after two bombings against the Jewish community in 1992 and 1994 left 115 people dead. The government set up CEANA in 1998.
Sergio Widder, a Latin American representative for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said it would be no surprise if Argentina had stored Nazi gold.
``It wouldn't surprise us,'' he said. ``Since we've had access to the Central Bank's archives we realised there was an important flow of funds from neutral countries to Argentina which -- although the documents don't establish a place of origin -- we can't rule out it was tied to so-called Nazi gold.''
Klich said CEANA asked a Swiss commission to investigate Switzerland's own diplomatic documents in hopes of shedding some light on Bramuglia's letter.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Schroeder reassures Poles on EU, Nazi claims
By Holger Hansen
GDANSK, Poland, April 30 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder assured Poles on Friday of his commitment to seeing Poland given membership of the European Union.
After meeting Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek in the Baltic port of Gdansk -- once the German city of Danzig -- Schroeder also denied speculation that Poles forced to work as slave labourers for German firms in World War Two would receive less compensation than Westerners under a planned new scheme.
Of Poland's self-determined goal of joining the European Union by 2003, Schroeder, a firm supporter of extending membership to former Communist states to the east, told a news conference only that this was an ``ambitious target.''
``I hope it succeeds,'' he added. He declined to be drawn on exactly when he expected Warsaw to be granted membership. Many EU officials believe it will take at least five years, given the financial burden it will place on the existing members.
However, Buzek welcomed what he called the chancellor's ``personal commitment'' on the issue.
Germany holds the six-month rotating presidency of the 15-member Union and has overseen the adoption of plans to reform its finances, especially the farm subsidies that eat up half its budget, in order to make expansion financially viable.
Without such changes, the addition of Poland's relatively poor and heavily agricultural economy could cripple the EU.
Schroeder, who had met President Aleksander Kwasniewski on Thursday evening, praised Poland's cooperation over NATO's war in Yugoslavia, which broke out just weeks after Warsaw was admitted to the West's defence alliance.
He said the allies must press on with their military offensive against Belgrade while seeking a political resolution to the war. Buzek said Warsaw fully agreed with the NATO line.
The German chancellor sought to quash speculation in Poland that a multi-billion dollar compensation fund to be established by September by major German businesses would discriminate against Poles forced to work for the Nazis, and pay out more to Westerners, such as victims now living in the United States.
``Our idea is that there will be no differentiation on ethnic grounds,'' Schroeder said, while stressing that the fund was not a subject of inter-governmental talks with Poland.
He was accompanied by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Defence Minister Rudolf Scharping among others.
Germany is keen to build solid relations with Poland, its main neighbour to the east. The postwar decades were soured by the prospect of border disputes, since large areas of German territory, including the major port of Danzig, were taken over by Poland after 1945 and millions of Germans were forced out.
Schroeder's Social Democrat predecessor Willy Brandt did much to defuse that tension with his Ostpolitik of the 1970s, recognising the present border along the Oder and Neisse rivers.
With the end of the Cold War, Schroeder is keen to establish that, in his words, ``Europe does not end at the Oder,'' and to embrace Poland in a broad European community of democracies.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
May 1, 1999
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Two separate explosions went off near Moscow's most prominent synagogues on Saturday night, causing light damage to nearby structures but no injuries, officials said.
Police at both scenes denied that the synagogues had been targeted, but the blasts appeared quite similar and occurred within a short period of each other on the Jewish sabbath.
One explosion took place near Moscow's main Choral Synagogue at about 9:30 p.m. (1730 GMT) as a religious service was taking place with about 50 people inside, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt said afterwards.
There was no damage to the synagogue, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited in March, but glass was strewn about outside a nearby medical building and pharmacy belonging to the Interior Ministry.
"There is no way this could have had anything to do with the synagogue," district police head Vladimir Belko said. "This is a dark and deserted street. If a terrorist had wanted to attack the synagogue, he could have come a lot closer to the building."
"This was not done by a professional but by an amateur."
Yet as Belko gave his assessment, police were investigating the second blast near the back of Marina Roshcha synagogue, which was previously damaged by a bomb in May 1998. It was attacked in 1996 and 1993 as well.
In an eerie parallel, a medical building nearby, also belonging to the Interior Ministry, was slightly damaged in the Saturday blast.
"There has no damage to the synagogue. The explosion apparently took place in a metal garage, no less than 50 metres away from the synagogue," a police colonel at the scene said.
"The only building that has been damaged is the police medical centre nearby. I don't know about the other blast but this one does not seem to be targeted at the synagogue."
A team of explosives experts surrounded the single car garage near the Marina Roshcha synagogue to look for evidence.
Near the Choral Synagogue, a 10-15 minute drive away, officials blocked off the darkened street and searched the area with flashlights.
The attacks came on the Russian May Day holiday after several opposition marches in the capital rallied against the the West and outside enemies. Such rallies have sometimes carried anti-Semitic undertones in the past.
"I have no doubt that both of today's blasts were aimed against Russian Jews inside the synagogues," Interfax news agency quoted Alexander Osovtsov, deputy head of the Russian Jewish Congress, as saying.
"The fact that the explosions did not take place in the buildings but nearby is connected only with stepped up security at synagogues and other Jewish institutions."
The Choral Synagogue has been suffered a series of small attacks in recent years including stones thrown at the windows and Nazi swastikas drawn on the building.
The Choral Synagogue's chief rabbi, Adolf Shayevich, has blamed the official failure to take stronger action against anti-Semitism for the growing exodus of Jews from Russia.
Officials say more Jews have left Russia this year than in the same period of 1998 because of economic troubles and rising anti-Semitism.
Norway, Israel seek Holocaust survivors for funds
NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) - Plans to compensate Holocaust survivors progressed on two fronts Monday, as Norway started accepting applications for its $60 million fund and Israel soon plans to seek needy individuals who qualify for the Swiss humanitarian fund, the World Jewish Congress said.
``Norway has shown the world how this sensitive issue should be dealt with,'' Elan Steinberg, executive director of the WJC, told Reuters by telephone. ``They didn't run away from their history; they confronted the past honestly, so as to have an honourable future.''
The WJC, an advocacy group, is one of the most important players in what it sees as a global campaign to correct the historical record and win compensation for Holocaust victims.
Norway in early March became the first nation occupied by the Nazis in World War II to create a fund for Jewish victims of the Holocaust. They each will be eligible for as much as 200,000 crowns ($25,674).
As in other occupied countries, Norway's Jews were stripped of their goods and businesses. About 2,200 Jews were arrested in Norway during the Nazi occupation in 1942. Only 30 of the 767 who were shipped to death camps, mostly Auschwitz, survived their ordeal.
One of the countries the WJC first pressed to account for its treatment of Holocaust survivors was Switzerland, and the advocacy group's threat to boycott Swiss banks last year helped persuade them to settle Holocaust claims for $1.25 billion.
Before the bank settlement was reached, Switzerland in March 1997 set up a restitution fund of approximately $200 million, targeted at impoverished victims of the Holocaust, most of whom are elderly.
Israel, where most Holocaust survivors live, next month will start accepting applications for the Swiss humanitarian fund, and try to begin payments by October.
``We would expect that perhaps 100,000 survivors in Israel would be eligible,'' Steinberg said, adding that payments from the Swiss humanitarian fund would be directed to individuals with a monthly income of less than about $875 a month.
In late February, the Swiss-based Fund for Needy Victims of the Holocaust started mailing checks for $502 to each of the 60,071 Jewish Holocaust survivors who live in the United States, according to the World Jewish Restitution Organisation.
Around 40,000 survivors in Eastern Europe already had gotten checks, and payments to survivors in the United Kingdom and other European countries were expected to begin soon.
((Joan Gralla, U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1654, joan.gralla+reuters.com))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Murder trial of former Nazi doctor delayed
By Karin Taylor
VIENNA, May 6 (Reuters) - The trial of a prominent Austrian psychiatrist suspected of murdering children in a Nazi clinic during World War Two could take months to get under way after the doctor's lawyer filed an objection this week.
Heinrich Gross, 84, was charged in April with acting as an accessory to the murder of nine physically and mentally handicapped children while he was head of the Vienna Am Spiegelgrund children's clinic in 1944.
Should the doctor be brought to trial, he would be the first person to be tried for war crimes in Austria in over 20 years.
Gross denies the charges.
The brains of Gross's alleged victims and some 400 other children who died at the clinic are still preserved in jars of formaldehyde, a collection that Gross is believed to have kept in the hospital's cellar for scientific purposes.
According to the charges approved by the Ministry of Justice last month, Gross was instrumental in Adolf Hitler's euthanasia programme that killed disabled children by administering drugs and exposing them to cold, hunger and neglect.
Gross's lawyer Nikolaus Lehner this week parried the recent indictment by filing an objection disputing that Gross was present at the clinic for the brief period during which he allegedly supervised the killing of the nine children.
``The main point is that Gross was not at the clinic during the period cited. He was at the front,'' Lehner told Reuters on Thursday.
Lehner said he planned to employ an expert to decipher army pay records proving that Gross served as a military doctor in the summer of 1944 and was not at his Vienna post.
A graphological test could also determine whether Gross actually signed death certificates and documented the medical history of the murdered children, Lehner said.
The 12-page objection could delay the start of the trial for up to two months.
Gross, who became a leading neurologist after the end of World War Two, escaped prosecution in post-war Austria despite several attempts to bring him to justice.
In 1951 he was acquitted on a single manslaughter charge and was appointed as a psychiatric expert to Vienna's district court in 1960. During a prolific career which ended only last year the highly-paid doctor authored thousands of psychiatric reports.
But the case was reopened when fresh evidence came to light two years ago, including papers released from the archives of former East Germany's secret police.
Forensic scientists at Innsbruck University, who studied the Am Spiegelgrund brain collection, also claimed to have discovered traces of sleeping tablets Luminal and Veronal in the tissue, indicating that the children died of unnatural causes.
Lehner said Gross was deeply affected when charges were brought against him last month. ``It's not so easy on someone to have to remember what happened 55 years ago,'' said Lehner.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
''Braveheart'' lives on in Scotland
By David Luhnow
STIRLING, Scotland, May 6 (Reuters) - A group of Scottish schoolchildren stood this week below a towering statue of independence hero Robert the Bruce next to soggy fields where he defeated an English army almost 700 years ago.
``What happened here, children?'' their teacher asked.
``We beat the English,'' several answered at once, and whistles and cheers broke out among a handful of others.
The teacher smiled, and nodded.
This Scottish town is ground zero for Scottish nationalism -- a place where Bruce and the rebellious ``Braveheart'' William Wallace fought their battles to keep English hands off Scotland and make it an independent nation for some 400 years.
When Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning film about Wallace played here and in other Scottish towns four years ago, audiences reacted with glee to gory scenes such as Wallace in war paint beheading an English lord.
Scotland still is a nation, but it is not a nation-state, having lost its political independence in the 1707 union with England. The sometimes uneven partnership that formed Britain has made many Scots uncomfortable and resentful to this day.
For the first time in three centuries, Scotland will get a measure of power back from London in the form of Thursday's vote for a local parliament in Edinburgh.
Polls show the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) will get about a third of the vote, a core of strong support the party hopes will grow under the new body and eventually lead the way to outright separation.
A 1960s folk song called ``Flower of Scotland,'' sung today before Scottish rugby matches and considered an unofficial Scottish national anthem, sums up the hope: ``We can still rise now and be a nation again.''
Wallace's gigantic broadsword hangs in Stirling's tall, stone tower of the National Wallace Monument that overlooks the bridge and fields where the rebel defeated a much larger army of England's King Edward I in 1297.
Wallace was eventually captured and publicly tortured and executed by the scheming Edward, whose grave at Westminster reads in Latin: ``Edward, Hammer of the Scots.''
Inside the monument gift shop, visitors can buy Wallace tee-shirts, Wallace beer, action figures of Scottish warriors and about 13 different biographies of the rebel.
Outside the Wallace monument, lingering anti-English sentiment is easy to find.
``We've got an in-built resentment against the English. Scottish people feel like they've been stood on by the English, just like the Welsh and Irish do,'' said Tom Dickson, a 57-year-old retired prison officer visiting the monument.
The term ``English bastard'' is a not unknown, if playful expression from bars to boardrooms.
Although the English are genuinely hurt and bewildered by this, it is simply because England is Scotland's ``other'' -- the big, threatening nation next door and its former enemy. The English have no desire to see Scotland lose at football because they are more likely to feel threatened by France or Germany.
``It's the English attitude that gets me,'' Lawrence Stocks, a Stirling fire officer said. ``If they talk about World War Two, it's the English that fought the Nazis, not the British. And in sport: if they do well, it's an Englishman, if they lose, then it's Britain.''
Scotland's tentative steps to a new political identity have probably fed anti-English feeling, although a recent poll showed 30 percent of Scots liked the English and most of the rest judged them on an individual basis.
The SNP has actively tried to stamp out xenophobia. Party leader Alex Salmond says he wishes the party could be called the Scottish Independence Party.
Salmond has said he does not think Scotland's drive for independence will lead to ``a single bloody nose.''
Many in Scotland want the nation simply to move on from knee-jerk anti-Englishness and get a life -- either as part of Britain or as a separate nation.
``If we can forgive the Germans Hitler and be friends with them again it seems churlish that we can't forgive the English Edward I,'' Scottish historian Allan Massie recently wrote.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Hitler's Favorite Works Of Art Go On Display
WEIMAR, Germany (Reuters) - Sturdy blonde maidens toiling in the fields and muscular mythological figures feature heavily in Adolf Hitler's art collection, which goes on public display for the first time Sunday.
The Nazi leader's favorite works of art are being shown in the eastern city of Weimar, Europe's City of Culture in 1999, as part of an exhibition called ``The Rise and Fall of the Modern.''
Exhibition organizers say the Fuehrer's taste in paintings, which also ran to rustic depictions of traditional German life, flora and fauna scenes and wholesome mother and child paintings, showed his interest in ``a kind of anti-art.''
The exhibition will not show works of explicit propaganda, such as paintings of senior Nazis or war scenes, as most of these remain locked in a military depot in Washington.
Hitler, who was himself interested in becoming an artist and failed repeatedly to gain entrance to Vienna's art college as a young man, collected the 120 paintings by some 90 artists between 1937 and 1944.
The organizers say the show is evidence of ``the monstrous banality of National Socialist art production.''
The Nazi art is being exhibited in what was formerly known as the ``People's Community Hall,'' part of the ``Gauforums,'' which were forums erected by the Nazis as showpieces for the different Nazi regions.
The exhibition also features avant garde works described by the Nazis as ``degenerate,'' by artists such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Auguste Renoir, Lyonel Feininger and Paul Gauguin.
A third part of the exhibition will feature official and unofficial art from the Communist era in East Germany.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Polish PM wants Papal cross to stay at Auschwitz
WARSAW, May 7 (Reuters) - Poland's Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said a large cross associated with Pope John Paul should remain near the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz after other crosses erected there by radical Catholics are removed.
``Certainly the issue of the cross is a sacred and untouchable matter and it will remain where it stands,'' PAP news agency reported Buzek saying.
Jewish groups object to any religious symbol at death camps where millions of their co-religionists were murdered by Poland's Nazi German occupiers during World War Two. They have been incensed by a campaign to raise crosses at Auschwitz.
Catholic fundamentalists and fringe rightist groups began to plant the crosses in a grassy pit outside the red-brick walls of the camp in southern Poland last May in a move they said was to protect the seven-metre (20 foot) Papal cross.
Jewish organisations had asked for the removal of the Papal cross, under which the Polish-born Pontiff prayed in 1979.
The Polish government hopes a law to create protective zones around former death camps, which now awaits presidential signature, will allow them to clear the Auschwitz site of the ``unauthorised'' crosses before a Papal visit next month.
But Poland's Roman Catholic majority want the Papal cross to remain, making it difficult for the current centre-right government, which has close links to the church, to accept Jewish demands that it be removed as well.
The refusal will complicate efforts to repair Polish-Jewish relations, which were frozen by the cross campaign.
The Papal cross is seen by many Poles as a symbol of the thousands of their Catholic countrymen who died at Auschwitz.
Up to 1.5 million people, 90 percent of them Jews, died at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death complex from 1939 to 1945.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Plan to commemorate Finnish SS troops stirs Jews
By Adam Jasser
HELSINKI, May 10 (Reuters) - Finland's tiny Jewish community voiced concern on Monday over government support for plans to mark the graves of Finnish volunters who fought in the Waffen SS during World War Two.
The community will this week decide whether to make an official protest to the government, its leader said.
``We are annoyed,'' Gideon Bolotowsky told Reuters. ``I think it was a mistake of the government.''
About 1,400 Finns joined the Waffen SS just before Hitler launched an attack on the Soviet Union in 1941, and some 300 of them were killed fighting in the Ukraine and the Caucasus.
An organisation dedicated to the memory of all fallen Finnish soldiers is considering erecting a small monument or a plaque at a site in southern Ukraine where 150 of the SS men are buried.
But Finland's Jewish community was irked when it surfaced that the government was subsidising the organisation, saying it blurred the distinction between those who fought for their homeland during the war and those who supported Nazi Germany.
``They (the government) are giving money to a Nazi cause,'' Bolotowsky said. ``They did not fight for Finland.''
Thousands of Finns perished trying to repel a Soviet invasion in the Winter War of 1939-1940.
Finland was defeated and sought peace but more losses followed when in 1941 it joined the German onslaught on Russia hoping to recapture lost territory.
The Finnish SS battalion was recruited with the encouragement of the government between the two wars.
Officials defended the plan to commemorate the SS men, saying it would be a gesture of remembrance rather than approval.
``All governments erect monuments or plaques to their war dead,'' said Heikki Hakala, executive director of the Society for Remembrance of the War Dead. ``This (momument) would be to honour the fallen soldiers, not for any particular deed...''
The society will decide later this year whether to proceed, and work on the site in Ukraine could start next year at the earliest, he said.
An official at the ministry of education, which donated 500,000 markka ($91,000) to the society, said the government saw nothing wrong with the plan as there was no evidence the Finnish SS battalion was involved in any Nazi attrocities.
Heikki Rosti told Reuters the unit's activities were probed during the Nurenberg trials and in separate Finnish and Allied investigations.
``No crimes against humanity were found,'' Rosti said, adding the government gave the men full combatant rights in 1958.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Polish law signed on removing crosses at Auschwitz
By Wojciech Moskwa
WARSAW, May 10 (Reuters) - Poland's president has signed into law a bill allowing the government to remove controversial crosses erected near the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, the presidential palace said on Monday.
The government plans to remove all but one cross but needs to consult the Roman Catholic episcopate before any action, government spokesman Krzysztof Luft said. He declined to speculate on when the removal could take place.
Jews regard the crosses as a desecration of the largest cemetery of European Jewry and say that to preserve its memorial character, no religious symbols should be erected there. The issue chilled relations between Poland and many Jewish groups.
Radical Polish Roman Catholics put up nearly 300 crosses in a grassy field just outside the camp.
The government and mainstream Polish Catholic authorities want to remove all except a 20-foot (six-metre) cross at which Polish-born Pope John Paul prayed in 1979.
``The intention of the government is to keep the papal cross but to remove the others in line with the new regulations. This requires cooperation with the episcopate,'' government spokesman Luft told Reuters.
``This has to be done in an appropriate way...to limit further conflicts around the matter,'' he added.
``This situation hurts Poland's image, not only in the eyes of Jewish groups but also Catholics from other countries...but I cannot say when the removal will take place. It would be better if it was sooner rather than later,'' he said.
Luft declined to say if the crosses would be removed before the Pope's visit to Poland in June, which could shine a bright media spotlight on the uncomfortable issue.
The new law limits commercial activity and public gatherings in safe zones around all eight death camps set up by German forces in occupied Poland during World War Two.
The government and the church have condemned the campaign to erect crosses as anti-Jewish but said they lacked the legal grounds to remove them quickly.
Before World War Two Poland was home to 3.3 million Jews, most of whom were murdered or driven out by Nazi Germans. In Auschwitz, the largest death camp, about 1.5 million people were killed, some 90 percent of them Jews.
A post-war pogrom in the town of Kielce and a bout of anti-Semitism in 1968 sponsored by the communist authorities forced many survivors to flee. Fewer than 10,000 remain.
Since the 1989 collapse of communism, governments have made strenuous efforts to improve ties with Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, but public opinion in heavily Catholic Poland has often failed to stay in step with official rapprochement.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Radical uses chapel to complicate Auschwitz issue
WARSAW, May 11 (Reuters) - A radical Polish Roman Catholic staging a sit-in beside the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz built a wooden chapel on Tuesday to try to stop authorities removing him, PAP news agency said.
The jerry-built construction, two metres (six feet) high and some 26 sq metres (280 sq feet) in area with a cross on top, will make it harder for authorities to evict Kazimierz Switon, who has been campaigning for almost a year to protect a large Catholic cross at the camp.
The cross is associated with Polish-born Pope John Paul. Jewish groups, who object to religious symbols at the camp where over a million Jews were killed, want it removed.
As Switon has camped at the site through the harsh winter, his right-wing followers have erected some 290 smaller crosses in a calculated rebuke to international Jewish opinion.
Poland's government and the Roman Catholic Church, to which some 90 percent of Poles at least nominally belong, say the protest is stirring anti-semitism and abusing religious symbols.
President Alexander Kwasniewski on Saturday signed a bill that creates protection zones around former concentration camps.
The government wants to use the bill to eject Switon and take down all but the Pope's Cross before the Pope begins a high-profile visit to his homeland on June 5.
Up to 1.5 million people, some 90 percent of them Jews, were murdered at the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex in southern Poland by Nazi German occupiers during World War Two.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Dutch owe Holocaust victims $1 billion or more-WJC
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK, May 11 (Reuters) - The Netherlands and its banks failed to return to Jewish victims of the Holocaust a billion dollars or more of assets that were seized by the Nazis during World War II, a U.S.-based Jewish group said on Tuesday.
In wartime currency, as much as one billion guilders of Jewish assets -- from securities to artwork -- might have been confiscated by a Nazi agency that named itself after a well-known Jewish banking house, Lippmann, Rosenthal & Co, to camouflage its activities, according to a report written in 1946 by the U.S. vice-consul in the Netherlands.
In today's values, the one billion-guilder estimate translates into about $3.5 billion, Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said.
``Published figures provided even by the Dutch commissions show several hundreds of millions of dollars were returned. It leaves a gap of in the billions of dollars,'' he said.
The WJC, which provided Reuters with parts of the 1946 declassified report, has honed its ability to turn its research into publicity for its cause, which it defines as winning moral and economic justice for Holocaust victims.
Last year, the New York-based group cut its teeth negotiating Holocaust claims with Swiss banks, which reached a $1.25 billion settlement with survivors. Now, along with U.S. class-action lawyers and U.S., German, Israeli and Eastern European officials, the WJC is trying to work out a similar accord with Germany's banks and companies.
The WJC's calculation of the liability faced by Dutch banks and the government far exceeds the estimates of Holocaust bank accounts that the banks, speaking as a group, have released.
The director of the Dutch Banking Association, Hein Blocks, in April told Reuters that discovered funds that had not been accounted for during the war years and that were not claimed after Germany was defeated totalled 400,000 guilders ($193,400). That sum included non-Jewish accounts that went unclaimed.
Some newspapers have said Dutch banks pocketed some two million guilders from Nazi funds. But Blocks said that was based on an estimate that the figure would rise to 1.2 million guilders if all Dutch industry, including funds as yet undiscovered, were included, plus a big safety margin.
While the Nazis overran the Netherlands in May 1940, they did not begin to seize Jewish assets until August 1941, when they ordered Jews to deposit all their securities, cash, bank deposits, insurance policies, claims and certain other types of assets with Lippmann, the 1946 U.S. report said.
Some of those who protested too vigorously were threatened with concentration camps. As many as 85 percent of the nation's 137,000 Jews perished in the camps, according to the WJC.
Lippmann's plunder was estimated at 300 million guilders to one billion guilders, Vice Consul Stanford Schewel, in the 1946 report, wrote.
The Nazi agency's assets later were turned over to the Vermogensverwaltungs und Rentenanstalt, known as the V.V.R.A., whose ``insatiable maw'' amassed from one billion guilders to three billion guilders, including the wealth of the Free Masons, the proceeds of selling Jewish real estate, religious treasures, and the assets of other people deemed enemies by the Nazis, according to Schewel.
``Its records, if ever it had any, are nowhere to be found,'' he said, adding some of the V.V.R.A.'s loot might have been sent to Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Argentina.
``The only certainty, is that Lippmann and V.V.R.A., and their associates in crime, can take their infamous place in the roster of the most fabulous thieves of modern times.''
Lippmann, which often tried to turn its plunder into cash, in the autumn of 1941 joined the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, where it sold looted securities. ``Many Amsterdam financial people now admit informally that the exchange should have closed, rather than admit Lippmann,'' Schewel said.
As Germany's defeat grew increasingly certain, the looting of Lippmann's treasures grew bolder, Schewel found, saying observers reported seeing the Germans load trucks with thousands of paintings, antiques, linens, china, furniture and jewels that had been stolen from Jewish families.
((U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1650, nyc.munis.newsroom+reuters.com))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Jewish Groups Hit Finland On Waffen SS Dead
PARIS (Reuters) - Two leading Jewish groups urged Finland Wednesday to withdraw official support from a plan to mark the graves of Finnish volunteers who fought in the Waffen SS during World War Two.
Shimon Samuels of the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said he had written to President Martti Ahtisaari that honoring them would ``betray the image of Finnish neutrality as much as it (would) offend the honor of the victims of Hitlerism.''
The move ``is an offence to all victims of the Nazis and jeopardizes the educational objectives of the European Union member countries to combat racism and anti-Semitism,'' the Paris-based European Jewish Congress said in a statement.
About 1,400 Finns joined the Waffen SS, a Nazi elite corps, just before Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in 1941. A pro-veterans group is considering erecting a small monument or plaque at a site in southern Ukraine where 150 of them are buried.
Finland's tiny Jewish community voiced concern Monday over a government subsidy for the group, saying it blurred the distinction between those who fought for their homeland during the war and those who supported Nazi Germany.
Samuels said in a statement: ``Just when the German government is applying legislation to strip such volunteers of their war pensions, Finland is acting to effectively vindicate Nazi units associated with war crimes and thus to balances the Holocaust by equaling perpetrators and victims.''
He asked Ahtisaari to use his influence with the government to ``desist from this act of historical revisionism.''
Officials defend the plan to commemorate the SS men, saying it would be a gesture of remembrance rather than approval.
Thousands of Finns perished trying to repel a Soviet invasion in 1939-40. Finland was defeated and sought peace but more losses followed when in 1941 it joined the German onslaught on Russia hoping to recapture lost territory.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
FOCUS-US Holocaust talks fail to cover all issues
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK, May 12 (Reuters) - U.S.-led talks on a plan to compensate Holocaust survivors, who claim German companies profited from Nazi war crimes committed against them, focused on slave and forced labour, and how to protect the firms from future claims, a participant in the talks said on Wednesday.
``We didn't get to banks and insurance,'' Ed Fagan, an attorney with New York-based Fagan & D'Avino.
The firm has brought a host of lawsuits against German banks -- that have been charged with buying or brokering Jewish assets at big discounts -- and companies on behalf of people who were forced to work for the Nazi war machine.
Four German and Austrian banks and about a dozen German companies have been sued by U.S. Holocaust survivors.
At least 14 German firms plan to set up a new compensation fund, initially estimated at up to $1.7 billion, to settle Holocaust claims. But in return, the firms want protection from any future liability, an issue Fagan predicted likely would have to be resolved by treaties or executive orders.
Fagan spoke to Reuters by telephone after the end of the meeting, which was held in Washington.
The negotiations were hosted by the U.S. State Department, and attended by Deputy Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, German Chancellery Minister Bodo Hombach, and a number of officials from Eastern Europe, including Belarus, the Czech Republic, Israel, Poland, Russia and the Ukraine, Fagan said.
Hungary, however, was not represented, though a number of its citizens were included in the approximately 12 million-strong army of slave and forced labourers whom the Nazis put to work at factories and farms during World War II.
Seven German companies were represented, whom the U.S. Holocaust lawyer said were apparently speaking for all the German firms that face charges that they used slave or forced labourers or participated in Aryanization programmes -- the buying or brokering of Jewish assets at big discounts.
The list of companies included: DaimlerChrysler (DCX.N) (DCXGn.F), Volkswagen (VOWG.F), Dresdner Bank (DRSD.F), Deutsche Bank (DBKG.F), Siemens (SIEG.F), BASF (BASF.F), and Allianz (ALVG.F), Fagan said.
``What's not there were all the construction companies, they continue to be remarkably silent about this,'' he said. Also among the missing was car-maker Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMWG.F), Fagan said.
Pay-outs are hoped to begin by Sept. 1, the 60th anniversary of the start of World War II.
Although the conference had been expected to cover all of the main issues that five working groups are expected to solve in the next 90 days, the Eastern European representatives concentrated on the distinction between slave labourers, who mostly were Jewish, and forced labourers, who mostly were Christians.
Because slave labour was one of the methods Adolf Hitler used to try to exterminate the Jewish people, these victims are expected to get the biggest amounts of compensation. Forced labourers, while forced to work in brutal conditions and to suffer enormous privations, were not part of a programme designed to work them to death.
``There were very real differences about the concept of slave and forced labour. Most of the representatives of Eastern Europe represent people who fall into the forced labour category, and they're very concerned at the manner in which the discussions are headed,'' Fagan said.
``It may affect their claims in a less than satisfactory way,'' he added.
Another bone of contention was whether to include individual Holocaust survivors in the future meetings of the working groups, in addition to Jewish survivor representatives who took part in Wednesday's negotiations, including the World Jewish Congress, and the Claims Conference.
Paul Frenkel, a Holocaust survivor, said: ``Our view is that this thing is not going to get anyplace unless they let us in.''
((U.S. Municipal Desk, 212-859-1650))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
FEATURE-Exhibit brings home horror of World War Two
By Michael Fitzpatrick
SAN DIEGO, May 14 (Reuters) - Eyes wild with terror, women rounded up by soldiers stare out from a photograph. Another shows the piles of clothes left by victims.
While the sepia-toned images immediately bring to mind the conflict in the Balkans, they date back to a greater tragedy -- the German invasion of the Soviet Union in World War Two, a war in which that nation lost 27 million people.
The nearly unimaginable suffering endured by the people of the Soviet Union during the war is brought to life by a powerful exhibit of rare artifacts, everyday objects and images from the Russian Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow that is now on show in San Diego.
``World War Two Through Russian Eyes'' chronicles the destruction wrought by the German invasion, the near defeat and eventual triumph of the Soviet Union.
While no exhibit can hope to show all the suffering wrought by the war, this gives a powerful look at the misery Soviet citizens and soldiers endured from the mass graves of Babi Yar to the 900-day siege of Leningrad, the battle for Stalingrad and the eventual fall of Berlin.
The exhibit includes many artifacts such as Stalin's overcoat, Hitler's jacket lying on the floor beside his desk, the eagle from atop the Reichstag as well as everyday items such as cigarette cases owned by the Soviet soldiers who bore the brunt of the fighting for much of the war.
While recalling the day-to-day history of the war, ``World War Two Through Russian Eyes'' also makes a powerful statement about the suffering caused by ethnic hatred today.
``(The exhibit) gives a direct connection to reality in so many different ways -- the whole ethnic cleansing business, the treatment of civilians .... you think that's World War Two and it doesn't happen now and it does every day,'' said Mark Talisman, exhibition director and a founding vice chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
STORY OF THE WAR BEFORE D-DAY
The exhibit, whose run has been extended to September from an original closing date in July, takes visitors on a historical tour of the Soviet side of World War Two, when the Red Army -- supplied by the United States -- bore the brunt of the fighting until relieved in the West by the D-Day invasion.
``Most of the people who come had no idea that the Russians and the U.S. were allies,'' Talisman said. ``They had no idea about Lend Lease,'' he said, referring to the programme under which the United States equipped its allies during the war.
Visitors follow the course of the war from the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 through May 1945, when Russian troops captured Berlin and the massive victory parade in Moscow in June of that year when captured Nazi standards were paraded in Red Square.
Background music composed from Dmitri Shostakovich's 7th Symphony written during the Leningrad siege combined with church bells and martial songs filters through the darkened former gymnasium where the exhibit is being held. The drone of planes flying into the San Diego airport adds to the sombre tone.
The exhibits range from the war equipment such as tank traps, a German motorcycle with sidecar, to photographs of Jews being rounded up for slaughter at Babi Yar in Kiev and poignant day-to-day items used by civilians and soldiers.
The show's designer, Alexander Okun, has arranged the exhibit as a series of theatrical sets, with pictures of battle scenes displayed behind the windows of mock burned-out buildings, with bricks and lumber scattered about and camouflage netting strewn overhead.
There is a mock-up of a typical Leningrad apartment during the siege, with a handbuilt stove for heat and a neat stack of bits of furniture that has been cut up to burn.
Another case holds a small, withered loaf of bread of the type eaten by the city's residents during the siege in which as much as a third of its population of three million died.
``My first though was it could never tell how bad it was,'' tour guide Laura Drexler said of the exhibit. ``I thought as good as this is, it just can't give you a sense of the sacrifice.''
THE SOLDIERS' STORIES
After chronicling the rapid advance of the Nazis to the outskirts of Leningrad, Moscow and to the centre of Stalingrad, the exhibit shows how the Soviets fought back with arms, cunning, propaganda posters and puppets of the Nazi leaders.
``It is the evocation of real history, real people,'' Talisman said. ``It demonstrates how little objects and large objects speak the way nothing else can ... people respond to it enormously deeply and very openly.''
From infantrymen to partisans and the ``Night Witch'' women pilots who flew nighttime bombing missions -- swooping low over German positions in fragile biplanes -- the exhibit shows how the Red Army and citizens turned the tide of the war.
That struggle culminated with the taking of Berlin, when a homemade Soviet battle flag was flown from the top of the Reichstag. A copy of the original is displayed.
There also is a piece of marble from the Reichstag with a Russian soldier's simple and extraordinarily understated declaration ``Sinev came to Berlin.''
The show's collection of Nazi items such as Hitler's jacket and the eagle from atop the Reichstag stir up strong emotions. These items along with dozens of captured Nazi battle standards are displayed laying down -- in defeat.
Talisman said he ``was shaking physically'' when he first held Hitler's jacket. He noted that the Nazi items were purposely displayed laying down, adding, ``I didn't want to become a Nazi poster child.''
``Survivors do not tolerate swastikas at all,'' Talisman said. ``We had a policy of 'it's there on the ground or it's behind bars.'''
The eagle from the Reichstag is displayed on the ground and taken apart. [email protected] of the Nazis also has evoked strong reactions from Soviet army veterans and Holocaust survivors who have asked to have their pictures taken with one foot on it, Talisman said.
``I'm alive and it's dead,'' one man said to Talisman.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Hitler cartoon wrapper to stay on Canadian shelves
TORONTO, May 17 (Reuters) - A Canadian candy maker said on Monday it had no intention of pulling a wrapper depicting a cartoon of Adolf Hitler, despite protests over the controversial packaging.
Tofita, a soft, chewy candy produced by Turkish-based Kent Company, was pulled from the shelf of a small-town Nova Scotia convenience store last week after a teen complained to the owner and local media.
The brightly coloured cartoon, depicting a sheepish Hitler holding a daisy and holding a cat-o'-nine tails behind his back, is one of a series of collectible wrappers.
``There is nothing making him look good here,'' said Aydin Eryuzlu, president of May Nina Inc., the Canadian distributor of Tofita.
``It sells very well, I wouldn't pull it off the shelves unless it was bad, rotten, or has poisoned people,'' he told Reuters in a telephone interview from the company's headquarters in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga.
Eryuzlu said the offending comic used to be accompanied by the words, ``The worst democracy is better than the best dictator.''
But he said he believed that even without the caption the message is obvious.
``You can see it shows that Hitler is not to be trusted. I don't see how he (the teenager) could interpret it that way. We just have to explain.''
He said that Kent, which distributes its candy all over the world, had denied reports that the candy was pulled off the shelves in Israel.
But if others in Canada joined the protest, Eryuzlu said he may suggest to the manufacturer that the candy be sold without that wrapper.
((Reuters Toronto Newsroom, 416 941-8100, Fax 416 869-3436, toronto.newsroom+reuters.com))
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
German police develop Internet crime-buster
BONN, May 17 (Reuters) - German police are developing an Internet search engine that will home in on illegal activity on the Web, including paedophile networks and neo-Nazi propaganda, and lead detectives to those who publish or even view such sites, an official said on Monday.
``It should make it easier for the police to pinpoint criminal content on the Internet, secure evidence and identify the senders and addressees,'' Deputy Interior Minister Claus Henning Schapper told a conference on Internet security in Bonn.
``Using it, we want to contain the spread of, for example, politically extreme matter or, highly important, child pornography over the Internet.''
He gave no further details of the device nor did he say when it might come into operation.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Lithuania president urged to prosecute war crimes
VILNIUS, May 18 (Reuters) - The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre on Tuesday urged Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus to seek prosecutions for war crimes suspects residing in the Baltic state.
The appeal follows local media reports that 80-year-old Kazys Ciurinskas, stripped of his U.S. passport in 1997 for lying about his activities in World War Two, returned to Lithuania last week after being ordered out of the United States.
Ciurinskas is the seventh former U.S. citizen to land in Lithuania after being forced out of the United States by the Justice Department for lying about his wartime past. Two have died and cases are pending against two more.
``Without your active intervention on this issue, I fear that no action will be taken,'' Efraim Zuroff, head of the centre's Jerusalem office, said in an open letter to the president.
``Individuals who actively participated in the brutal liquidation of Lithuanian Jewry...will continue to reside in your country undisturbed and unpunished and Lithuania will suffer the inevitable consequences of this morally reprehensible policy,'' it said.
Both Aleksandras Lileikis, who served as head of the Vilnius region security police during the Nazi occupation in World War Two, and his wartime deputy Kazys Gimzhauskas have been brought to trial for genocide, but proceedings have halted indefinitely due to the declining health of the 91-year-old defendants.
Critics have accused Lithuania of dragging its feet in prosecuting World War Two war crimes suspects.
Over 90 percent of the country's once thriving pre-war Jewish community of some 220,000 was wiped out by the Nazis, who were sometimes assisted by local collaborators.
Lithuanian prosecutors say it is difficult to build air-tight cases 50 years on, especially when the advanced age of the defendants makes a court trial impossible under Lithuanian law.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
Lions Gate breathes life into Mr. Death
CANNES, France, May 20 /CNW-PRN/ - Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Lions Gate Entertainment has purchased all North American rights to world-renowned award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris's newest work, Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. The announcement was made today by Tom Ortenberg and Mark Urman, co-presidents of Lions Gate's film releasing division.
Mr. Death debuted to great acclaim at this year's Sundance Film Festival and will be released by Lions Gate later in the year.
Mr. Death tells the story of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr., an engineer who decided to become the ``Florence Nightingale of Death Row.'' His mission was to design and repair gas chambers, electric chairs and lethal injection systems. But Leuchter became infamous for his work with anti-Holocaust writer Ernst Zundel, who commissioned Leuchter to conduct a forensic investigation into the use of poison gas in WWII Nazi concentration camps. Leuchter's controversial findings eventually hypothesized that the Holocaust never happened. He fully expected his involvement with Zundel to be the crowning achievement of his career; instead, it ruined him.
Of the acquisition, Mr. Urman said, ``Mr. Death is the culmination of Errol Morris's career thus far, and is further proof that he is one of the most inventive and exciting filmmakers working today.''
Mr. Ortenberg added, ``Errol Morris has created a motion picture genre all his own, and Mr. Death is the most provocative and accessible of all his great films.''
``Mr. Death expresses a number of important political and social issues,'' said Mr. Morris. ``I think it's a film - even more than The Thin Blue Line or any other film that I've made - that will prompt discussion and interest, and I wanted it to reach the widest possible audience. And Lions Gate has made a commitment to do just that. They see it, as I do, not as a specialized film, but rather a film that could attract a much broader audience than anything I've done before.''
Mr. Morris's award-winning credits as a director/producer include Fast Cheap & Out of Control (1998 Truer Than Fiction Independent Spirit Award); A Brief History of Time (1992 Sundance Filmmakers Trophy and Grand Jury Prize); and The Thin Blue Line.
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. was produced by David Collins, Michael Williams and Dorothy Aufiero and executive produced by attorney/producers representative John Sloss. The deal was negotiated by Urman and Ortenberg on behalf of Lions Gate, with Sloss of Sloss Law representing the film.
Lions Gate Entertainment is celebrating two Academy Awards for its 1998 releases, Gods and Monsters (winner of the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for Bill Condon) and Affliction (for which James Coburn won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). Upcoming titles on Lions Gate's release slate include the prize-winning The Red Violin, directed by Francois Girard, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Greta Scacchi, Jason Flemyng and Don McKellar; Mr. McKellar's own award-winning apocalyptic romance, Last Night; and Francis Veber's Cesar-winning French comedy sensation, The Dinner Game.
Lions Gate recently wrapped production on American Psycho, Mary Harron's adaptation of the controversial novel that stars Christian Bale, Reese Witherspoon and Willem Dafoe. The film will be released this winter.
The company's most recent acquisition, Peter Greenaway's 8 1/2 Women, starring John Standing, Matthew Delamere, Polly Walker, Amanda Plummer, Toni Collette and Vivian Wu, was recently announced in Cannes and will be released later this year.
LIONS GATE ENTERTAINMENT CORP. (AMEX/TSE:LGF) develops, produces and distributes a wide range of film and television content. Through its four main operating groups - motion pictures, television, animation, and studio facilities - the distinctive Lions Gate brand is recognized throughout North America and around the world.
www.lionsgate-ent.com SOURCE Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Copyright 1999, PR Newswire
Germany Convicts Possibly Last War Criminal
By Franz-Norbert Piontek
STUTTGART, Germany (Reuters) - A Nazi war criminal was convicted by a German court Thursday for his role in the massacre of thousands of Jews in what was expected to be the country's final war crimes trial.
Alfons Goetzfrid, a Ukrainian-born 79-year-old former member of the Gestapo secret police, was found guilty of aiding in a 1943 massacre of 17,000 Jews and other concentration camp inmates.
A state court in the southern town of Stuttgart sentenced him to 10 years, less than the 13 years demanded by the prosecutor.
But Goetzfrid, an ethnic German who emigrated to Germany in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed, walked free from court because he had already spent 13 years in a Soviet labor camp in the Arctic after the war.
``The defendant played a role in the bloody handiwork of these executions,'' said Judge Klaus Teichmann.
Goetzfrid was not found guilty of homicide because he was ''a small cog at the end of the machinery of murder'' and had no influence on the orders to kill, the judge added.
Prosecutors have said this could have been Germany's final war crimes trial from the Nazi era because time has taken its toll on suspects and witnesses.
Prosecutors said Goetzfrid had admitted in pre-trial investigations to shooting 500 Jewish men, women and children in the 1943 massacre at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland during a two-day rampage dubbed ``Operation Harvest Festival.''
But the defendant, a frail man who lost his right eye in an accident and is nearly blind in the other, retracted that confession in court last month and said he did not shoot anyone.
The Majdanek massacre was part of a larger operation in which the Nazis murdered 40,000 people during the two days. Others were killed in Poniatova and Travniki, Teichmann said.
The judge said the victims at Majdanek were forced to strip and lie face down in three 100-yard long graves. They were shot in the back of the head by murder squads, the judge said.
Goetzfrid testified that he had felt sick watching the shootings. He had said the Jews screamed, moaned and cried. ``It made me sick,'' he said. ``It was horrible.''
Goetzfrid appeared pale as he listened to the judge's hour-long reading of the verdict. He turned several times to look at his daughter, who watched from the back of the courtroom.
He came to the attention of German prosecutors by chance when he gave testimony in 1997 to prosecutors investigating another war crimes suspect.
Goetzfrid, who has been living with his son in Stuttgart since being released from investigative custody in March, volunteered for the German army after it overran Soviet Ukraine in 1941, first looking after horses and working as a translator before joining the Gestapo in Lvov in 1943.
Many non-Russian nationalists and anti-communists joined the invading German forces to fight Moscow's Red Army.
On his release from the Vorkuta labor camp, Goetzfrid lived in what is now independent Kazakhstan, to where Stalin deported many of the ethnic Germans who had lived in Russia since tsarist times. Many of them have resettled in Germany since 1991.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
U.S. In New Bid To Revoke Demjanjuk's Citizenship
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - John Demjanjuk, convicted and then cleared of being the notorious Nazi war criminal ``Ivan the Terrible,'' faces a new lawsuit to strip him of his U.S. citizenship, the Justice Department said Wednesday.
The Justice Department, severely rebuked by a U.S. appeals court for the way it initially handled Demjanjuk's case, said it would try again to deprive the retired Cleveland autoworker, who is 79, of his citizenship.
In the latest development in a more than 20-year legal battle, the lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland accused Demjanjuk of being a guard at the Sobibor extermination camp and at concentration camps in Poland and Germany.
It also alleged that he was a member of the SS-run Trawniki unit that participated in the Nazi campaign to annihilate Jews in Europe during the Second World War.
Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian immigrant, has denied having been a guard at any death camp and has insisted he is the victim of mistaken identity.
Demjanjuk was extradited to Israel in 1986, where he was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.
But the Israeli Supreme Court cleared him in 1993 of being the gas chamber operator known as ``Ivan the Terrible'' at the Treblinka death camp in Poland, and he returned to the United States.
Jewish leaders hailed the Justice Department's decision.
Elan Steinberg of the World Jewish Congress in New York said the lawsuit showed ``the determination of this country that participants of the Nazi murder machine will not be able to escape the demands of justice and memory.''
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, named after the famed Nazi hunter, said, ``We owe it to the victims of the Holocaust to vigorously pursue this case.''
The Justice Department has suffered a number of embarrassing setbacks in the Demjanjuk case over the years.
In 1993, a U.S. appeals court rebuked the department after ruling that its Nazi-hunting lawyers in the late 1970s and early 1980s deliberately withheld evidence undermining their claim that Demjanjuk was ``Ivan.''
A federal judge in Cleveland last year reinstated Demjanjuk's U.S. citizenship, but said the Justice Department could file a new complaint if it believed the evidence against him warranted it.
The 15-page lawsuit alleged that Demjanjuk was an armed guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland, where more than 200,000 Jewish civilians were killed in the gas chambers.
It alleged that Demjanjuk began working for the Nazis in 1942 at the Trawniki training camp in Nazi-occupied Poland that prepared East European recruits to assist the Germans in carrying out the Nazi's genocidal race policies.
The lawsuit accused Demjanjuk and others from Trawniki of participating in ``Operation Reinhard,'' a program to exterminate Jews in Poland.
The lawsuit alleged Demjanjuk served as an armed guard at the Majdanek death camp in Lublin, Poland, where more than 200,000 Jews were killed, and at the Flossenburg concentration camp in southeastern Germany, near the Czech border. About 30,000 prisoners died there during the war.
The Justice Department needs to prove that Demjanjuk lied about his wartime activities when he obtained a visa to enter the United States in 1952. Demjanjuk, who became a citizen six years later, claimed he spent the war working on a farm in Poland and as a laborer in Germany.
The accusations he faced in Israel are different to those he now faces in the United States.
If the Justice Department does get Demjanjuk's citizenship revoked, a process that could drag on for years, then it could bring separate deportation proceedings against him.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
FOCUS-Court backs Le Pen in French far-right split
By Thierry Leveque
PARIS, May 11 (Reuters) - In a victory for French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, a Paris court on Tuesday barred a splinter group of his National Front movement from usurping the party's name and distinctive flame logo.
The court, ruling five weeks before European parliament elections, declared null and void a vote in January by the splinter group to take control of the party and replace Le Pen with his former deputy Bruno Megret.
The judgment left France with just one National Front, and Le Pen, who founded the party 26 years ago, as its sole leader.
But Megret, 50, quickly vowed to appeal and said his new movement would fight on, albeit under a slightly different name.
``The question of the legitimacy of our movement will not be left to the judges,'' Megret told French television LCI.
``While awaiting the outcome of the appeal, we will call ourselves the National Movement. Not much will change,'' he said.
Le Pen, who turns 71 next month, called on the state to quickly turn over 41 million francs in public campaign subsidies he said were due from 1998. The funds were frozen when the Front broke into rival factions.
Megret's supporters ``have nothing left to do but cry into their handkerchiefs. I will not forgive a betrayal whose victims were the movement I lead and France,'' Le Pen told LCI.
It was not immediately clear how the judgment would affect the June 13 European election campaign. But the French far right has foundered since the split.
Le Pen and Megret's rival slates have accounted for a total of less than 10 percent in recent public opinion polls, with Le Pen's list winning about six percent and Megret's list around three percent.
Before the split, the Front typically won about 15 percent of the vote in national elections. If either slate falls below five percent in the European election, they become ineligible for public campaign subsidies for the year.
The internal split in the Front, a party denounced as racist and xenophobic by conservative French President Jacques Chirac, grew out of deep differences over strategy and ideology.
While Le Pen shunned ideological compromise and the mainstream parties, Megret preached flexibility and tried to lure rightwing voters and politicians into political deals that could advance their mutual interests.
Le Pen had asked the court to bar Megret's faction from using party funds, its name or its distinctive blue, white and red flame insignia. He had also asked that the breakaway group be fined 12 million francs ($2 million).
Megret's group had countersued, charging that Le Pen had thrown them out of the party illegally.
But the court found that a January 23-24 party congress in Marignane, southern France, at which Le Pen was voted out as president and Megret chosen to replace him, had been organised ``under completely irregular circumstances.''
Rather than fine the Megret faction now, however, the court said each future misuse of the National Front name or its logo would be punishable by a fine of 30,000 francs ($4,900).
The court ordered its judgment applied immediately, even in case of appeal. It named an administrator to help sort out the internal conflict and gave the parties five months to do so.
Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited.
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