Vilis Arveds HāznersPress Coverage
Holocaust Survivors Still Pursuing Justice
COLONIE — At an age when other teen-age boys go to school and play sports, Anton Segore was a slave laborer.
In early 1944, when he was 14, Segore was captured and sent from his home outside Budapest to Auschwitz concentration camp, one more number in Nazi Germany's campaign to exterminate the Jews.
Young and fit, he was spared immediate death in the gas chambers. Instead, he was chosen to be worked and starved to death. In more than a year at four camps, Segore witnessed mass killings, beatings, periodic selections of inmates who would be sent to the gas chambers when they were no longer fit to work and widespread starvation.
When he was liberated on May 5, 1945, he weighed 40 pounds. He survived, he said, because of his strong will power and his refusal to be intimidated by the Nazis. Two brothers and a sister also survived and still live in Hungary; his parents and six other brothers and sisters perished.
Today, Segore, who came to Albany in 1946 and is retired from the catering business, freely talks about the unspeakable, lecturing at schools and elsewhere as part of the speakers bureau of Holocaust Survivors and Friends in Pursuit of Justice.
His firsthand experiences bring home to audiences the message of the organization: that the Holocaust did happen, that its victims were real people whose killers in many cases have not been brought to justice and that bigotry and hatred are dangerous sentiments that can lead to intolerance, persecution and ultimately, genocide.
For 12 years, the volunteer, nonprofit group has been promoting Holocaust education, pushing for the prosecution of war criminals and, more recently, fighting "revisionists" who claim the Holocaust never happened. From an office in Latham Circle Mall overflowing with books, magazines, pictures and videotapes, director Shelly Shapiro keeps tab on developments worldwide, answers queries, puts out the group's publications — like Justice magazine — and organizes various activities.
There are a lot of survivor groups dedicated to educating others about the horrors of the Third Reich, but Holocaust Survivors and Friends in Pursuit of Justice does more than this, actively pushing for war crimes prosecutions and working to leave an unimpeachable historical record, according to Shapiro and the group's chairman, Rabbi Paul Silton of Albany's Temple Israel.
The organization owes its birth to Silton and his sense of outrage at learning that war criminals had found refuge in the United States. In 1978, in one of the first trials of Its kind, the Immigration and Naturalization Service tried to denaturalize Villis [sic.] Hazners, a Latvian Waffen-SS officer accused of forcing the Jews of Riga into a synagogue and burning it to the ground. Hazners was living in Whitehall, in Washington County, and the bearing was held in Albany. Silton organized a courtroom watch and hospitality for witnesses who came from Israel.
Following the trial, the rabbi organized Holocaust Survivors to press for more effective prosecution, and under legislation sponsored by former U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman, the job was switched from the INS to the Justice Department, which is still pursuing cases. Among those successfully prosecuted was George Theodorovich of Troy, who fled to Paraguay to avoid deportation and trial. (The United States has no Jurisdiction to try people for atrocities committed elsewhere but can strip them of their citizenship on grounds of immigration fraud because those who committed war crimes are barred from entry and lied about their backgrounds to gain admittance.)
In 1984, Holocaust Survivors sponsored the first international conference on Nazi war criminals in America, drawing 1,500 people, including historians and other experts, Nazi hunters and survivors to Albany for three days. Out of this conference, the group's educational mission began, said Silton, and the following year, it began publishing Justice and put out a bibliography for schools.
In 1987, it established a research center and library and the following year, it began sponsoring seminars with the Capital Area School Development Association on teaching the Holocaust. Teachers from 12 counties have attended the conferences, the next to be held Saturday and next Sunday at the downtown campus of the State University at Albany.
Most recently, its energies have been devoted to debunking revisionists like Fred Leuchter Jr., a manufacturer of execution devices who contended in "The Leuchter Report: End of a Myth" that no one was killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Maldanek. Leuchter goes on trial May 9 in Maiden, Mass., on charges of practicing engineering without a license.
Shapiro says those who claim that the Holocaust is a myth made up by Jews are motivated by the same blatant anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust. "They want to show Jews to be liars and Israel to be based on lies." Part of the process of getting others to follow them is to "strip away the stain on National Socialism," she said, such as the murders of 1.5 million Jewish children.
"It's scary to stand outside a courthouse and have someone say that the Holocaust didn't happen, to wipe millions of people out of history," said Shapiro, who was one of those who demonstrated outside the Maiden courthouse and whose father's family was murdered by the Nazis.
In pursuit of war criminals
The group, which also distributes the publications of Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld's foundation to libraries and schools, works to bring war criminals hiding in other countries to justice. Chief among them is Alois Brunner, who has been protected by Syria since 1954. The United States, Shapiro said, should insist that Syria deport Brunner for trial in the deportation of Jewish children in Prance as an indication that it is serious about warmer relations and a Middle East peace.
Shapiro and Silton said the Holocaust is unique among mankind's mass murders. "At no other time was there such a systematic mass murder of people," said Silton. While "not all the victims were Jews," he said, quoting Elie Wiesel, "all Jews were victims." Jews were targeted on spurious racial grounds, not for their politics or anything else they said or did.
While the Holocaust remains unique to the Jewish people, said Shapiro, it also holds lessons for all mankind.
It shows what people are capable of and what the misuse of technology can lead to, said Sllton. It also shows what can happen when people sit back and don't stand up to evil.
Ten years after the conclusion of the case against Hāzners, finding for the defendant, we have Silton's insistence on Hāzners' guilt:
- The judge stated Hāzners was guilty of atrocities.
- The judge let Hāzners go on technicalities.
Alan A. Ryan, Jr., head of the OSI (1980-1983) popularized the meme of INS incompetence in his book, Quiet Neighbors—taking no credit for his own failed appeal of Hāzners' vindication, an appeal based solely on the basis that Hāzners's service in the Waffen-SS branded him a war criminal.
When you show up on the accused's doorstep with your bus-load of Jewish university students all wearing "DEATH TO HĀZNERS" T-shirts, nearly drive yourself into indigence paying out of your own pocket for a private detective to investigate and tail the accused to root out an imaginary cabal of Nazi henchmen, there is little room left to consider the possibility the accused is innocent. Silton knows full well, from having attended the proceedings, that the case was dismissed because witnesses' testimony was discredited. If, as a witness, you confirm the person you see in the courtroom is the one that beat you, who shoved Jews into a burning synagogue, who you later saw with the rank of major clearly on their collar, and that person is proven to not possibly have been present or been a major, does it matter what picture you originally saw? Of course not. The accusation of INS ineptitude is a cynical cover for their having prosecuted an innocent individual.
And so, we must ask:
What sort of “search for justice” cares only about the accusation,
and not that it was proven false?
|The meme that Hāzners "got off on a technicality" is based on photographic evidence being disputed as the photos presented at the deportations hearings were not the originals shown to witnesses in Israel. However, Hāzners attended the proceedings, so the witnesses all had a chance to verify it was, indeed, Hāzners whom they were accusing. More to the point, per the judicial review of the case, admission of the photographic spread into evidence would have made no difference to the judge finding for Hāzners, the defendant.1|
Updated: February, 2018
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