U.S. Gives Papers On Nazis To Holocaust Museum

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U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Chairman Fred Zeidman receives papers from Michael Mukasey. i

United States Holocaust Memorial Council Chairman Fred Zeidman (left) receives some of the more than 50,000 pages of trial documentation from Attorney General Michael Mukasey. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum hide caption

itoggle caption U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Chairman Fred Zeidman receives papers from Michael Mukasey.

United States Holocaust Memorial Council Chairman Fred Zeidman (left) receives some of the more than 50,000 pages of trial documentation from Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The documents included this chilling photo of a large crowd of Jews before a mass grave. i

Among the documents turned over to the museum was this chilling photo of a large crowd of Jewish people standing before a mass grave. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum hide caption

itoggle caption U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The documents included this chilling photo of a large crowd of Jews before a mass grave.

Among the documents turned over to the museum was this chilling photo of a large crowd of Jewish people standing before a mass grave.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Former Lithuanian police chief Alexandras Lileikis was accused of being responsible for mass murder i

Former Lithuanian police chief Alexandras Lileikis was living in Massachusetts when he was accused of being responsible for the mass murder of Jews during World War II. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum hide caption

itoggle caption U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
Former Lithuanian police chief Alexandras Lileikis was accused of being responsible for mass murder

Former Lithuanian police chief Alexandras Lileikis was living in Massachusetts when he was accused of being responsible for the mass murder of Jews during World War II.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The documents included this chilling photo of a large crowd of Jews before a mass grave. i

After the fall of the Soviet Union, an investigator found this document signed by Alexandras Lileikis. It authorizes the deaths of Gita and Fruma Kaplan. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum hide caption

itoggle caption U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
The documents included this chilling photo of a large crowd of Jews before a mass grave.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, an investigator found this document signed by Alexandras Lileikis. It authorizes the deaths of Gita and Fruma Kaplan.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Justice Department on Tuesday donated thousands of documents to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The papers — totaling more than 50,000 pages — chronicle trials of Nazis found living in the United States over the past three decades.

These are the ultimate cold cases, says Eli Rosenbaum, director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, which hunts down and tries former Nazis hiding in the United States.

"If one remembers how hard it is to prove a crime that took place down the street a week ago, imagine what it is to prove crimes that took place decades ago," Rosenbaum said.

And these are crimes that took place on the other side of the world.

Speaking at the Holocaust Museum on Tuesday, Rosenbaum said ordinary prosecutions tend to start with a crime scene and lead to a perpetrator.

But the Nazi war crime cases move in a different direction. The Justice Department's historians started with documents, which they used to identify thousands of names of Nazi leaders.

"We ran every single one of those names through domestic databases to see who was here, who was still alive," Rosenbaum said. "And when we got a match and found a suspect still alive, the investigation in chief, so to speak, began."

In 1982, investigators found a man named Alexandras Lileikis living in Massachusetts. He had been a Lithuanian police chief responsible for the mass murder of Jews.

Rosenbaum went to see him.

"He let us in. He readily admitted that he'd had this job during the war," Rosenbaum said. "But he said he hadn't had anything to do with the Jews."

Rosenbaum showed Lileikis a document — a list of 52 Jews to be killed. Lileikis' name was at the bottom. Still, Lileikis told Rosenbaum he'd never seen the document in his life.

"I said, 'Well, are you saying this is a forgery?' " Rosenbaum recalls.

"He said, 'No, it's possible it's authentic, and my men did things without telling me, over my name.' And he then uttered words that would stick in my craw for the better part of a decade. He said, 'Show me something that I signed.' "

Prosecutors had nothing. And then, almost 10 years later, the Soviet Union collapsed. A Justice Department historian ran to Lithuania's archives.

"And he found many, many documents signed by Lileikis," Rosenbaum said, "including this one, which is the death warrant for a 6-year-old girl and her mother."

The pair were named Gita and Fruma Kaplan.

And speaking at the museum Tuesday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey began to tell another part of the story.

"No pre-war photos or other documents about this mother and daughter have ever been found. Nor have any family records been identified," Mukasey said.

"All that we know about them is in the court documents — how they had escaped from the ghetto in Vilnius. How they were hidden in the countryside by two brave Lithuanians. How they were discovered and ultimately sent to their deaths by Lileikis.

Gita and Fruma Kaplan were shot in front of a mass grave on Dec. 22, 1941.

More than half a century later, a Massachusetts judge stripped Lileikis of his citizenship and sent him back to Lithuania.

"That decision, which is among those that we are donating today, is Fruma Kaplan's memorial," Mukasey said. "And though she no longer lives, her story does — in these documents, and through them, now in this museum."

The thousands of pages in the donation include documents from more than 100 successful prosecutions of Nazis living in the United States. Some were not public until now.

At an event announcing the handover of the documents to the museum, Fred Zeidman, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, said that these documents become more important with the passage of time.

"Because right now, we are blessed with the authentic witness of the survivors," Zeidman said. "But at some point, we know that these historic documents will be the only authentic witnesses."

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