Meet the 'Most Hated Jew' in Lithuania

Efraim Zuroff is known as 'the last Nazi hunter'
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 17, 2016 2:36 PM CDT
Meet the 'Most Hated Jew' in Lithuania
Efraim Zuroff   (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Efraim Zuroff is the "most hated Jew in Lithuania," and proud of it. Zuroff, known as the last Nazi hunter, gained that reputation through his efforts to get Lithuania to "admit its complicity" in the Holocaust, he says. Collaborating with occupying Nazis, Lithuania killed 90%—by some accounts more—of the 250,000 Jews who who lived in the country in 1941, including Zuroff's great-uncle. But still, "not a single Lithuanian sat one day in jail," Zuroff tells writer Stav Ziv. Writing in Newsweek, Ziv explores Zuroff's efforts to hold Lithuania accountable for its role in the Holocaust and tells the story of the unlikely partnership between Zuroff and Lithuanian writer Ruta Vanagaite that resulted in the 2016 book, Our People: Journey With an Enemy. The book not only cemented Zuroff's "vile reputation in Lithuania" but also, "in some quarters … made Vanagaite the country's most despised daughter," Ziv writes.

Zuroff—who grew up in New York, but has lived in Israel for more than 40 years—is seen as a "freelance Nazi hunter." He directs the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In some cases, he is able to bring war criminals to justice; other times he just exposes them or advocates for investigations. Sometimes collaborators stand trial but avoid conviction or punishment. Zuroff's critics say he is driven by his ego; and others say the time for prosecuting war criminals from the 1940s—many dead or old—has passed. But, he tells Ziv, "the passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers." The book, Our People, chronicles Zuroff and Vanagaite's 2015 road trip of Holocaust mass murder sites in Lithuania. He calls the journey "emotionally horrifying." She says of the book, “I have lost already a couple of friends because … they think I’m betraying my people, betraying my country." Read the whole story here. (More Holocaust stories.)

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