Cover Story: The Last Nazi Hunter

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Criminals, hiding from justice for heinous acts they committed a lifetime ago.

Men and women who abused, raped, tortured, and killed--now doing everything in their power to disappear into normal communities, and live what look like normal lives.

Some of their victims are your neighbors.

And those victims have an ally--a man who's spent his life hunting down Nazi War Criminals.  Some of these crimes were committed in the 19-30s.

But shouldn't matter says Erfaim Zuroff when bringing someone to justice.

How many could there be out there- those who committed crimes or helped the Nazis?  He says hundreds of thousands of people.  He's known as the Last Nazi Hunter.

"The easiest thing to say is that I'm a Nazi hunter. I think a more accurate description would be a truth warrior."

He's fighting for the truth of history to be told and remembered about the destruction of Jews in Europe during World War Two, the six million annihilated in the Holocaust.

He's known as the Last Nazi Hunter, Efraim Zuroff.

"My fantasy actually as a child was to be the first Orthodox Jew to play in the NBA," he said. "But unfortunately I wasn't anywhere good enough to make the NBA."

Born in Brooklyn 61 years ago to American-born parents, it was what happened in Europe with Jews he never knew - that horrified him and committed him to his life's work:  Seeking out and bringing to justice any and all involved in Nazi genocide.

"We work opposite of the police. Police start with a crime and they try and see who committed it. We don't have time for that.  We only work on cases in which there's a specific allegation.. and then we have to decide if the allegation is serious."

Author of the book "Operation Last Chance: One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice" Zuroff knows anyone still alive today who was there would be in their 80s.

That he says shouldn't matter.

"Unprosecuted Nazis is like a form of moral pollution. It's basically saying society has failed.. because the unwritten contract between government and people is that we'll protect you if someone harms you or tries to harm you we'll hold them accountable."

He figures there could be hundreds of thousands who participated in the work done inside Nazi concentration camps and who held entire communities in ghettos.  Locals he says often worked for and with the Nazis.

"I tell them the story of my survival. I was a child."  Suly Chenkin, one of eight Holocaust survivors living in Charlotte, says the work Zuroff and others are doing tracking Nazi war criminals rights years of wrongs but even if not all are not apprehended knowing that there are hunters out there accomplishes something.

She says, "In my book I think what the justice is these people have to live their life as afraid as we were. You see?  Think that their next door neighbor.. thing is going to be apprehended and brought to justice. I think there is Divine Providence in that."

Zuroff is in Charlotte this week.  Monday night he spoke at the Jewish Community Center in South Charlotte.. his appearance sponsored by Congregation Ohr HaTorah and the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte.

How many has he personally brought to justice?  About 30.  He says never did any of them express any regret or remorse.

He's not the only one of course out seeking Nazis, a number of governments not have departments that take information.. investigate and in some cases prosecute.

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