Lithuanian hoops team’s Nazi “prize”: Ten Jews to kill

March 04, 2004

CONTENTS

1. Lithuanian hoops team's Nazi 'prize': ten Jews to kill. Now Israeli basketball teams set to play in Vilnius.
2. Woman to face trial in Germany next month for bombing bus in Hungary in 1991 carrying Soviet Jews en route to Israel.
3. The Swiss government yesterday finally pardoned a 79-year-old woman who was briefly imprisoned by the Swiss for helping Jews during World War II.
4. New Jewish museum set to open in Copenhagen.
5. Romanian government, that last year denied Holocaust, today to lay wreath at Yad Vashem.



[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach four articles from recent days connected to European Jewish issues, with summaries first for those who don't have time to read them in full.

SUMMARIES

1. "Lithuanian hoops team's Nazi 'prize': ten Jews to kill" (By Mike Lebowitz, The Jerusalem Post, March 2, 2004). "In 1941, a Lithuanian basketball team was awarded a prize for its victory over a team comprised of members from the occupying German military - each player was given the opportunity to shoot about 10 Jews... After the match, each player accepted the prize. The team herded Jewish residents near a tower, where each player took their turn shooting about 10 people...

Next week, the names of two suspected members of that Lithuanian team are expected be presented to a special prosecutor in Vilnius. These events coincidentally come at a time when Israeli basketball teams travel to the Baltic nation in matches that, in the [recent] past, have been marred by expressions of anti-Semitism.

"It is so horrifying that the prize for winning a basketball game was to murder innocent men, women, and children," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office. "This certainly does add a different dimension and a certain resonance to the games being played now." Zuroff said the two suspects are brothers living in the US, with at least one of the siblings residing in Waterbury, Connecticut.

...Zuroff said Lithuania has not punished a Nazi-era criminal since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The only person convicted for the murder of Jews was Kazys Gimzauskas, last February, but he was not jailed because he has Alzheimer's disease. Gimzauskas's superior officer in those crimes died of a heart attack before his sentencing. Still, Lithuanian prosecutor Rimvydas Valentukevicius maintained that a "historical justice had been done" and vowed to continue prosecuting the criminals."

[The full article is below. Please note that Dr Efraim Zuroff is a long-time subscriber to this email list. 90 percent of Lithuania's nearly 220,000 Jews were killed during World War II. The Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team is set to play next Tuesday night in Vilnius in a ULEB Cup match. Maccabi Tel Aviv is scheduled for a basketball game March 11 in the Lithuanian capital as part of the Euroleague tournament.]

2. "Woman faces trial for bombing bus carrying Soviet Jews" (The Associated Press, March 1, 2004). "A suspected former Red Army Faction terrorist will go on trial next month [in Stuttgart, Germany] on charges of helping plan and carry out a 1991 bomb attack on a busload of Soviet Jews in Hungary, a court in southwestern Germany announced Monday. Andrea Klump is charged with 33 counts of attempted murder and setting off a bomb, and could face a life prison sentence if convicted... Klump, 46, is accused of bombing the bus in Budapest, Hungary, on June 23, 1991 along with accomplice Horst Ludwig Meyer, who was shot and killed by police in Vienna, Austria in 1999, and at least one other unknown accomplice. The trial will open April 22, the state court in Stuttgart announced. A verdict is expected in September..."

3. "Swiss Pardon WWII-Era Smuggler of Jews" (The Associated Press, March 3, 2004). "The Swiss government today pardoned a 79-year-old woman who was convicted of smuggling Jewish refugees into Switzerland during World War II. Aimee Stitelmann is the first person to benefit from a new law that pardons anyone imprisoned or fined for helping Jews get into Switzerland during the war. The law does not allow for compensation to be paid. Between 1942 and 1945, Stitelmann helped 15 refugees cross the border secretly from France to Switzerland to escape the Nazis... Stitelmann was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment in 1945 for violating Switzerland's border laws. Another 27 requests are pending under the law, said lawmaker Francoise Saudan, who heads the parliamentary commission that considers pardons."

4. "New Jewish museum set to open in Copenhagen" (The Associated Press, March 1, 2004). "A foundation created by the late pianist and satirist Victor Borge has donated $250,000 to the construction of a Jewish Museum in the Danish capital, museum director Janne Laursen said Monday. The museum, to open June 8, will tell the history of Danish Jews through books, manuscripts, religious and everyday objects. The museum design was created by U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind. Born in Copenhagen in 1909 as Boerge Rosenbaum, Borge (who was Jewish) fled to New York in 1940 when Denmark was occupied by the Nazis... The Danish Ministry of Culture has contributed 9 million kroner (US$1.5 million) to the museum, which is also supported by private foundations and donors."

5. A follow up to my dispatches last year concerning the Holocaust denial of the present Romanian government: Today, March 4, 2004, the Romanian Minister of Education, Research, and Youth, Alexandru Athanasiu, is to tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and museum in Jerusalem. Accompanying the Minister will be the Director General of the Ministry and the official responsible for educational programs in Romania. Following widespread criticism about their government's Holocaust denial last year, they will today lay a wreath in memory of the hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews murdered by the Romanian wartime Fascist government in collaboration with the Nazis. Yad Vashem is helping develop content for a new Romanian-language book on teaching the Holocaust. [Information courtesy of staff at Yad Vashem, who are subscribers to this email list.]

 



FULL ARTICLES

LITHUANIAN HOOPS TEAM'S NAZI 'PRIZE': TEN JEWS TO KILL

Lithuanian hoops team's Nazi 'prize': ten Jews to kill
By Mike Lebowitz
The Jerusalem Post
March 2, 2004

In 1941, a Lithuanian basketball team was awarded a dubious prize for its victory over a team comprised of members from the occupying German military - each player was given the opportunity to shoot about 10 Jews.

Next week, the names of two suspected members of that Lithuanian team are expected be presented to a special prosecutor in Vilnius.

These events coincidentally come at a time when Israeli basketball teams travel to the Baltic nation in matches that, in the past, have been marred by expressions of anti-Semitism.

"It is so horrifying that the prize for winning a basketball game was to murder innocent men, women, and children," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office. "This certainly does add a different dimension and a certain resonance to the games being played now."

Although exact information is not available for the public, Zuroff said the two suspects are brothers living in the US, with at least one of the siblings residing in Waterbury, Connecticut.

"They are both in their early 80s," Zuroff said. "You have to keep in mind that these men were very young when this crime occurred. I'm sure many, not all, but many people in Lithuania remember this. Who would have thought that 56 years later we would discover that the likely perpetrators are living in the US."

The events surrounding the basketball game were detailed in a 1948 book by Josef Gar, a Lithuanian.

The book describes how the champion-caliber Lithuanian team engaged in a contest against the Germans in a town near the capital of Vilnius.

After the match, the victorious team was told that it had won the right to kill some Jews. According to the book, each player accepted the prize. The team reportedly herded Jewish residents near a tower, where each player took their turn shooting about 10 people.

Statistics indicate that approximately 90 percent of Lithuania's nearly 220,000 Jews were killed during World War II.

After offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the prosecution and punishment of people suspected of murdering Lithuanian Jews, the Simon Wiesenthal Center received 198 names, and 144 were credible enough to pursue, including the two brothers, Zuroff said.

"A man who remembers the basketball game recently saw an interview in the Canadian/Lithuanian press and then tracked them down," he said.

Zuroff said Lithuania has not punished a Nazi-era criminal since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The only person convicted for the murder of Jews was Kazys Gimzauskas, last February, but he was not jailed because he has Alzheimer's disease. Gimzauskas's superior officer in those crimes died of a heart attack before his sentencing.

Still, Lithuanian prosecutor Rimvydas Valentukevicius maintained that a "historical justice had been done" and vowed to continue prosecuting the criminals.

To date, basketball and other sports continue to attract anti-Semitic rhetoric in Lithuania, often when local teams play clubs from Israel. For example, in March 2002, fans in Vilnius chanted "Jews get out" and other Nazi slogans as many waved Palestinian flags during a basketball game with an Israeli team. Similar reactions took place at two soccer matches in August 2001 between a Vilnius team and Maccabi Tel Aviv.

"These chants were even heard on TV, but still the security at the game did nothing," said Simonas Alperavicius, a Jewish community leader in Lithuania.

Lithuanian officials, responding to public rebukes from Alperavicius, said at the time that the commotion was caused by a "small number of fans" and that measures would be taken to avoid any more displays of anti-Semitism at sporting events.

The Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team is set to play next Tuesday night in Vilnius in a ULEB Cup match. Maccabi Tel Aviv is scheduled for a basketball game March 11 in the Lithuanian capital as part of the Euroleague tournament.

 

WOMEN FACES TRIAL FOR BOMBING BUS CARRYING SOVIET JEWS

Woman faces trial for bombing bus carrying Soviet Jews
The Associated Press
March 1, 2004

A suspected former Red Army Faction terrorist will go on trial next month on charges of helping plan and carry out a 1991 bomb attack on a busload of Soviet Jews in Hungary, a court in southwestern Germany announced Monday.

Andrea Klump is charged with 33 counts of attempted murder and setting off a bomb, and could face a life prison sentence if convicted. She already is serving a nine-year sentence in Germany for helping plan the failed 1988 bombing of a Spanish disco frequented by U.S. seamen.

Klump, 46, is accused of bombing the bus in Budapest, Hungary, on June 23, 1991 along with accomplice Horst Ludwig Meyer, who was shot and killed by police in Vienna, Austria in 1999, and at least one other unknown accomplice. The explosion injured two Hungarian police officers and four passengers on the bus, who were headed for a flight to Israel.

The trial will open April 22, the state court in Stuttgart announced. A verdict is expected in September.

Klump is accused of carrying out the bombing for a Palestinian group, "Movement for the Freedom of Jerusalem," which claimed responsibility for the attack. Investigators found DNA evidence in 2001 linking Klump to a Budapest apartment at the time of the attack.

Klump has denied the charges. She also has insisted that she never belonged to the RAF, which launched more than two decades of attacks against NATO and industrial targets in Germany until renouncing violence in 1992. The group declared itself disbanded in 1998.

 

SWISS PARDON WWII-ERA SMUGGLER OF JEWS

Swiss Pardon WWII-Era Smuggler of Jews
The Associated Press
March 3, 2004

The Swiss government on Wednesday pardoned a 79-year-old woman who was convicted of smuggling Jewish refugees into Switzerland during World War II.

Aimee Stitelmann is the first person to benefit from a new law that pardons anyone imprisoned or fined for helping Jews get into Switzerland during the war. The law does not allow for compensation to be paid.

Between 1942 and 1945, Stitelmann helped 15 refugees cross the border secretly from France to Switzerland to escape the Nazis. She would slip into France and return the refugees to Switzerland across an unguarded stretch of the border or by train with false papers.

Stitelmann was sentenced to 15 days imprisonment in 1945 for violating Switzerland's border laws.

Another 27 requests are pending under the law, said lawmaker Francoise Saudan, who heads the parliamentary commission that considers pardons.

Some 300,000 people were sheltered in Switzerland between 1938 and 1945, but many thousands more were turned away at the border. Helping rejected refugees to enter the country was a criminal offense.

The Swiss government has already apologized to Jews for its World War II policies.

 

NEW JEWISH MUSEUM SET TO OPEN IN COPENHAGEN

New Jewish museum set to open in Copenhagen
The Associated Press
March 1, 2004

A foundation created by the late pianist and satirist Victor Borge has donated $250,000 to the construction of a Jewish Museum in the Danish capital, museum director Janne Laursen said Monday.

The museum, to open June 8, will tell the history of Danish Jews through books, manuscripts, religious and everyday objects.

"According to his daughter Sanna Feirstein, Borge was thrilled with the idea of the opening of the Jewish Museum in Copenhagen," Laursen said.

The museum design was created by U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind, who also designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the master plan for the memorial World Trade Center site in New York.

The Danish Ministry of Culture has contributed 9 million kroner (US$1.5 million) to the museum, which is also supported by private foundations and donors.

Born in Copenhagen in 1909 as Boerge Rosenbaum, Borge graduated from the Danish Royal Academy of Music and studied in Vienna, Austria, and in Berlin.

He performed in several stage revues and four Danish movies before fleeing to New York in 1940 when Denmark was occupied by the Nazis.

In the United States, he gained fame for his witty satire and brilliant pianist skills.

He kept close ties to his motherland and his Jewish heritage until his death in 2000 at the age 91.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.