‘Norway unwilling to confront war crimes’

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff says Oslo won't admit to part in war crimes done in Ukraine during World War II.

November 21, 2013 02:23
2 minute read.
Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff 370. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The government of Norway is unwilling to “confront the issue” of crimes allegedly committed by some of its citizens during World War II, said Efraim Zuroff, a Nazi hunter and the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office.

Zuroff spoke with The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday after the cancellation of a planned trip to the Scandinavian nation in which he had hoped to speak with Justice and Public Security Minister Anders Anundsen.

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In October, Olav Tuff, 91, a former Norwegian volunteer in the SS Viking Division, told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) in an interview that he had participated in war crimes in the Ukraine.

Tuff said he and other soldiers of the division, which was composed of conscripts from occupied nations, concentrated hundreds of people inside a church and burned them alive.

“I stood and watched, and there was no one coming out. There was a lot of yelling and screaming, and we could hardly believe what we were a part of. But there was little we could do. We had to do what we were ordered,” Tuff told NRK, according to a transcript published on thelocal.no.

Zuroff said Tuff’s admissions should not have come as a surprise.

“It was very clear that the Viking Division had committed war crimes but until about six weeks ago, none of the Norwegians who served in the unit ever admitted that Norwegians also participated in these war crimes in the Ukraine,” Zuroff said. “This was the first time that anyone spoke openly about the participation in the crimes.”

The Nazi hunter explained that he canceled his trip, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, after being told he would not be able to meet with Anundsen. Zuroff had previously been informed through journalist Eirik Veum, who recently published a book documenting Norwegian participation in the deportation of local Jews to Auschwitz, that government officials were willing to meet with him.

However, he told the Post, “it wasn’t clear who was going to be at the meeting, whether the minister was going to show up, and there was no official confirmation of the meeting, so I decided to postpone my trip.”

Representatives of Anundsen apologized to Zuroff on Tuesday and hinted that the minister would be willing to meet in several months when Zuroff is scheduled to return after researching the role of Norwegians in the Holocaust.

“Our suspicion is that the Norwegians were involved not only in a solitary crime that Olav Tuff admitted and described,” he said. “So the plan is to do the research now for three to four months... and see if we can track down additional witnesses and present a much stronger case to the justice minister to change the law to allow prosecution.”

In response to an inquiry from the Post, Andreas Skjøld- Lorange, a spokesman for the Norwegian Justice Ministry said “Dr. Zuroff was not denied a meeting with the justice minister” and “we have never in any way indicated we would not meet with him.”

“On the contrary,” he said, “the Justice and Public Security Ministry had prepared for a meeting with Dr Zuroff... Unfortunately, due to an misunderstanding within the ministry, this was never conveyed to Dr. Zuroff.

“State Secretary Vidar Brein-Karlsen stated yesterday to Norwegian media that he would meet with The Simon Wiesenthal Center and listen to what Dr. Zuroff has to say.”

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