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William Charles Gray, 24, from Munster, Indiana, always wanted to work for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, but he never knew the methods he learned in law school might assist the veteran Nazi-hunting organization in locating four potential suspects living in the United States.
Gray, who is Professor Alan Dershowitz's research assistant at Harvard Law School, recently volunteered to work as an intern at the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem under a special program sponsored by his university.
One of his tasks was to review a collection of data on suspected Lithuanian Nazi war criminals and collaborators, many of whom had emigrated to the United States and other Anglo-Saxon democracies shortly after the end of World War II. While the center had successfully tracked down the new addresses of quite a few of the suspects, there were still some missing.
Gray employed the techniques he learned in law school and his access to database programs such as LexisNexis, Westlaw, and New Detective that lawyers have at their disposal. He also searched voting records, land transfer documents, professional licenses, and death records.
In Gray's first month he located four potential suspects in America. "I also found one name in the death records, I am just disappointed he won't face justice."
"The investigation process centers on two major elements-finding evidence regarding crimes committed during the Holocaust and research using refugee records to trace the postwar escape of Nazi war criminals. Each element presents specific problems which hamper the efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice," explains the center's Israel director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who also coordinates its Nazi war crimes research worldwide.
"Ultimately, however, it is up to the governmental prosecution agencies to indict and try these criminals and often we encounter a distinct and frustrating lack of political will to proceed which seriously hampers our efforts to hold these criminals accountable for their crimes."
Gray said his desire to volunteer at the Wiesenthal Center comes from his childhood in the Midwest. "As a small-town boy I know the dangers of anti-Semitism from first hand experience, and I know where it leads."
As for Nazis, Gray said, "So many of these people are close to escaping justice that just getting one before God does is worth the effort."
In 2002, Zuroff launched "Operation Last Chance," together with the "Targum Shlishi Foundation" of Miami, headed by philanthropist Aryeh Rubin, which offers financial rewards for information which will facilitate the prosecution and punishment of Nazi war criminals.
To date, it has yielded three arrest warrants, two extradition requests and dozens of new investigations many of which are still being pursued. Within the next few days, a decision is expected in Budapest on the case of Hungarian gendarmerie officer Sandor Kepiro who was twice convicted for his role in the murder of over 1,000 civilians in the city of Novi Sad, Serbia in January 1942 and who was recently exposed by Zuroff living unpunished in the Hungarian capital.
With modern technology, Gray hopes to assist the hard work of the Wiesenthal Center in the search for the suspected criminals.