After the Holocaust
|Atara Arbesfeld||August 12th 2012|
Jonas Pukas, a suspected Nazi war criminal, was interrogated by New Zealand officials in 1992 at age 78. He was a member of the 12th Lithuanian Police Battalion, and was accused of participating in the squad’s mobile killings of European Jews during World War II. The chilling interview will be aired tomorrow on New Zealand’s TV3 in the world premier of the television documentary “Nazi Hunter.”
Before the Holocaust, approximately 220,000 Jews lived in Lithuania. Only months after the Germans invaded in 1941, only 8,000 survived.
Pukas, who immigrated to Auckland, New Zealand after the war and died in 1994 two years after the interview was conducted, laughed as he described the murders of Lithuanian Jews that the battalion rounded them up to be executed by so-called “pit killing,” shooting the victims at the edge of mass graves in the forest.
“The Jews of Minsk screamed like geese,” Pukas is recorded saying about the killings in the documentary’s transcript provided by TV3. “‘Some of the Jews used to scream like that, like the geese.”
Pukas can also be heard laughing when he mimicked the sounds of the birds, adding that the Jews would “fly in air” as they were shot. Despite his cruel apathy, Pukas denies involvement in the massacres. “I only heard the people dying. I did not see it” Pukas said, denying responsibility for the killings. etective Wayne Stringer, now 56, is the subject of the film directed by Alexander Behse and produced by John Keir. He interrogated Pukas as well as other suspects on a list of 47 suspected Nazi war criminals provided by the Simon Weisenthal Center. The 12th Lithuanian Police Battalion, one of history’s most infamous units in war crimes investigation, had numerous members who fled to New Zealand, including Pukas.
The Center accused Pukas, whose name was last on the list, of participating in the mobile killings while he was a member of the battalion. When the authorities contacted him for the investigation, Pukas was reportedly not surprised. Stringer told the UK’s Daily Mail that the Pukas interview is considered to be the main focus of the documentary. “It still haunts me,” Stringer told the British newspaper. “I’m confident Mr. Pukas was a war criminal.”
“Nazi Hunter” recounts Stringer’s travels to the Baltic States where he researched war records from the KGB’s secret archives and visited the sites of the killings in Lithuania and Belarus. Stringer also worked together with war crimes investigators from other countries.
“I got far more emotionally involved in the war crimes investigation than anything else I’d ever done in the police,” Stringer said. Stringer also senses that more than “a handful” of Nazi criminals escaped to New Zealand without ever facing justice for their crimes.
“Coming to countries like New Zealand and Australia and Scotland, these people believed they had escaped justice,” he explained. “But the Germans were great record keepers. They kept records of everything.” Stringer hopes that the noteworthy film will help spread awareness of the history of genocide and its significance in the present. “Genocide is still occurring in all sorts of places around the world. That is why this film is important,” Stringer concluded.
Atara Arbesfeld writes for The Algemeiner, from where this article is adapted.