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November 20, 2003

WIESENTHAL CENTER WELCOMES FINNISH DECISION TO INVESTIGATE WORLD WAR II DEPORTATIONS TO NAZI GERMANY; URGES GOVERNMENT TO APPOINT INDEPENDENT SCHOLARS

The Simon Wiesenthal Center today welcomed the decision of the Finnish government-as reported in the Finnish and international media-to accede to the Center's request to President Tarja Halonen to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the deportation to Nazi Germany during World War II of approximately 3,000 foreigners, among them numerous Soviet Jewish prisoners of war and political officers of the Red Army.

In a statement issued today in Jerusalem by the Center's chief Nazi-hunter Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who wrote to President Halonen earlier this week regarding the need for a full-scale investigation of the events surrounding the deportations, the Center urged the Finnish authorities to choose independent experts-primarily historians, researchers and investigators familiar with the pertinent documentation-to serve on the commission. In addition, Zuroff recommended the addition of foreign scholars with expertise in the history of the Holocaust, and offered the Center's assistance in this project.

According to Zuroff:
"It is extremely important that the members chosen for the commission be independent scholars with the necessary expertise to be able to fully investigate the events connected to the deportations. In that respect, it would not be appropriate for the state institutions involved in these events to examine their own activities.

"We also recommend the inclusion of external scholars with expertise in the history of the Holocaust on the commission and stand ready to the assist the government in carrying out this highly-important project.

"The investigation of these events is likely to prove painful and embarrassing for Finland, which admirably protected its own Jewish citizens from being murdered by Nazi Germany during World War II, but the clarification of these deportations, which had such tragic consequences, is a necessity if Finland seeks to honestly confront its record during the Holocaust."

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