Beliefnet
Vilnius, Lithuania, July 8--(AP) A Jewish human rights group announced Monday that it will offer Lithuanians a $10,000 reward for information that helps them track down those suspected of participating in Nazi atrocities during World War II.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said it will publish a plea for information in Lithuanian newspapers this week, with telephone and fax numbers for its office in Jerusalem as well as numbers for the local Jewish community and the prosecutor's office. Similar actions were planned for the neighboring Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia, the group said.

Chief Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff said the project was unveiled in Lithuania to underline the criticism that the former Soviet republic has had a poor record in tracking suspected Nazis and collaborators since it regained independence in 1991. "Prosecution of war crime suspects is very far from satisfactory," he said at a news conference. "I hope these phones will start ringing when we make them public. This offer should change the situation dramatically."

More than 90 percent of Lithuania's 240,000-person prewar Jewish community perished during the 1941-44 Nazi occupation. Historians say hundreds or possibly thousands of Lithuanians collaborated in murdering Jews.

Simonas Alperavicius, a leader of the country's current 5,000-member Jewish community, welcomed the offer, saying any information received could be "crucial in building evidence against those who killed Jews in Lithuania."

Government officials were not available for comment, but member of parliament Kazys Bobelis expressed concern that the offer "may spark a flood of hoax information." "I'm afraid some people may use this to settle scores with someone they dislike," Bobelis said.

After regaining independence in 1991, Lithuania, a nation of 3.5 million people, promised to pursue, indict and try those who participated in the massacre of Jews under Nazi rule, but only one man has been convicted and no suspects have spent time in prison.

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