‘Nazi in the Catskills’

Reference: Jewish Journal

By J.J. Goldberg

December 9, 1999

Ellenville, N.Y., is a little village in the Catskills, population 4,200, located 90 miles northwest of New York City. It’s the heart of what used to be the Borscht Belt, before Jews discovered Aspen and Antigua. Times have changed, but Ellenville still boasts a couple of grand kosher resort hotels and a brace of tiny bungalow colonies catering to Jewish families fleeing New York’s summer heat.

Now it turns out that the owner of one of Ellenville’s most popular bungalow colonies is a suspected Nazi war criminal. Federal prosecutors charged last month that Mykola Wasylyk, 76, had served as an armed guard in two SS slave-labor camps in his native Poland during World War II, after receiving training at the notorious Trawniki SS training camp. The U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal court on Nov. 18 to revoke Wasylyk’s U.S. citizenship, saying he lied about his war crimes when he came here in 1949.

It sounds like a scene out of some drugstore thriller, but for attorney Eli Rosenbaum it’s just another day’s work. Rosenbaum, 46, heads up the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI). That’s the unit in charge of hunting down former Nazi war criminals and getting them sent back where they came from.

This is a strange moment in Nazi-hunting. On one hand, there’s more work than ever. Researchers are still digesting evidence newly available from Soviet archives post-Cold War. Huge battles loom with Germany, which is resisting taking back deported Nazis, and with Japan, which hasn’t begun to acknowledge its war crimes and help prosecutors.

At the same time, there’s growing cooperation between Nazi-hunters and the new crop of international war-crimes prosecutors. Much of the expertise at the Bosnian and Rwandan war crimes tribunals comes from government Nazi-hunters.

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