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FRIDAY, APRIL 15, 1988
committed under the Nazis, Sher said,
"That would have been an offshoot. As an
office charged with enforcing the law,
that's not our primary function. Even
though this case would have been educa-
tional, that's no reason not to have settled
it on the terms it should have been settled
The Biological Clock
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Neal Sher in his Justice Department office.
When Allan Ryan took over as OSI
director in 1980, he told a reporter that
OSI would probably be in existence for
four or five years. When he was cleaning
out his desk 42 months later to take a post
at Harvard, he again estimated that OSI
would probably be around another four or
five years. And now Neal Sher, Ryan's
successor, estimates that the office will last
"another four or five years."
By its very nature, OSI was not intended
to be a long-term operation. Simple
actuarial tables dictate its demise: There
are only so many Nazi criminals extant;
only so many witnesses either still alive or
with sufficiently valid and vivid memories
that would hold up in court.
Exactly how many years are left in OSI's
mandate is uncertain. Elizabeth Holtzman
said that she "had envisioned OSI lasting
as long as its job was done. Its job is
certainly not done now."
Martin Mendelsohn, OSI's first deputy
director and now Washington counsel for
the Simon Wiesenthal Center, noted that
OSI "has been in existence longer than the
U.S. fought in World War II. It may soon
be in existence longer than the Thousand
Year Reich. This is a mopping-up
Has OSI accomplished what it was
created to do? "Do we have Nazis living in
America?" answered Mendelsohn.
But OSI can never prosecute every Nazi
in the U.S. The biological clock is working
against it. In the meantime, OSI will
continue to file about seven new cases a
year — a persistent, but admittedly slow
pace. It will constantly add new names to
its "watch list" — ex-Nazis living outside
the U.S. not allowed into America. Three
weeks ago, for instance, 8,900 names were
placed on the watch list. And Neal Sher
will continue to believe that his office's
mission "is basically the right thing to do.
"This country" he said, "was founded on
the blood and sweat of immigrants. We
gave safe haven to those who were perse-
cuted and we shouldn't be giving safe
haven to those who persecuted them. More
importantly, we're giving everybody full
rights and process.
"Karl Linnas, for example, had his case
reviewed by 17 tribunals in the United
States. It was inappropriate to debate
whether to deport him because he had a
death sentence over his head in the Soviet
Union. American justice spoke. The notion
that it was un-American was absurd. To
say you have no faith in the American
judiciary system is to challenge one of the
bulwarks of our nation. Somehow, there is
a notion that we pick up people in the
streets and ship them on planes in the dark
of night. People who follow this should