Zuroff takes on The Mascot

February 8, 2013 Agencies
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The director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem has intervened in the controversial case of Alex Kurzem, whose miraculous survival story during WWII as a Nazi mascot has been the subject of ongoing debate for four years.

The book

The book

Dr Efraim Zuroff wrote to officials last week at the Claims Conference, which has been giving reparations to Kurzem since 1999, saying that all the evidence “points to a scam,” Haaretz reported.

In a letter to executive vice president Greg Schneider, chairman Julius Berman and ombudsman Shmuel Hollander, Zuroff wrote:  “Everything in this case appears to point to a scam, but only a comprehensive investigation can finally determine whether Kurzem is indeed a Holocaust survivor, which I very much doubt, or an impostor whose main motivation was to gain fortune and fame by distorting his unusual wartime experiences.”

Zuroff’s intervention came just after the Claims Conference upgraded its investigation into Kurzem by handing over the controversial case to its ombudsman.

Shmuel Hollander is now sifting through a dossier of claims, including those by two American investigators – Drs Barry Resnick and Colleen Fitzpatrick – who have been dubious about Kurzem’s miraculous story since they saw a feature on him on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program in 2009.

Kurzem, who lives in Melbourne, claims he witnessed his mother, brother and sister being massacred in 1941 in Koidanov before escaping and being adopted by a Latvian SS guard who gave him a new name (Uldis Kurzemnieks) and made him his battalion’s mascot.

They do not dispute he was a child mascot. But they do contest his claim that he witnessed his family being murdered and that he was born a Jew.

Kurzem maintains his innocence, denying any involvement in defrauding the Claims Conference to the tune of about $50,000 since 1999, according to Haaretz. He also stands by his story that he was born a Jew by the name of Ilya Galperin, even though he could not remember his name until it was confirmed to him by the Jewish survivors’ society in Minsk in the 1990s. But the two Americans contest the affidavit that was signed confirming his name and say there are too many inconsistencies and inaccuracies in his story.

Kurzem’s incredible story has been told in a bestselling book and award-winning film – both titled “The Mascot” and written by his now-deceased son Mark.

The Claims Conference, which was recently embroiled in a mass fraud of almost $60 million, said it was treating the investigation with the “utmost of seriousness”, according to the newspaper report.


4 Responses to “Zuroff takes on The Mascot”
  1. Shirlee says:

    He is admitting guilt by refusing a DNA test.

    The innocent have nothing to hide.

  2. Barry says:

    @Lynne Newington –

    Alex Kurzem has agreed to take a DNA test, but he wants to be paid $100,000 as reported in the May 20, 2011 Melbourne Herald-Sun article by investigative reporter Keith Moor.

    In subsequent interviews he has stated he was not serious about his request for payment, but he continues to refuse to take the test. Reporter Moor has a sample DNA kit in his possession and has offered to conduct the test himself.

  3. Lynne Newington says:

    What happened to DNA testing?

  4. Barry says:

    Claims Conference vice president Greg Schneider was well aware of the Alex Kurzem case since June 2009. However, it was only recently when Haaretz reporter Dan Goldberg began asking tough questions that Mr. Schneider decided to handle the matter with the “utmost seriousness”.

    Barry Resnick
    Orange, CA

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