War-crime platoon men living in UK

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN 30 members of the Lithuanian 12th police battalion which killed thousands of civilians and Jews in eastern Europe during the Second World War are believed to be living in Britain.

One, Anton Gecas, 76 - formerly Lt Antanas Gecevicius - a retired coal miner living in Edinburgh, was named in Parliament five years ago as a suspected war criminal, and the war crimes unit in Scotland is investigating him. During a libel action against Scottish TV - where the result is expected next month - he agreed his battalion carried out atrocities while fighting for the Germans, but insists he took no part.

That so many former battalion members entered the UK has been a secret.

One officer from the 12th battalion, Jurdis Juodis, has been tried by the war crimes unit in the United States. He died before US citizenship could be revoked.

The 12th battalion was moved by the Germans from eastern Europe to support their lines against the Allied offensive in Italy. The men in the UK are understood to be from a platoon which surrendered in 1943 or 1944 and became part of the Free Polish Army. They arrived in the UK in the late Forties, apparently with no serious check on their war record.

In evidence to the libel action, Mr Gecas said he was never asked when transferring to the Allies if he had committed war crimes.

The existence of the Lithuanians who came to Britain with the Polish Army was uncovered in Polish Army archives by the Independent and Dr David Ceserani, of the Wiener Institute in London, an authority on immigration procedures after the war.

Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Israel, confirmed that 80 were mentioned in battalion rosters in October 1941, when it was sent from Lithuania to Minsk, Byelorussia, now Belarus.

The War Crimes Act, passed last year, extended jurisdiction for crimes committed on foreign soil to those who have become British citizens subsequently.

Hidden legacy, page 5