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Activist on U.S. delegation surprised by White House disavowal

WASHINGTON—A Ukrainian-American activist who the White House said shouldn't have been on a presidential delegation to Ukraine said he was "shocked and dismayed" at the Bush administration's disavowal of him.

Myron B. Kuropas, who's written that some Jews manipulate the Holocaust for political and financial gain, said in a telephone interview that he worked with Jewish leaders toward reconciliation for 12 years and received an award in 1979 from the American Jewish Committee.

He said he parted ways over the U.S. government's aggressive pursuit of alleged Nazi war criminals in this country, particularly the case of Ukrainian-born retired automaker John Demjanjuk.

"We were able to work on certain issues until the issue of the Demjanjuk trial emerged," said Kuropas, adding that he helped raised $2.5 million for Demjanjuk's defense. "I feel very strongly that the man was maligned."

The Justice Department accused Demjanjuk of being the sadistic guard known as "Ivan the Terrible" at the Nazi death camp in Treblinka and deported him to Israel, where his conviction was overturned as a case of mistaken identity. Now 84, he again faces deportation over accusations that he was a guard at other concentration camps.

Kuropas, who has a column in a Ukrainian-American newspaper, has written that "big money drives the Holocaust industry" and suggested that Jews bear responsibility for the Soviet-era atrocities in Ukraine, including a famine that killed millions.

"I haven't always agreed with Jews. ... I have written about issues where we part company," he said in an interview with Knight Ridder. The Jewish community "has resisted dialogue and they have continued to beat the drum of anti-Semitism."

The White House said Tuesday that, had it been aware of his writings, it wouldn't have invited Kuropas to be part of the official U.S. delegation to last Sunday's inauguration of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

Kuropas, an adjunct professor at Northern Illinois University, said he worked for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign and was asked—he didn't say by whom—to recommend individuals for the delegation. He said he recommended himself and two others.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday that the White House assembled the delegation.

"In terms of how the gentleman came to be on the delegation, I think that's really a White House question. It was a White House delegation," he said.

White House officials have declined to specify who suggested Kuropas.

Kuropas, of DeKalb, Ill., has contributed $1,550 to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's re-election campaigns since 2000, according to Federal Election Commission records.

John Feehery, a spokesman for Hastert, R-Ill., said the congressman didn't know Kuropas personally and that neither he nor his staff played a role in securing his spot on the delegation.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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