Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary, touted to be the "most wanted living Nazi," at the time of his arrest in July 2012
, has died while awaiting trial in a Hungarian hospital, his lawyer said Monday.
Csatary, 98, who always denied the accusations, died of pneumonia in a Budapest hospital on Saturday, lawyer Gabor Horvath told Reuters.
Cstary was charged in June
by Hungarian prosecutors with beating and whipping Jews as the police commander of the Kassa internment camp before sending about 12,000 in 1944 to be murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz and other death camps.
According to Jerusalem’s Wiesenthal Center, Csatary had a key role in the deportation of 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz.
A Czechoslovak court sentenced Csatary to death in absentia in 1948 for war crimes. At the time, Csatary had already fled to Canada, which stripped him of his Canadian citizenship in 1997 and forced him to return to his native Hungary.
The town in what is now Slovakia, Kassa, from where Csatary deported Jews to their deaths, was then located in Hungary.
Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff, of the Simon Wiesenthal center, who tracked Csatary down to a suburb of Budapest late last year, told The Jerusalem Post
shortly after the arrest took place that he was overjoyed by the news.
“Hallelujah,” he said. “You can’t understand what this means to me. It is a great victory and a very important one.”
However, Zuroff expressed deep disappointment on Monday at the news that Csatary had died prior to his trial.
He noted that Csatary had been living in Hungary for more than fifteen years, until his current whereabouts were brought to the attention of the Hungarian authorities by the Wiesenthal Center.
According to Zuroff: "The fact that a well-known war criminal whose Nazi past was exposed in Canada could live undisturbed for so long in the Hungarian capital raises serious questions as to the commitment of the Hungarian authorities to hold their own Holocaust criminals accountable. It is a shame that Csatary, a convicted (in Czechoslovakia in 1948) and totally unrepentant Holocaust perpetrator who was finally indicted in his homeland for his crimes, ultimately eluded justice and punishment at the very last minute."JTA contributed to this report.