Wiesenthal Center praises German effort to prosecute Nazis

Change in Germany’s policy “has led to renewed efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice.

April 12, 2010 12:00
2 minute read.
Dr. Ephraim Zuroff

Dr. Ephraim Zuroff311. (photo credit: AP)


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On the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Jerusalem-based Dr. Efraim Zuroff, released the center’s annual report on the state of international efforts to locate and prosecute the last known Nazi war criminals worldwide.

Topping the report is what Zuroff calls “the welcome change in German policy, the willingness to prosecute non-Germans and the willingness to prosecute non-officers.”

This new policy, he says, has led to successes this year in the form of the prosecution of retired American auto worker and alleged Nazi extermination camp guard Ivan Demjanjuk, and convicted Dutch Waffen-SS volunteer Heinrich Boere.

The change in Germany’s prosecution policy “has led to renewed efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice which during the past year led to the initiation of two new trials, an indictment, and numerous new investigations, the best results ever achieved by Germany” since the end of the 20th century, according to the report.

Demjanjuk, Boere and Harry Mannil all dropped off the Wiesenthal Center’s top-10 list of most wanted Nazi war criminals this year, having held positions 1, 6 and 10 respectively. Mannil, a Venezuelan-Estonian businessman and alleged murderer of Jews during the German occupation of Estonia in 1941, died in January in Costa Rica.

According to the Wiesenthal Center, at least 77 convictions, 51 new indictments and hundreds of new investigations have been filed against Nazi war criminals around the world since January 2001.

“Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise, and it is clear that at least several such criminals will to be brought to trial during the coming years,” Zuroff said.

The report grades countries based on their willingness and success in pursuing and prosecuting former Nazis. In the report, the United States and Germany get an “A,” Serbia a “B” and many other states a “D” or below. At the bottom, refusing in principle to pursue Nazi war crime suspects, are Norway, Sweden (which invokes a statute of limitations) and Syria (which ignores the issue despite allegedly housing notorious Adolf Eichmann protégé Alois Brunner).

The center also criticized east European states for “lacking political will” in bringing Nazi war criminals to justice.

“The campaign led by the Baltic countries to distort the history of the Holocaust and obtain official recognition that the crimes of Communism [as] equal to those of the Nazis is another major obstacle to the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes of the Shoa,” Zuroff said.

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