Despite the more than 60 years that have passed since the Holocaust, the number of Nazi war criminals being convicted is on the rise, a report released Thursday by the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles shows.
Nineteen Nazi war criminals were convicted over the last year, up from 16 a year earlier and five the year before that, according to the center's seventh annual report. Fourteen of the 19 Nazis found guilty last year were convicted in absentia in Italy.
"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 numerous cases of such criminals will continue to come to trial during the coming years," said Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the group's chief Nazi-hunter and author of the document.
The report slams Germany, Austria and Poland for failing to achieve "any progress" against the war criminals over the last year despite hundreds of cases under investigation.
"While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution, in many cases it is the lack of political will, more than anything else, that has hindered the efforts to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice, along with the mistaken notion that it was impossible at this point to locate, identify, and convict these criminals," Zuroff said.
The center commends Italy for becoming the second most successful country, after the United States, in the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, even if the Italian convictions were carried out in absentia and the criminals have yet to be extradited or to serve jail terms.
The report, which covers the period between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007, aims to focus public attention on the issue and to encourage all the governments involved to maximize their efforts to ensure that as many as possible of the Holocaust perpetrators who have not been prosecuted will be held accountable for their crimes.
While heaping praise on the United States and Italy, the report condemns the "abject failures" of countries like Austria, Germany, Poland and Canada, which failed to bring any Nazi suspects to justice during the period under review.
The report notes that Sweden and Norway refuse to investigate Nazi war criminals due to a statute of limitations, faults Syria for ignoring the issue, and blasts the Lithuanian and Latvian governments for failing to deal with the issue, primarily due to a lack of requisite political will.
Other countries that were cited for poor performances on the issue include Australia, Croatia, Estonia, Great Britain and Ukraine.
The report also listed the 10 most wanted Nazi war criminals, and their whereabouts, if known.
Topping the list is Alois Brunner, a key operative for Adolf Eichmann who was responsible for the deportations of tens of thousands of Jews to death camps. Convicted in absentia by France, he has been living in Syria for decades.
Brunner is followed on the list by Dr. Aribert Heim, a doctor in various concentration camps who is suspected of murdering hundreds of Mauthausen camp inmates by lethal injection.
Heim disappeared in 1962 prior to planned prosecution; his whereabouts are unknown but the report cites "strong evidence" that he is still alive.
Ivan Demjanjuk, who was ordered deported from the US and is under investigation in Poland, is third on the list.
Milivoj Asner, a former police chief in Croatia who has recently been uncovered and indicted by Croatia is fourth on the list. Austria has refused a Croatian request for his extradition, the report states.
The remaining suspects on the list - and whose whereabouts are known - include Dr. Sandor Kepiro (Hungary), Mikhail Gorshkow (Estonia), Erna Wallisch (Austria), Soeren Kam (Germany), Karoly "Charles" Zentai (Australia), Algimantas Dailide (Germany), Algimantas Dailide (Germany) and Harry Mannil (Venezuela).