Awareness campaign sparks probes into alleged Nazi war criminals in Germany

Nazi hunter says that 110 names of suspects — 81 in Germany — have been culled from nearly 300 tips.

Efraim Zuroff 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Efraim Zuroff 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
BERLIN — At least four investigations of possible Nazi-era war criminals have been turned over to German investigators in recent months.
The alleged Nazi war criminals were identified following an awareness campaign by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
“Operation Last Chance II,” launched in 2011 and expanded Monday with a new poster campaign, has yielded hundreds of calls and emails from around the world, said Efraim Zuroff, the organization’s chief Nazi hunter.
Zuroff, based in Jerusalem, told JTA that 110 names of suspects — 81 in Germany — had been culled from nearly 300 tips. At least one tip related to a possible kapo, or camp prisoner forced to work as a guard, is under investigation in Israel.
“We are in the process of trying to find out if it is true,” Zuroff said.
Of the four active cases, two involve alleged concentration camp guards, including a male guard at Dachau and a female guard at Auschwitz; one relates to the 1944 massacre of civilians in Oradur-sur-Glane in France; and the fourth involves a man who allegedly possesses a huge collection of Nazi-era memorabilia and modern weaponry. It is not clear whether the suspect is himself a war criminal, Zuroff said.
Federal prosecutor Kurt Schrimm, head of Germany’s Central Office for Clarification of Nazi Crimes, based in Ludwigsburg, told JTA that an earlier investigation into a suspected former Auschwitz guard living in Israel was dropped this fall when it was learned the suspect had died.
Zuroff has applied to the German Supreme Court to get the name of the individual, with no results.
He said he hoped a new flow of information about other suspects would begin with Monday’s expansion of the campaign to Munich, Nuremberg, Dresden, Leipzig, Rostock and other cities. Some 3,000 posters are due to go up in the coming days.
The response to the ad campaign — with the slogan “Late but not too late” — is already “way beyond our expectations,” Zuroff said. “It proves that the poster struck a very strong nerve in German society.”
In addition to tips, at least 70 requests came from individuals and museums for copies of the oversized poster.