Hungarians receive more proof against Kepiro

Zuroff first exposed Kepiro's whereabouts last year, has spearheaded campaign to bring him to justice.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has presented Hungarian authorities with newly uncovered "legal proofs" against a top Hungarian war criminal who was never punished for his crimes, the organization said Wednesday. A Tuesday meeting in Budapest between the organization's top Nazi hunter and the Hungarian prosecutor in charge of the investigation came one month after the publication of a controversial Hungarian court decision not to enforce a past conviction of a top Hungarian war criminal for war crimes he committed during World War II. Sandor Kepiro, 93, was convicted in a Hungarian court for war crimes during World War II but was never punished for his crimes. The recent Budapest Municipal Court ruling not to take action against Kepiro was lambasted by the Wiesenthal Center as an outrageous travesty of justice. The organization's chief Nazi hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff had first exposed the war criminal's whereabouts last year and had spearheaded a public campaign to mete out punishment. Kepiro was convicted in 1944 for his role in the murder of 1,246 civilians in the city of Novi Sad in January 1942, when he served as a gendarme with a Hungary Army unit allied with Nazi Germany, the Wiesenthal Center said last year. After details of the massacres in the region - which Hungary had annexed as a prize for its collaboration with Nazi Germany - were revealed, Kepiro was sentenced to 10 years in jail in 1944 for his role in the killings. But after the Nazi invasion of Hungary, Kepiro was cleared by a Nazi-dominated military tribunal which acquitted him and restored his ranks. He went on to become the highest ranking gendarmerie officer in the city and participated in the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz, the Wiesenthal Center said. After the war, Kepiro escaped to Austria, where he lived for three years. The center had originally said Kepiro was also tried in absentia by a Communist people's court in 1946 and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, but subsequently said this second conviction was uncertain. Zuroff said Wednesday that the newly uncovered documents showed that Kepiro had indeed been convicted a second time. "The confirmation that Kepiro was convicted a second time in Hungary reinforces the necessity of punishing him for his responsibility for crimes committed during the Holocaust," Zuroff said. "We have offered our fullest cooperation to the Hungarian authorities in this case and urged them to expedite their efforts to bring this arrogant war criminal to justice at long last," he added. After the war, Kepiro moved to Argentina, where he lived for nearly half a century before returning to Budapest last decade. Kepiro has denied the allegations against him, asserting that while he was present at the Novi Sad massacres, it was Hungarian soldiers, and not gendarmes like him, who did the shooting.