More probes of Nazi suspects opened

But number of convictions decreases; report blasts "abject failure" to prosecute in Eastern Europe.

wiesenthal 224 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
wiesenthal 224 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The number of investigations opened on suspected Nazi war criminals has tripled in the last year, but the number of convictions has decreased by two-thirds, according to a report released on Wednesday. More than 200 investigations were initiated between April 1, 2007, and March 31, 2008, compared to 63 a year earlier, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center's seventh annual report found. At the same time, the number of convictions dropped from 21 to seven. Since 2001, 76 Nazi war criminals have been convicted, at least 48 indictments have been filed, and hundreds of new investigations have been initiated, the report said. Dr. Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center's Israel director and chief Nazi-hunter, who authored the report, noted that the statistics clearly show that a significant measure of justice can still be achieved against the war criminals. "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 such criminals will continue to be brought to trial during the coming years," Zuroff said. "While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution," he said, "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." The report aims to focus attention on Nazi criminals still at large. It also intends to encourage governments to maximize their efforts to bring to justice as many unprosecuted Holocaust perpetrators as possible. For the second straight year, the document heaped praise on the United States and Italy for prosecuting suspected war criminals, while blasting the "abject failure" of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine for continuously failure to bring any Holocaust perpetrators to justice. The report also lambasts Sweden for allegedly refusing to investigate and prosecute Nazi war criminals due to a statue of limitations, and condemns Syria - where a senior Nazi, Alois Brunner, lived for decades - for ignoring the issue altogether. Finally, Hungary is chastised for a failure to bring to justice a former Hungarian gendarmerie officer, Dr. Sandor Kepiro, for the murder of hundreds of civilians in Novi Sad, Serbia, on January 23, 1942. Kepiro, who was convicted but never punished, was found by the Wiesenthal Center to be living in Budapest in the summer of 2006. The case is currently under investigation.