Seven countries flunk Nazi prosecution efforts

The report summarizes the achievements in tracking Holocaust perpetrators over the past year.

Nazi war criminals 298 (photo credit: )
Nazi war criminals 298
(photo credit: )
Seven countries received failing grades, with Austria called an "absolute disaster," in the Simon Wiesenthal Center's sixth Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals for their efforts to prosecute Nazi war criminals. Estonia, Norway, Romania, Sweden, Syria, and Ukraine also received F, the lowest mark possible. The report, issued Sunday, covers the period spanning April 1, 2005, to March 31, 2006, summarizing the achievements in tracking Holocaust perpetrators and bringing them to justice over the past year. Its aim was to "encourage all the governments involved to maximize their efforts to ensure that as many as possible of the unprosecuted Holocaust perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes," said the report's author and Israel director of the Center, Dr. Efraim Zuroff. Austria was singled out for continued failure to take successful legal action against Holocaust perpetrators living there. The report details Austria's refusal to prosecute Erna Wallisch, who served as a guard at the Majdanek concentration camp, and its failure to extradite Milivoj Asner, who as police chief in Pozega, Croatia, played an important role in the persecution and murder of hundreds of Jews, Serbs and Gypsies. The report also highlighted the refusal by Lithuanian courts to punish convicted Security Police operative Algimantas Dailide, as well as the decision by the Estonian prosecution not to indict Political Police operative Harry Mannil, calling that decision "unwarranted." It also denounced the continued in-principle refusal by Sweden and Norway to investigate Nazi war criminals because of existing statutes of limitation. According to the report, investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals have been undertaken in 15 countries, including Germany, Austria and Poland. Sixteen convictions were obtained over the past year, an increase of 11 from the previous year. Most of those convicted either participated in atrocities against civilians in Italy or served at concentration camps in Poland and Germany. Forty-eight convictions were obtained from January 1, 2001, through March 31 of this year. Dozens of new investigations were also opened. The report graded 44 countries on their efforts to investigate and prosecute Nazi war criminals on a scale of A to F, A categorized as a highly successful program assigned to countries that have adopted a proactive stance. The United States was the only country to receive an A. B signified an ongoing investigation and prosecution program that achieved practical success and was given to countries that took necessary measures to enable investigation and prosecution of war criminals. Croatia and Italy were given Bs. Lithuania was awarded a B in the area of prosecution. A C was given to countries that achieved minimal success in the past year. In these countries, there were no convictions or indictments over the past year but there are ongoing cases in litigation or newly opened investigations with serious potential for prosecution. Countries that received a C grade were Australia, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Latvia and Poland. Countries assigned a D grade made insufficient or unsuccessful efforts towards investigation and prosecution. Bosnia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Finland, France, Great Britain, Holland, New Zealand, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain were given Ds for failing to achieve practical results in the past year. An F constituted total failure, whereby countries refused in principle to investigate or prosecute suspected Nazi war criminals. Generally, Zuroff described politics as the principal obstacle to investigation and prosecution efforts. Many countries "lack the political will" to deal with the issue of surviving Nazi war criminals, Zuroff said. Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, the Czech Republic, Greece, Luxembourg, Paraguay, Russia, Uruguay, Venezuela and Yugoslavia were all assigned an X because they didn't respond to the Wiesenthal Center's inquiry. The report also listed the 10 most prominent cases of Nazi war criminals and gave their current status and location. The top case is that of Alois Brunner, currently in Syria, who was a key operative of Adolf Eichmann's and was responsible for the deportation of Jews from Austria, Greece, France and Slovakia. Zuroff used the report to challenge the assertion that it is too late to investigate and prosecute living Nazi war criminals. "Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise," he said.