Wiesenthal Center Annual Report Points to Importance of Demjanjuk Conviction as Precedent for the Prosecution in Germany of Additional Nazi War Criminals; Three New Names on Center’s Latest Most Wanted List

April 18, 2012

Jerusalem - The Simon Wiesenthal Center today released the initial findings of its eleventh Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals (click on link to download full report), which covers the period from April 1, 2011 until March 31, 2012 and awarded grades ranging from A (highest) to F to evaluate the efforts and results achieved by more than three dozen countries which were either the site of Nazi crimes or admitted Holocaust perpetrators after World War II.

Among the report’s highlights are the following important developments:

1. The most important positive result in a specific case during the period under review was the conviction in Germany in May 2011 of Ivan Demjanjuk for his service as an armed SS guard at the Sobibor death camp in Poland, where approximately 250,000 Jews were murdered from mid-May 1942 to October 14, 1943. Demjanjuk’s conviction set a very important precedent, as it was the first time in German legal history that a Nazi war criminal was convicted without any evidence of a specific crime with a specific victim. The Demjanjuk conviction paves the way, at least in theory, for the prosecution in Germany of any person who served in a death camp or in the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units). This decision prompted the Wiesenthal Center to launch Operation Last Chance II which offers a reward of up to 25,000 euros for information leading to the prosecution and punishment of these criminals.

2. Three new names appear on the on the Center’s latest “Most Wanted” list, starting with number one – Hungarian Laszlo Csatary who as police chief of Kosice (Hungarian-occupied Slovakia) played an important role in the deportation of 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. The others are Vladimir Katriuk (#4), who served as a platoon commander in a Ukrainian Security Police battalion which carried out the mass murder of numerous civilians in Belarus, and Helmut Oberlander who served with Einsatzkommando 10a (part of Einsatzgruppe D) which carried out the mass murder of Jews in southern Ukraine. Both are currently living in Canada. These names replace Sandor Kepiro (#1), Milivoj Asner (#2) and Adam Nagorny (#5) who died during the past year.

3. The most disappointing result in a specific case during the period under review was the acquittal in Budapest on July 18, 2011 of gendarmerie officer Dr. Sandor Kepiro, who was among the officers who organized the mass murder of about 3,300 civilian in the Serbian city of Novi Sad and its vicinity in late January 1942. Judge Bela Varga who ruled in the case claimed that Kepiro was not innocent, but that the prosecution had failed to sufficiently prove his guilt. Kepiro died while the case was being appealed by the prosecution.

4. The lack of political will to bring Nazis war criminals to justice and/or to punish them continues to be the major obstacle to achieving justice, particularly in post-Communist Eastern Europe. The campaign led by the Baltic countries to distort the history of the Holocaust and obtain official recognition that the crimes of the Communists are equal to those of the Nazis is another major obstacle to the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes of the Shoa.

The author of the report, Israel director Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who coordinates the Center’s research on Nazi war criminals worldwide, noted that the statistics in the report clearly show that a significant measure of justice can still be achieved against Nazi war criminals. “During the past eleven years, at least ninety convictions against Nazi war criminals have been obtained, at least seventy-nine new indictments have been filed, and well over three thousand new investigations have been initiated. Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise, and we are trying to ensure that at least several of these criminals will to be brought to trial during the coming years. 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. The success achieved by dedicated prosecution agencies, especially in the United States, Italy and Germany, should be a catalyst for governments all over the world to make a serious effort to maximize justice while it can still be obtained.”

Zuroff went on to explain that the Report’s purpose was to focus public attention on the issue and thereby “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. In that respect, we seek to highlight both the positive results achieved during the period under review by countries such as Germany, as well as the failures of countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine which have consistently failed to hold any Holocaust perpetrators accountable, primarily due to a lack of the requisite political will, as well as Sweden and Norway which in principle refuses to investigate, let alone prosecute, due to a statue of limitations.”

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The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).