Wiesenthal Center Annual Report on Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals Reveals Dramatic Rise of Almost 100% in New Investigations; Slams Ukraine and Others for Failure to Bring Nazis to Justice; Praises US for Outstanding Success During Past Year

The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s fifth Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals for the period from April 1, 2004 – March 31, 2005 points to the continuing success of the United States in prosecuting Holocaust perpetrators during the past year and the surprising potential for future prosecutions as the number of new investigations initiated (in at least eleven countries) during the past twelve months reached the figure of six hundred and fifty-nine (an increase of 97% over the previous year) and the number of cases currently under investigation (in fifteen countries) reached at least one thousand two hundred and eighteen (an increase of almost 30% over the figure for the period from April 1, 2003 – March 31, 2004).

The report singles out Ukraine as the country which has done the least in recent years to bring Nazis to justice in comparison to the efforts which it should have invested to deal with former Holocaust perpetrators, and highlights the failure of Croatia and Austria to prosecute Milivoj Asner, the notorious police chief of Pozega, Croatia who played an important role in the persecution and murder of hundreds of innocent civilians, and who following his exposure by the Wiesenthal Center’s “Operation: Last Chance” project in June 2004 escaped to Klagenfurt Austria, where he presently resides.

The report praised the Nazi-hunting activities of the Office of Special Investigations of the US Justice Department as the most successful agency of its kind in the world, and awarded grades ranging from A (highest) to F to more than three dozen countries which were either the site of Nazi crimes or admitted Holocaust perpetrators after World War II.

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. “Since January 2001, thirty-two convictions against Holocaust perpetrators have been obtained, thirty-five new indictments have been filed, and hundreds of 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 it is clear that numerous cases of such criminals will continue to come 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, and especially by the US Office of Special Investigations, 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 by countries like the United States, as well as the abject failures of countries like Ukraine, which has so many potential suspects but has not taken the necessary measures to bring them to justice, as well as Sweden and Norway which in principle refuse to investigate, let alone prosecute (due to a statue of limitations), and others who have either chosen to ignore the issue (Syria) or which have consistently failed to deal with it effectively primarily due to a lack of the requisite political will (Estonia and many others).”

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