Budapest – The Simon Wiesenthal Center today publicly urged the Hungarian government to immediately arrest Dr. Sandor Képiró, who has already been twice convicted in Hungarian courts for crimes committed during World War II but was never punished for his crimes. He was recently discovered living in Budapest in the framework of the Center’s “Operation: Last Chance” project.
In a press conference held in Budapest today, the Center’s chief Nazi-hunter Dr. Efraim Zuroff revealed that Képiró, who was convicted in 1944 (in person) and again in 1946 (in absentia) for his role in the murder of approximately 1,000 civilians in the city of Novi Sad (Ujvidek – in Hungarian) on January 21-23, 1942, has been living undisturbed in the Hungarian capital for a decade, following almost half a century in hiding in Argentina.
According to Zuroff:
“Dr. Sandor Képiró is the most prominent unpunished Hungarian war criminal still alive today. Given the fact that he was already convicted twice for his crimes – and given his prominent role in carrying out the mass murders of January 1942 in Novi Sad – we call for his immediate arrest and incarceration. According to his 1944 verdict, Képiró demanded “orders in writing” when instructed to round up Jews, Serbs and Gypsies to be killed in Novi Sad, but carried out the assignment anyway when told that such order could only be relayed verbally. People like Képiró are the moral monsters who were fully aware of the illegality and immorality of the orders they received but carried them out regardless.”
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Sandor Képiró [hereafter – SK] served as a captain in the Hungarian gendarmerie in the Voivodina [in Hungarian – Délvidék] region of Yugoslavia, which was annexed by Hungary in December 1941.
In January 1942, the Hungarian gendarmerie and army carried out a series of mass executions throughout Voivodina, one of the largest of which took place in the city of Novi-Sad [in Hungarian – Újvidék] on January 21 – 23, 1942. In the course of those three days, the Hungarian gendarmerie and army, one of whose units was commanded by SK, murdered approximately 880 to 1,050 men, women, and children.
According to a description of the murders by historian Randolph Braham:
“By far the most savage atrocities took place at the Danube beach, the so-called Štrand. Force-marched or brought in by trucks from the various parts of the city, the victims were ordered to strip and stand in rows of four to await their execution. Most of these unfortunate people were shot from the spring-board into the Danube, whose ice was broken by cannon fire. According to eyewitness accounts, many of the victims, including children, begged to be killed because the ‘cold was unbearable.’”
After details of the massacres in the region were revealed (over 3,300 civilians murdered, almost all Serbs and Jews), hearings were held in Hungary in both houses of parliament and three investigations were conducted. On the basis of the last inquiry, the fifteen leading officers involved in the atrocities (3 from the army and 12 from the gendarmerie) among them SK, were brought to trial and convicted, and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. SK was sentenced to ten years imprisonment.
After the Nazi invasion of Hungary, however, the officers were cleared by a Nazi-dominated military tribunal which acquitted them and restored their ranks. They were also reinstated in the military and gendarmerie. SK became the highest-ranking gendarmerie officer in Novi Sad [Újvidék] and participated in the deportation of Jews to Auschwitz.
After the war, SK escaped to Austria, where he lived for about three years. He was there while he was again put on trial-this time in absentia in 1946-and was sentenced to fourteen years in prison. In 1948, he moved to Argentina, where he lived for almost half a century. In 1996, he returned to Hungary and presently resides in Budapest. His current whereabouts were discovered in the course of an investigation of a fellow gendarmerie member who was exposed in the framework of the Wiesenthal Center’s “Operation: Last Chance” project.
Date of birth: February 18, 1914
Current residence: Budapest