Wiesenthal Center Annual Report Points to Lack of Political Will as Major Obstacle to Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals; Praises Germany and the United States for Continued Efforts to Hold Holocaust Perpetrators Accountable and Serbia and Spain for New Initiatives

Jerusalem – The Simon Wiesenthal Center today released the initial findings of its eighth Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, which covers the period from April 1, 2008 until March 31, 2009 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. A renewed effort by Germany to prosecute cases of Nazi war criminals ordered deported from the United States. The most important of these cases is that of Ivan Demjanjuk who was recently indicted in Munich for his crimes at the Sobibor death camp.
  2. 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. In this regard, Lithuania’s decision not to implement a jail sentence for Algimantas Dailide stands out as one of the more outrageous legal decisions related to Nazi war criminals during the period under review.
  3. The most disappointing result in a specific case during the period under review has been Hungary’s failure hereto to bring to justice Dr. Sandor Kepiro, one of the officers who carried out the mass murder of hundreds of civilians in Novi Sad, Serbia on January 23, 1942 who was convicted but never punished for the crime and who was exposed by the Wiesenthal Center living in Budapest in the summer of 2006.
  4. Another disappointment has been Austria’s failure to proceed with an examination of former Požega (Croatia) police chief Milivoj Ašner, despite a decision to bring in a foreign expert to do so. The examination, which will determine whether he will be extradited to Croatia to stand trial, has been inexplicably delayed for close to a year.
  5. The continued and consistent success of the American “Office of Special Investigations” to take successful legal action against Holocaust perpetrators and the ongoing failure of most post-Communist governments to bring Nazi war criminals to justice.
  6. Another positive development has been new initiatives by Serbia and in Spain to seek the extradition of Nazi war criminals who have hereto not been prosecuted in their current countries of residence.

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, seventy-six convictions against Nazi war criminals have been obtained, at least forty-eight 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 of such criminals will continue 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, 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 and Germany, as well as the abject failures of countries like Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine which have continuously failed to bring any Holocaust perpetrators to justice, as well as Sweden which in principle refuses 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.”

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