Jerusalem – The Simon Wiesenthal Center tonight expressed it sense of deep frustration upon learning of the death in Budapest yesterday morning of accused, and previously convicted, Hungarian Nazi war criminal Dr. (of law) Sandor Kepiro, who was charged this year by Hungarian prosecutors with responsibility for the murder of at least 36 persons during a massacre carried out by Hungarian forces in the Serbian city of Novi Sad on January 23, 1942. Last month a judge ruled in a Budapest court that while Kepiro was not innocent, the Hungarian prosecutors had failed to convincingly prove his guilt, but appeals had been launched by both the prosecution and the defense, and it was likely that they would be heard within the next few weeks. In a statement issued here tonight by its chief Nazi-hunter, Israel director, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, who discovered Kepiro and led the efforts to convince the Hungarian authorities to bring him to trial, the Center noted that it was likely that Kepiro’s initial acquittal would have been overturned upon appeal and expressed its deep disappointment that his death prevented his conviction and punishment.
According to Zuroff:
“Kepiro’s acquittal last month was not only a terrible travesty of justice which insulted the memory of the victims of the mass murder carried out by the Hungarian forces, and encouraged those who seek to deny Hungarian participation in Holocaust crimes, but also was in direct contradiction to voluminous historical and judicial evidence collected over the years, most of which was the basis for his original conviction in a Hungarian court in January 1944. Thus it is a fair assumption that the acquittal could well have been overturned on appeal, and Kepiro would have been once again convicted for his role in the Novi Sad mass murder. His death has unfortunately prevented such a decision, which would not only have focused attention on the active role of Hungarian Nazi collaborators in the mass murder of innocent civilians, primarily Jews, during World War II, but also would have ensured that the criminal responsibility of one of the officers who was an active participant in these crimes would have been confirmed, for the first time ever, since democracy in a Hungarian court of law.”