Jerusalem – In conjunction with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Simon Wiesenthal Center today released its seventeenth Annual Status Report on the “Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals,” which covers the period from April 1, 2017 until March 31, 2018.
The key findings of the report are as follows:
1. As more and more time passes since the end of World War II, it would only be natural to expect that the prosecution of Nazi war criminals would come to an end. That logical conclusion, however, has still not been the case everywhere, as two surprising developments have rejuvenated some of the efforts to hold Holocaust perpetrators accountable for their crimes.
The first change relates to the extension of life expectancy in the Western world. The advances of modern medicine have enabled men and women not only to live longer, but also to remain reasonably healthy (and therefore capable of facing prosecution) for many more years, than was the case previously. This is especially true in countries like Germany and Austria, which have the largest numbers of individuals who while serving in the forces of the Third Reich, committed crimes during World War II, and are among the countries which provide a relatively high-level of health services for their citizens.
The second development has been a very dramatic change in German prosecution policy vis-à-vis Nazi war criminals, which was instituted approximately a decade ago, initially in the case of Sobibor SS guard Ukrainian Ivan Demjanjuk. Previously, in order to convict a Holocaust perpetrator, prosecutors had to prove that a suspect had committed a specific crime against a specific victim and had been motivated by racial hatred. The new prosecution policy adopted in Germany significantly lowered the bar in terms of the required evidence. Thus today any person who served in a death camp (by definition a concentration camp with apparatus for industrialized mass murder – gas chambers or gas vans) or in the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) can be convicted of accessory to murder based on service alone, the punishment for which is 5-15 years in prison.
2. This situation is clearly reflected in the results achieved during the period from April 1, 2017 until March 31, 2018. On the one hand, only one “conviction” was obtained (the denaturalization in Canada of a man who served in Einsatzgruppe D), but three new indictments have been filed in Germany and one extradition request in Poland. This brings the number of convictions during the period covered by our annual reports (January 2001-March 2018) to 105, with the largest number of successful cases recorded in Italy (46), the United States (39), Germany (8), and Canada (8). During the same period, 105 indictments were filed against Nazi war criminals, with the most cases submitted by the United States (35), Italy (33) and Germany (22).
3. While significant progress was achieved primarily in Germany, other countries for the most part have failed to attain any results whatsoever during the period under review. Those countries, which have received a failing grade (F), have been divided into two different categories: F-1 for those countries which in principle are unable to prosecute Nazi war criminals – Norway and Sweden (statutes of limitations) and F-2 for those countries which are able, at least in theory, to take legal action against Holocaust perpetrators and had practical opportunities to do so, but have failed to achieve any positive results during the period under review – Austria, Lithuania, and Ukraine. The reasons for the failing grade awarded to each country are explained in the report.
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