Jerusalem – In conjunction with the observance in Israel of Yom Hashoa (Holocaust Memorial Day), the Simon Wiesenthal Center released the preliminary findings of its seventeenth “Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals,” which covers the period from April 1, 2018 until December 31, 2018.
Among the report’s highlights are the following important developments:
1. The most important positive developments during the period under review were the direct result of the new prosecution policy implemented by the German judicial authorities in the wake of the conviction in Munich of Sobibor SS guard Ivan Demjanjuk as an accessory to murder in May 2011. Based on that decision, the German Zentrale Stelle decided to investigate all the hitherto unprosecuted persons who had served in any of the six major Nazi death camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka, Belzec, Chelmno, Sobibor and Majdanek) or in the Einstazgruppe (mobile killing units) A, B, C, and D, which operated in the territories of the Soviet Union. Subsequently, investigations were expanded to include additional concentration camps which had gas chambers.
Although no convictions were obtained, one new indictment was filed, and four additional charges were submitted immediately after the period under review (in early January 2019). In addition, more than 30 investigations are ongoing, and pre-trial investigations were initiated against concentration camp guards from Auschwitz (2), Buchenwald (2), Ravensbrueck (2), Mauthausen (1) and Einsatzgruppe B (1).
2. The lack of political will to bring Nazi war criminals to justice and/or to punish them continues to be the major obstacle to achieving justice, particularly in post-Communist Eastern Europe. The campaign led by the Baltic countries to distort the history of the Holocaust and obtain official recognition that the crimes of the Communists are equal to those of the Nazis is another obstacle to the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes of the Shoa.
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. During the past 15 years, at least 105 convictions against Nazi war criminals have been obtained, at least 105 new indictments have been filed, and well over 4,000 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 we are trying to ensure that at least several of these criminals will 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 in recent years by dedicated prosecutors, especially in Italy, Germany, and the United States, should encourage governments all over the world to make a serious effort to maximize justice while it can still be obtained.
For the importance of bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, see the following link to today’s op-ed by Dr. Zuroff in The Times of Israel:
For additional information please contact the Israel Office of the Wiesenthal Center: