Wiesenthal Center Annual Status Report for 2018-2019 Notes Surprisingly Successful Efforts to Prosecute Nazi War Criminals in Germany, the United States, and Canada

Jerusalem – In conjunction with International Holocaust Memorial Day, which will be observed all over the world on January 27, the Simon Wiesenthal Center today released its 18th Annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, covering the period from April 1, 2018 until December 31, 2019.

The major findings of the report can be summarized as follows:

1. In terms of practical results, a surprising number of legal measures were taken during the period under review. Six indictments were filed in Germany, three trials (two in Germany and one in the United States) began, and a long-awaited revocation of the Canadian citizenship of a man who served in Einsatzgruppe D was obtained and confirmed.

2. The number of new investigations rose by over 100% due to the opening of close to 500 new investigations by the Polish Institute of National Memory. As of January 1, 2020, 115 investigations were still ongoing.

3. For the first time in the 21st century, the Russian Federation initiated two Nazi war crimes investigations. In view of the huge number of Nazi crimes committed on territories once part of the Soviet Union, the lack of action by the Russian authorities until now was a serious impediment to achieving justice in many cases.

Background on the trials of Nazi war criminals which began in 2018-2019 

Three trials of Nazi war criminals commenced during the period under review, two in Germany and one in the United States. Both German trials were of men who served as SS guards at the Stutthof concentration camp, near Gdansk, Poland, which was the first Nazi concentration camp established outside Nazi Germany on September 2, 1939, and was the last to be liberated by the Allies (the Soviet Army) on May 9, 1945.

Approximately 110,000 men and women were sent to the camp, which was originally designated for Polish religious and political leaders and intelligentsia. The first large number of Jewish inmates arrived in Stutthof in July 1944, about a year after the Nazis built a gas chamber and crematorium in the camp, and it was then that the camp began to play an important role in the implementation of the Final Solution. Those deported were 25,053 Jews (among them 16,123 women) from the Baltics, mostly the remnants of Lithuanian ghettos, and 23,566 (of whom 21,817 were women) who had previously been deported from Hungary to Auschwitz. The estimated number of victims in Stutthof is 63,000-65,000, among them 28,000 Jews.

The first trial during the period under review was that of Johannes Rehbogen, who served at the camp as an S.S. guard from June 1942 until September 1944, which opened in Muenster on November 6, 2018 and was permanently closed due to illness on April 3, 2019. The second defendant, Bruno Dey, served as an armed S.S. watchtower guard at Stutthof from August 1944 until April 1945, and his trial began in Hamburg on October 17, 2019. He was convicted in July 2020 and sentenced to two years in prison, but his sentence was suspended.

The third trial which was conducted in Memphis, Tennessee, in the United States, was of Friedrich Karl Berger, who served as an armed guard at Meppen, a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg began on May 10, 2019. The verified death toll of that camp is 42,900; 14,000 of whom were murdered or died in the main camp; 12,800 in the subcamps and 16,100 in the death marches in the final weeks of the war. Berger was accused of forcing the inmates “to work outdoors to the point of exhaustion and death.” He was tried by the Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section of the U.S. Justice Department, and was ordered deported to Germany on February 28, 2020. (Nazi criminals cannot be prosecuted in the United States for their Holocaust crimes, and are therefore tried for violations of immigration and naturalization law, i.e. concealing their wartime service with the forces of the Third Reich or it allies.)

For additional information please contact the Israel Office of the Wiesenthal Center:

Tel: +972-2-563-1274 or Tel: +972-50-721-4156
Follow us on Twitter: @EZuroff

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