Carmen Reichman's Blog

Behind the Headlines – a current affairs blog

Time to take them to court

Asner,97, lives in Austria and has yet to face justice

The time to take Nazi war criminals to court is running out as most of them have now hit 90.

When former Nazi camp guard Samuel Kunz died on Saturday before he could be tried at court, the need for justice became imminent.

According to the Independent, hundreds of former Nazis have died in freedom, and the ones that are still alive have hit the rife age of 90, which means time to try them is running out.

Samuel Kunz was third on the hitlist drawn up by Israely Nazi hunter group, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and was due to face trial in court in early 2011. He would have faced 10 charges of murder and assissted mass murder of over 400.000 Jews which he allegedly carried out at Belzec extermination camp in Poland in 1942/43.

Andreas Brendel, the German state prosecutor who announced Kunz’s death, said to German Newspaper Bild that he had expected Kunz to face the trial and that, considering the victims, he would have liked to proceed with the case. He said: ”It would have been a chance to work through the massacres of the Jewish population that happened at the extermination camps, especially at Belzec. We have put a lot of effort into the proceedings and actually thought that Kunz would live to face the trial.”

But what can really be achieved by taking this bunch of old, largely sick, men to court – has not all sense of justice long gone?

Not exactly, according to the continuing efforts made by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to find and capture alleged criminals. The centre, which dedicates itself to ‘repairing the world one step at a time’, does a lot to achieve at least some sort of justice, though it will inevitably be disproportionate to the original crime.

Dr Efraim Zuroff, Israel’s top Nazi hunter who is in charge of Wiesenthal Centre’s Operation Last Chance, said that at least a small measure of justice was achieved by the act of indicting Kunz, even though he could not sit his trial.

Dr Zuroff’s team will fly to Europe and South America next week to track down the remaining Nazis who are on their list of 10 most wanted and who are currently in hiding or are being sheltered by governments. They will offer rewards of up to £7,500 to informants.

The list includes, in order of priority:

Sandor Kepiro, 96, Hungarian Nazi police executive who massacred civilians in Yugoslavia and helped round up 400,000 Hungarian Jews sent to die in Auschwitz in 1944. Serbia wants him deported from Budapest, Hungary has been conducting a criminal investigation for the last three years;

Milivoj Asner (pictured), 97, former Nazi police chief of Croatia, responsible for the slaughter of Jews, gipsies and resistance fighters. He lives in Austria but is wanted by Croatia for war crimes;

John Demjanjuk, 90, a camp guard at Treblinka, on trial on charges of playing a part in the death of almost 30.000 Jews. His case expected to conclude in March 2011, hopefully with him still alive.

There is a clear sense that it is not too late to take action for the Wiesenthal Centre and for the relatives of the victims. However it is very curious that no one has acted sooner.

Criminals such as Samuel Kunz have been living free lives and although their crimes were committed a long time ago, the severity of them should have prompted quicker action.

Kunz contributed to the ruthless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent people after all.

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