Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hunting Nazi war criminals

From JPost, 26 Jan 2013, by Efraim Zuroff *:

I have never encountered a case of a Nazi who expressed regret or remorse and was willing to confess to his or her crimes.
Suspected Nazi war criminal Csatary
Suspected Nazi war criminal Csatary Photo: REUTERS
For the past eleven years, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has published an annual report on the efforts to bring Nazi war criminals to justice all over the world....[which] has fulfilled several important functions...
An... important result is to prove that it is still possible to bring the perpetrators of Holocaust crimes to justice. In that regard, the statistics in our latest report are illuminating.
During the period from April 1, 2011 until March 31, 2012, ten Nazi war criminals were convicted - nine in Italy and one in Germany - a figure five times higher than for the previous year. Since we began keeping statistics on this subject (from January 1, 2001 until March 31, 2012), there have been ninety-nine successful legal decisons against Nazi war criminals, and eighty-nine new indictments filed, six during the previous year. And although there was a decline in the number of new investigations initiated, the number of ongoing investigations as of April 1, 2012 was 1,138 in ten different countries, a figure which leaves room for guarded optimism that at least several addditional war criminals will be held accountable for their crimes in the coming years.
 All of the above clearly demonstrate that it is still possible to bring Nazi war criminals to justice and in fact, the moral and judicial basis to do so remain as convincing as ever and can basically be summarized as follows:
1. The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers. The fact that they have hereto eluded justice does not alter their criminal responsibility.
2. Old age should not afford protection for those who committed such heinous crimes. The fact that a person reaches the age of 85 or 90 does not turn a murderer into a Righteous Gentile.
3. The obligation of our generation to the victims is to make an honest effort to find their killers, who murdered innocent civilians just because they were categorized as "enemies of the Reich."
4. The continued effort to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice sends a powerful message to potential genocidists, that if you commit such terrible crimes, even decades later there will be those trying to find you and make you pay for your crimes. Unfortunately, far too many of those who committed the crimes of the Shoa escaped justice, which can only encourage and inspire today's neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.
5. The prosecution of Nazi war criminals, when conducted properly, are the best history lesson available and an important tool in the fight against Holocaust denial, distortion and revisionism.

And in conclusion, one last point. I am often asked whether in view of the many years which have passed since they committed their crimes as young men and women, the criminals are presently not sorry for what they did. That is, in theory, an interesting question and one which could be strengthened by the enormous amount of information currently available on the Holocaust.
Unfortunately, in my experience, I have never encountered a case of a Nazi who expressed regret or remorse and was willing to confess to his or her crimes. In that respect, these are the last people on earth to deserve any sympathy, since they had none for their innocent victims. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day [27 January], that is an important message that should be internalized all over the world.

*Dr. Efraim Zuroff is the chief Nazi-hunter of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and director of its Israel Office, as well as the author of the Center's annual report on the worldwide investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals, which can be read at: His latest book Operation Last Chance; One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice (Palgrave/Macmillan) has been published in seven languages.
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