Nazi-hunters praise German efforts to nail war criminals

AFP , Monday 13 Apr 2015

Nazi-hunters at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre on Monday praised Germany's efforts to bring war criminals to justice some seven decades after the atrocities of the Holocaust.

"The most important positive results achieved during the period under review (April 2014 to March 2015) were obtained in Germany," the group said in a statement upon the release of its annual report.

The report highlighted the "implementation by the local judicial authorities of a legal strategy, which paves the way for the conviction of practically any person who served either in a Nazi death camp or in the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units)".

The Los Angeles-based group's Jerusalem director, Dr Efraim Zuroff, said it would continue efforts to try and sentence Nazi war criminals.

"During the past 14 years, at least 102 convictions against Nazi war criminals have been obtained, at least 98 new indictments have been filed, and well over 3,500 new investigations have been initiated," he said in a statement.

"Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise."

However, the Centre criticised a "lack of political will to bring Nazi war criminals to justice and/or to punish them (which) continues to be the major obstacle to achieving justice, particularly in post-Communist Eastern Europe."

Almost seven decades after World War II, the hunt for Nazi war criminals continues and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre publishes an annual list of those most wanted.

Top of that list now is Gerhard Sommer, a former SS lieutenant allegedly involved in the massacre of 560 civilians in August 1944, in Italy's Tuscany region.

Since 2002, he has been under investigation in Germany, but no criminal charges have so far been filed.

In October, the Israeli branch of the Centre urged Germany to prosecute alleged members of Nazi death squads, giving it a list of 80 suspects.

It said the 76 men and four women whose names it provided to Germany's justice and interior ministries belonged to "mobile killing squads".

All of the suspects were born between 1920 and 1924, it said, making them "alive and healthy enough to face prosecution".

Zuroff says two percent of "Nazi criminals" are believed to be still alive and that half of them could still be tried.

Since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945 and 1946, about 106,000 German or Nazi soldiers have been accused of war crimes.

Some 13,000 have been found guilty and around half sentenced, according to the authority charged with investigating Nazi crimes.

Since 2011, German prosecutors have been searching for death camp guards and death squad members, who can "now be brought to trial without proof that they had committed a specific crime against a specific victim", the Centre said in October.

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre is named after the Holocaust survivor who was perhaps the best-known Nazi hunter until his death in 2005.

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