The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the world’s largest Nazi hunting organization, released on Monday the initial findings of its annual report on the efforts of countries around the world in locating and prosecuting Nazi war criminals.
The report, which covers the period between April 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015, praises German efforts while downgrading its evaluation of US actions against suspects.
According to a press release by the center, the report evaluates the “efforts and results achieved by more than three dozen countries which were either the site of Nazi crimes or admitted Holocaust perpetrators after World War II.”
Germany received the highest accolades for a shift in policy which allows those who served in death camps or mobile killing units to be charged as accessories to murder. Previously, only those who could be tied to specific atrocities could be prosecuted.
The center reported an announcement by Kurt Schrimm, the director of the German Central Office for the Clarification of Nazi Crimes, that due to this change, his office has located several dozen individuals who served in the Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek death camps, recommending they be prosecuted. Two have already been charged, with one case set to begin next week.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported, the report slams the US for its failures, downgrading its ranking from A to B, the lowest it has ever been. In particular, the report takes America to task for neglecting to prosecute Michael Karkoc, a Nazi who lied to US immigration to enter the country shortly after World War II.
An Associated Press investigation in 2013 found Karkoc in Minnesota, where he had been living peacefully for years. A subsequent German investigation established that Karkoc had commanded a unit accused of burning villages filled with women and children.
The report also cites “lack of political will to bring Nazi war criminals to justice and/or to punish them” as a “major obstacle to achieving justice, particularly in post-Communist Eastern Europe.”
Wiesenthal Center Israel director Efraim Zuroff, who authored the report, said, “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. 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 purpose of the report, Zuroff explained, is to bring public attention to the issue and “encourage all the governments involved to maximize their efforts to ensure that as many as possible of the unprosecuted Holocaust perpetrators will be held accountable for their crimes. In that respect, we seek to highlight both the positive results achieved during the period under review, especially in Germany, as well as the failures of countries like Austria, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Ukraine which have consistently failed to hold any Holocaust perpetrators accountable, primarily due to a lack of the requisite political will, as well as Sweden and Norway which in principle refuse to investigate, let alone prosecute, due to a statute of limitations.”