BONN (Feb. 24)
An indication that the West German Government will back an extension of the statute of limitations on prosecution of Nazi war criminals developed today from statements on the issue by the Government spokesman at a press conference here.
Guenther von Hase said that the Government would assist the Bundestag, West Germany’s lower house of Parliament, “in its efforts to let justice be done in accordance with the principles of law.” Previously, the Cabinet had announced it would not seek an extension of the statute, which will become effective May 8, if no action is taken.
When he was asked whether this meant that the government now favored such an extension, he said that there were “various positions” within the Government on this point but that when the Government made its decision, it would be unanimous.
He also disclosed that the Cabinet discussed this morning a report submitted by Ewald Bucher, the Justice Minister, who has been one of the most obdurate foes of extension. He said Dr. Bucher had told the Cabinet, in giving the report, that the possibility could not be excluded that after May 8 new Nazi crimes might be uncovered which would necessitate additional investigations. The Bucher report is to be presented to the Bundestag on March 4. The Bundestag will consider a bill to extend the statute next month.
CASES OF 13,000 ACCUSED NAZIS ARE STILL PENDING, MINISTER REPORTS
Dr. Bucher also told the Cabinet that as a result of the appeal in 1964 by West Germany and the Bundestag to all governments to send documentary material on Nazi crimes, more material was now available, particularly from the Eastern countries, which might serve to help check known cases and provide knowledge on as yet unknown Nazi criminals.
Asserting that these investigations were still underway, Dr. Bucher reported that more than 70,000 Germans had been tried for Nazi crimes and that an additional 13,000 had been accused whose cases were still pending. For these cases, he said, the limitations statute cannot be applied nor could it be effective after May 8 even if the statute was not prolonged.
Gerhard Jahn, a Bundestag member of the opposition Social Democratic Party, said after the von Hase press conference, that the Bucher report proved how necessary it was to act on his party’s decision of December 9, 1964 which had asked for the Bucher report, He said “all our apprehensions were justified.”
Even the Government now was admitting, he added, that it was only due to special efforts that additional Nazi criminals had been discovered and more material found, The von Hase statement, he declared, proved that prolongation of the statute was necessary and that the Parliamentary group of his party would submit a proposal for extension to the Bundestag on March 10.
(In various parts of the world, meanwhile, prominent individuals continued today to call upon the West German Government to extend the Statute of Limitations for Nazi war criminals. On the floor of the Brazilian Senate in Brasilia, Aron Steinbruch, a Jewish member of that body, said that the Bonn Government owed it to humanity to extend the statute. In Boston, Richard Cardinal Cushing said that “there should be no moratorium on an evil as great as genocide and those guilty of the murder of Jews under Nazism should be brought to justice whenever apprehended.” In the United Nations, Secretary General U Thant stated that the extension of the Statute of Limitations is “desirable.”