Goldmann Voices Cautious Welcome of Bonn Decision to Bar Statute of Limitations

Dr. Nahum Goldmann today welcomed the West German Government’s decision to do away with the statute of limitations on war crimes prosecutions announced in Bonn yesterday. But he warned Jewish public opinion to withhold any assessment of the move until actual legislation emerges from the Cabinet and the Ministry of Justice.

Until the nature of the bill is known, the decision must be treated as no more than an expression of Germany’s realization that those crimes cannot at any time remain unpunished, Dr. Goldmann said. Dr. Goldmann, as president of the World Jewish Congress, was instrumental in negotiating with West German leaders on the question of the statute.

(Reports from Bonn today indicated some confusion about what exactly the decision to abolish the statute would mean to the future prosecution of war criminals. Clearly the Cabinet did not accept the original proposal of the Federal President-elect, Gustav Heinemann, the former Minister of Justice, who wanted the statute removed without qualification. The cabinet, apparently under pressure from conservative members, ordered the Justice Ministry to draw up new legal guidelines to distinguish between accomplices to murder who were under orders from superiors and those who were deliberate murderers or held the prerogatives of command. Presumably, the former would be exempted from prosecution.

(State Secretary Guenter Diehl, the Cabinet’s spokesman, insisted that the question of amnesty for war criminals is “dead.” He said guidelines were necessary, however, to give local prosecutors a common basis for filing complaints. But some observers thought the guidelines could give certain deliberate murderers the opportunity to claim that they were “ensnared by the system.”

(Observers said the Cabinet decision represented a complex compromise to mollify world opinion and to deprive right-wing forces, such as the National Democratic Party, of ammunition in the forthcoming election campaign.)

NEXT STORY