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Campaign Planned Against Statute of Limitation on War Criminals

Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter, announced plans for an international postcard campaign designed to convince the West German government to extend its statute of limitations on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals beyond the present deadline of Dec. 31, 1979. He announced the campaign at a press conference attended by Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D.NY) and Martin Mendelsohn, a lawyer named recently to head the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service’s Nazi war crime litigation unit.

Wiesenthal said “there should be no statute of limitations on murder. The German government has a moral obligation to bring these mass murderers to justice and moral duties cannot be limited by time.” Holtzman appeared at the news conference held last Friday to give her support to the drive to mail 500,000 postcards by the end of this year to West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. She said it was “ironic” that the statute of limitations would become effective, unless the date of effectiveness is extended, at a time when the U.S. government “is finally moving aggressively against Nazi war criminals.”

This was a reference to a bill she sponsored, signed into law by President Carter on Oct. 30, that would for the first time officially bar from entry into the United States or make liable for deportation all aliens who entered this country since 1952 and who are known to have persecuted others because of race, religion or national origin. Wiesenthal and Holtzman said the law was “long overdue” and Holtzman added that the new law finally puts the United States “squarely on record as denying sanctuary in this country to Nazi war criminals.”

Mendelsohn said that “more than 200 cases of alleged Nazi war criminals living in this country are now being investigated by the federal government.” The war crimes unit is currently involved in court cases against 12 alleged Nazi war criminals. Mendelsohn expressed concern over the fact that, with the change in the immigration law and the work of the special INS unit, “now there will soon expire in West Germany.”

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