NEW YORK (Apr. 26)
The World Jewish Congress issued a strong statement expressing “profound shock” at the verdict last week by a court in Dusseldorf acquitting three former guards and a doctor at the Maidanek concentration camp who were accused of murder and complicity in murder of Jews and other victims at the camp. The court ruled that it was freeing the four for lack of positive identification.
The statement, issued by Philip Klutznick, WJC president, declared: “The acquittal can be explained only by the unparalleled freedom which the Dusseldorf court gave to the defense counsels in harassing the witnesses, mostly old and broken survivors of Maidanek.
“It was due to these tactics that doubts could be cast on the massive evidence and that the trial was dragged out for three years. Particular criticism must be leveled against the separate verdicts in respect of four defendants at this stage because the trial against the other (nine) accused (former guards at Maidanek) is still expected to last one or two years and may well bring to light new evidence incriminating the four acquitted Nazis.”
OTHER PROTESTS ISSUED
When the verdict was announced last Thursday, it touched off a near riot among spectators in the court who overturned benches and shouted, “Nazi murderers.”
In related actions, Belgian resistance fighters and former deportees issued a communique in Brussels protesting against the acquittal of the four ex-Nazis. The communique also called on the West German government and the Bundestag to abolish the statute of limitations on the prosecution of Nazi war criminals.
In Tel Aviv, the World Federation of Polish Jewry also issued a strong protest against the Dusseldorf court decision. In a cable to West Germany’s Justice Minister Hans Vogel, Anselm Reiss, president of the Federation, said that “on the national memorial day for the victims of the Nazi regime and the heroes of the ghetto fighters, we strongly protest against the acquittal of the Maidanek murderers.”
AWARD OFFERED FOR MENGELE
At the same time, Tuvia Friedman, head of the Israeli Documentation Center, has proposed a $100,000 award to any person or group that will find Dr. Joseph Mengele, the man who sent two million Jews to the gas chambers in Auschwitz and Birkenau. According to Friedman, the award would be paid half by the Israeli government and half by the Jewish Agency on behalf of world Jewry. “Locating, arresting and bringing to trial Dr. Mengele, who has succeeded in escaping trial (and now reportedly is residing in Paraguay), is a mission not only Israel is interested in but the entire Jewish nation which should participate in the effort to apprehend this murderer,” Friedman stated.
Meanwhile, in Dusseldorf, a former Maidanek comp survivor, Rachel Nurman, 55, of New York City, accused Hildegard Laechert, 59, a former Maidanek camp guard, one of the nine accused, of kicking to death and drowning child prisoners at the camp. Nurman, appearing as a witness Tuesday in the Maidanek camp trial, pointed to Laechert and said prisoners at the camp called her “Bloody Brigitta.” The former guard is charged with killing 1180 prisoners. Nurman also told the court that Laechert and another of the nine accused, Hermine Ryan Braunsteiner, a New York housewife who was extradited for the trial, herded children onto trucks destined for the gas chamber.