NEW YORK (Nov. 26)
Paraguay has begun what was described here as a thorough nationwide investigation to locate Josef Mengele, the infamous war criminal and chief doctor at the Auschwitz concentration camp responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.
The investigation will be conducted by police authorities in Paraguay under the Ministry of Interior, according to Elizabeth Holtzman, Brooklyn District Attorney, who just returned from a three-day visit to Paraguay as a member of a delegation of four persons who travelled there under the sponsorship of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors.
Furthermore, Holtzman told reporters today, Paraguayan officials have also agreed to allow foreign observers to monitor the investigation and will allow for written questions to be submitted to the government about the whereabouts of Mengele, who is believed to be living in Paraguay. Holtzman said she has contacted the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations on the matter of observers to the investigation.
Holtzman, who was instrumental as a member of Congress in the establishment of the OSI, was flanked at the news conference by the other members of the delegation; Menachem Rosensaft, founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors; Beate Klarsfeld, who has brought a number of Nazi war criminals of justice; and Bishop Rene Valero of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
During the delegation’s stay in Paraguay, they met with Justice and Labor Minister J. Eugenio Jacquet, Supreme Court President Luis Maria Argana and Interior Minister Sabino Montanaro. They did not meet with President Alfredo Stroessner, although a meeting had been requested.
VISIT DESCRIBED AS A SUCCESS
Mengele, who would now be 74 years old, received Paraguayan citizenship in 1959, which was revoked in 1979. Since 1962, West Germany has issued at least 10 requests to Paraguay for Mengele’s extradition. He is wanted in West Germany for crimes against humanity.
Holtzman described the delegation’s visit as a success, noting that this marked the first time the governmet has agreed to answer formal written questions on Mengele. She said this has significantly increased the potential of finding Mengele, who has not been seen in public for years, although believed to still be residing in Paraguay.
The Brooklyn District Attorney also called on the Reagan Administration to press the issue of Mengele with the Stroessner government, saying it should become a top priority in dealings with Paraguay. She told reporters in response to questions that while there is no way to confirm that Mengele is in Paraguay, she claimed she was told on the three-day trip that the Auschwitz doctor is till in the country. She would not say from whom or where this information was provided.
IF MENGELE IS LOCATED, HE WOULD BE DEPORTED
Klarsfeld, meanwhile, who last February went to Paraguay to press the search for Mengele, stressed that the most recent trip provides additional pressure on the Stroessner government to take action on Mengele. Last February, Klarsfeld told reporters in New York that she received assurances from Paraguayan officials that if they could locate Mengele, he would be deported. They said at that time, and again to members of the delegation last week, that Mengele could not be found.
Valero, the Brooklyn-based bishop, said he found government officials to be “very cordial” to the members of the delegation. He asserted that he went there with no preconceived judgement of Paraguay and was interested to find out where Mengele is living.
Rosensaft declared that he will “not be satisfied by mere lip service.” He said he believed the investigation by the Interior Ministry will be comprehensive since there will be foreign observers monitoring it.