BONN (Dec. 27)
Proceedings have begun against 4,000 suspected war criminals as a result of information obtained from the recently opened United Nations war crimes archives in New York, the Office for the Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals in Ludwigsburg announced Friday.
But it is unlikely at this late date that more than a few of the suspects will be brought to trial and, if so, convicted. A spokesperson for the Ludwigsburg office told reporters that the U.N. files came much too late for effective investigations and proceedings that could result in convictions.
The files, compiled by the Allied War Crimes Commission after World War II, contain dossiers on more than 40,000 suspected war criminals. They were placed in custody of the U.N. in 1947 and remained sealed to all but the governments of U.N. member states. They were opened last month after a year-long campaign by Israel to make the files available to scholars, historians, researchers, journalists and other members of the public.
The Ludwigsburg spokesperson said the United Nations “told us for years that they could not release the files for legal or political reasons and that has made our job much more difficult and certainly contributed to certain disappointments.”
Nevertheless, after receiving the files, the Ludwigsburg office added 10 experienced prosecutors to its staff and opened proceedings.
Most of the files refer to persons who are either deceased, missing or already convicted. Of the 4,000 who were traced, most are aged and may be too sick to be put on trial, the spokesperson said.
Moreover, witnesses are either dead or too old and ill to stand the emotional and physical hardships of giving testimony. Under the circumstances, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain convictions, the spokesperson said.