NEW YORK (Jul. 5)
Hearings are under way in a Buenos Aires civil court to strip accused Nazi war criminal Josef Schwammberger of his Argentine citizenship.
If successful, criminal proceedings will follow aimed at extraditing Schwammberger to West Germany for trial, the Simon Wiesenthal Center reported Tuesday.
The center, which was in large measure responsible for Schwammberger’s arrest by the Argentine police last Nov. 13, has underwritten the trips of three Holocaust survivors from the United States and Canada to testify as eyewitnesses at the hearings.
Schwammberger is accused of the mass murder of Jews in the Polish towns of Przemysl, Rozwadow and Stalowa-Wola, where he served as the commandant in forced labor and concentration camps during World War II.
Two Wiesenthal Center representatives–Lydia Triantopoulos, director of information, and Martin Mendelsohn, legal counsel–were briefed on the progress of the case in Buenos Aires Monday by Argentine officials.
They were told by Dr. Guillermo Lopez, general secretary to the Office of Attorney General for the Supreme Court, and Dr. Cristina Iribarni, federal attorney in the civil branch, that the case is going well for the prosecution.
HEARINGS TO END THIS FALL
The officials said they expected both the civil and criminal hearings to be over by October or November.
But the appeals process, which is automatic and can wind up in the Argentine Supreme Court, makes it unlikely that Schwammberger can be extradited before the summer of 1989, at the earliest.
Testifying at the hearings are Edward Blonder, 67, of Miami, Fla.; Abraham Secemski of Chicago; and a 67-year-old man from Toronto, who has requested anonymity.
They are among some two dozen Holocaust survivors traced by the Wiesenthal Center who knew Schwammberger. The Argentine authorities invited them specifically to testify, after studying their background dossiers, made available by the center.
Triantopoulos and Mendelsohn also have met with the attorney general of Argentina, Dr. Andres d’Alessio.
Schwammberger, 75, is presently being held in a maximum security prison in La Plata, about 60 miles from Buenos Aires. His wife and one son live in Argentina. Another son lives in West Germany.
Although there is no extradition treaty between West Germany and Argentina, the Bonn government has already requested Schwammberger for trial, and he is expected to be extradited if the court finds in favor of the prosecution.
Schwammberger was arrested last November in the province of Cordoba, about 500 miles from Buenos Aires, where he had been in hiding. He was flown to La Plata and held in custody there ever since.
Schwammberger was arrested in Austria after the war, but it is believed he escaped to South America in 1948 with the help of the Nazi network called “Odessa,” according to the Wiesenthal Center.