Menu JTA Search

Swiss Arrest Nazi War Criminal Missing Since His Escape in April

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

A convicted Nazi murderer known as the “William Tell of Auschwitz” has been arrested by Swiss police, following an intensive manhunt by Interpol after he fled West Germany in April.

Gottfried Weise, 68, a former SS guard at Auschwitz, was apprehended at a hospital in Thun, a famous summer resort in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

Information on his whereabouts was communicated to Swiss authorities by a prosecutor in Wuppertal, West Germany, according to the Swiss Telegraphic Agency, a national news service.

Swiss police were instructed to look for an SS tattoo under Weise’s arm, a common practice of the SS.

Wuppertal Prosecutor Horst Rosenbaum said Weise was hospitalized as a result of a mild stroke he suffered.

Weise said Tuesday he might agree to be extradited to West Germany, but said he wanted to think over his decision and would give an answer on Thursday.

Extradition seems highly likely, as West Germany and Switzerland have signed an extradition treaty.

Weise was convicted and sentenced to life on Jan. 28, 1988, for the murder of at least five persons in 1944 at Auschwitz. After a federal court upheld his conviction and sentence, authorities allowed Weise to remain at his home near Wuppertal to care for his ailing wife.

Officials confiscated his passport and Weise mortgaged his house to post a $150,000 bond, but he fled before police showed up at his home April 20 to take him to prison to begin serving his sentence.

West German authorities speculate that Weise had some help to get new identity papers and escape.

Weise’s wife, Ursula, 62, has also disappeared.

Rosenbaum said the West Germans had suspected Weise was hiding in Switzerland or Austria. It is presently unknown where he was hiding before his being located Tuesday.

Weise acquired the appellation “William Tell of Auschwitz” because of testimony during his 15-month trial that he killed an 8-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl by forcing them to balance tin cans on their heads, at which he shot.

NEXT STORY