NEW YORK (Dec. 3)
Accused Nazi war criminal Josef Schwammberger, who lapsed into a drug-induced coma in his Argentine prison cell on Nov. 23, has regained consciousness and is improving medically, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles reported Friday.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the center’s associate dean, said Schwammberger’s chief prosecutor, Guillermo Lopez, reported that “Schwammberger’s health has improved. He’s no longer in a coma.”
An investigation into what caused the coma is under way, he said. Schwammberger was on heart medication, and there will be testing to see if drugs other than those for his heart were in his bloodstream, Cooper said.
At the time of the apparent drug overdose, there was speculation that Schwammberger, 77, may have attempted suicide. Argentine Federal Judge Manuel Blanco subsequently initiated an investigation into whether drugs had been forced on Schwammberger, either in an induced suicide attempt or in a homicide attempt.
Prosecutor Lopez also indicated there would be an upgrading of the police guard placed around Schwammberger, from municipal protection to a federal guard. Schwammberger is in a hospital in La Plata, some 35 miles south of Buenos Aires.
Schwammberger stands to be extradited to West Germany, where he would be tried for crimes against humanity. The government of the Federal Republic of Germany first requested his extradition 14 years ago.
Last week, the federal court in Stuttgart formally issued an arrest warrant for Schwammberger, a former SS colonel who is charged with having brutally killed thousands of Jews in at least four Polish towns.
The German court issued the warrant as Schwammberger was awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the Argentine Supreme Court. There had been indications that the appeal would not be heard.
A federal judge first approved his extradition to West Germany in November 1988. Schwammberger’s appeal to the Argentine federal appeals court was overruled this past September.
Schwammberger also was wanted for murder by Poland following World War II, according to his listing in the United Nations War Crimes Archives.
The Austrian-born Nazi had been arrested by Austria after the war, but escaped from prison and made his way to Argentina around 1949. The Wiesenthal Center believes he was aided in his escape by the Nazi “Odessa” network.