NEW YORK (Jun. 6)
A Spanish judge has released Otto Remer, a former Nazi officer and neo-Nazi leader who was detained on a German extradition order in Spain last week and placed under house arrest.
Judge Baltasar Garzon based his decision to free Remer in part on the 81-year-old’s poor health and on the fact that Spain does not prohibit Holocaust denial, the crime for which a German court sentenced Remer to 22 months in prison.
The judge did, however, make Remer’s release conditional on his regular appearance before a Spanish court to make sure he does not leave the country.
Remer is the former commander of Adolf Hitler’s Berlin headquarters.
As well-known as Remer was during the Nazi era, when he was commander of a crack Nazi guard battalion and was instrumental in breaking the plot to assassinate Hitler, he became even more notorious afterward with his high-profile promotion of racial hatred and of what has become known in Germany as the “Auschwitz lie.”
It was for these crimes that he was sentenced to prison in Germany.
He was arrested in Malaga airport in southern Spain on June 1 and since has been confined to his house in Marbella, on Spain’s southern coast.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said Germany’s extradition request for Remer came as a surprise and set an important precedent.
“I was very surprised that the Germans had acted in the first place, because the Germans never acted before for someone denying the Holocaust.
“There was no outstanding extradition request on him for crimes that he participated in during the war,” said Hier. “The only thing they had on him was the fact that he escaped from detention.”
He was also very surprised that Spain agreed to arrest Remer, given that Spain has provided safe haven to Nazi war criminals in the past.
Hier believes this cooperation and new aggressiveness to arrest and try former Nazis and even neo-Nazis is tied to the worldwide commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy. “Everyone is rushing to the fore to show that their country does not tolerate Nazis,” he said.
“It shows a new aggressiveness on the part of the Germans,” he said. “They have recently been embarrassed in Germany by the rise of the right wing. They want to send a dramatic signal that they are not going to be soft on Nazis.”