BONN (Jul. 10)
At one time he thought of getting a pistol and shooting Anton Malloth in revenge for killing his grandfather. Instead he sat down and wrote a book.
German Jewish writer Peter Finkelgruen’s book, “House Germany,” has since been dramatized and is curretly appearing to full houses at a theater in the western German city of Dusseldorf.
With the staging of the play, “Handsome Tony,” the 52-year-old Finkelgruen now hopes the former Nazi who killed his grandfather in Theresienstadt will finally be brought to justice.
The play by Israeli playwright Yehoshua Sobol tells the story of Mailoth, 81, a former SS officer currently living in an old-age home with all his expenses paid for by the German government.
Malloth — known as “Handsome Tony”because of his devotion to spotless, neatly ironed SS uniforms — was sentenced to death in 1949 by a Czech court for having killed prisoners trying to escape from the Theresienstadt concentration camp in the former Czechoslovakia during World War II.
In addition, according to eyewitness accounts, Malloth clubbed to death Finkelgruen’s grandfather, Martin, a German Jew, on the street in broad daylight on Dec. 22, 1942, the day he was brought to the Gestapo prison in Theresienstadt.
Malloth, who had fled Prague in 1945, was sentenced by the Czech court. when he and his wife were trying to build a new life in Italy.
RETIRED WITH PENSION, EXPENSES PAID
Malloth, who had grown up in northern Italy, was stripped of his Italian citizenship in 1956 because of his war record, but apparently went back to live there after first obtaining West German citizenship.
In 1983, Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal located Malloth in the northern Italian town of Merano, where many Nazi officials had found refuge. Six years later, the Italian authorities deported Malloth to Germany.
The Germans arrested and interrogated him, and then released him, claiming insufficient evidence against him. Despite the witnesses to Malloth’s crimes, the German courts disregarded the Czech court’s verdict, saying it had been based on indirect hearsay evidence.
As a German citizen, the authorities said, Malloth was entitled to retirement benefits so he was sent to an old-age home in Munich with all expenses paid.
It is possible that no one would have bothered the man in his old age if Finkelgruen had not learned about Malloth from a relative.
Finkelgruen, returning to Germany in 1989 after working for seven years as a radio correspondent in Israel, was planning to write a book reconstructing the odyssey of his parenst from Prague to Shanghai on the eve of World War II.
“At my first stop in Prague, I met an old aunt, who had told me for the first time how my grandfather was beaten to death in Theresienstadt,” said Finkelgruen.
He soon forgot about the family trip to Shanghai and began investigating the fate of his grandfather’s murderer.
He became infuriated when he learned that German authorities had not taken legal measures against Malloth. He was convinced that Malloth’s story was a part of the German establishment’s efforts throughout the years to protect former Nazis.
According to Hermann Weissing, a state prosecutor in the western German city of Hamm, some 130 former Nazis suspected of committing war crimes are still at large in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone because of insufficient evidence against them.
But Finkelgruen’s book and the play on which it is based may soon have an effect after all.
Last week, Weissing said in an interview that an unnamed witness from Austria contacted the police saying he would supply them with sufficient information ot incriminate Malloth.
The prosecution is now examining the case. Based on its findings, it will decide whether to press charges against Malloth.
“They are cracking,” Finkelgruen said, “because they realize that we will not let go until justice is done.”