PRAGUE, June 15 (JTA) A former Nazi SS officer is behind bars in Germany on suspicion of murdering a Jewish slave laborer in September 1943.
Anton Malloth, 88, was arrested May 25, but Bavarian prosecutors did not release details until Wednesday after inquires by JTA regarding his whereabouts.
Malloth, who has been living in a nursing home on the outskirts of Munich for the past decade, is alleged to have shot dead a laborer who hid a cauliflower under his jacket during harvest time.
More than 30,000 Jews died at the Czech transit camp, also known by its German name of Theresienstadt. Czech prosecutors have been trying to decide whether to charge Malloth, but that may not be necessary if he stands trial in Germany.
Last October, a person claiming to have witnessed the murder testified against Malloth in Prague.
Malloth was sentenced to death in absentia by a Czech court in 1948 for killing prisoners at Terezin, but the country’s Communist authorities later quashed the sentence.
After Malloth fled Czechoslovakia at the war’s end, he lived in Italy until authorities there expelled him to Germany in 1988, according to news reports. Authorities in the German state of Bavaria then granted him citizenship.
German prosecutors have examined allegations against Malloth relating to Terezin on three previous occasions without bringing charges.
Czech Jewish leaders and victims’ relatives welcomed news of Malloth’s arrest.
“This is a very positive development,” said Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities. “But we will have to see what impact this will have.”
The news was also welcomed by Peter Finkelgruen, who said his grandfather was beaten to death by Malloth in December 1942.
Speaking from his home in Germany, Finkelgruen, who wrote a book about Malloth in 1992 called “German House,” said he was “surprised and satisfied” at the arrest.
The move by German prosecutors came shortly after their Czech counterparts, who have also been examining Malloth’s case, expressed little optimism that Malloth would ever be brought to justice.
Hours before Malloth’s arrest became public, Czech Regional Prosecutor Jan Jakovec said it would be at least October before a decision would be reached in the Czech Republic on whether to prosecute Malloth.
Jakovec, who was clearly unaware of Malloth’s arrest, said: “It would be a great success if Malloth were to be actually accused. There would be some satisfaction, even only if Malloth were to read in the newspapers that he is to be prosecuted in the Czech Republic.”
Jakovec added that there are only four active cases left in the Czech Republic involving guards who served at Terezin and that only Malloth’s case had anything approaching sufficient evidence.
Also speaking before news of the arrest broke, the director of the Terezin Memorial, Jan Munk, expressed disappointment at the length of time it had taken to get Malloth into a courtroom.
“Any punishment would only be symbolic now,” he said. “He cannot be executed or anything like that, and he is nearly 90.”
Just the same, Munk added, “It is important for people to know until the last moment of their lives that anybody can be prosecuted if he does something like Malloth did.”