BARCELONA (JTA) — A Spanish court indicted three alleged former Nazi death camp guards.
Judge Ismael Moreno of the Spanish National Court issued international arrest warrants Sept. 17 against Johann Leprich, Anton Tirrjung and Josias Kumpf on charges of being accessories to genocide and crimes against humanity.
The men are accused of having been members of the Nazis’ Totenkopf SS and of serving in death camps, either Mauthausen in Nazi-occupied Austria or Sachenhausen in Germany, The Associated Press reported. Kumpf allegedly is living in Austria, while the others are living in the United States.
The principle of universal jurisdiction allows crimes such as genocide, torture or terrorism to be prosecuted in Spain even if the alleged crimes were committed elsewhere.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center lauded the indictment, saying it marked a huge change for a country that has been a refuge for Nazi war criminals both during Gen. Francisco Franco’s rule, which lasted until 1975, as well as during its transition to democracy.
"This is obviously something completely different," said the center’s chief Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff. "This is a really welcome development. We commend the Spanish court for making this decision."
The indictments came just days before the Anti-Defamation League released a report Monday showing that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Spain, with greater acceptance of virulent anti-Jewish attitudes.
“We are deeply concerned about the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Spain, with more public expressions and greater public acceptance of classic stereotypes,” said Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director. “Among the major European countries, only in Spain have we seen viciously anti-Semitic cartoons in the mainstream media, and street protests where Israel is accused of genocide and Jews are vilified and compared to Nazis.”