Former Nazi officer dies unprosecuted

(JTA) — A former Nazi SS officer died in Germany two months after the reopening of an investigation into his connection to massacres of Jews.

Erich Steidtmann, who as commander was accused of leading several Nazi police battalions who participated in the mass murder of Jews in Eastern Europe, died this week in Hanover, where he lived. He was 95.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center released a statement Tuesday expressing frustration that Steidtmann was never prosecuted for his crimes, saying it reflected decades of German judicial failure in the case.

“Had the prosecutors done their job properly in the sixties, he would not have escaped justice,” said Efraim Zuroff, the center’s Israel director.

The case was reopened in April based on a letter that Steidtmann wrote in October 1943 that would have placed him in the area of the massacres at the time they occurred rather than at home on leave, as he told prosecutors during investigations in the 1960s, according to The Associated Press.

The case closed quickly for lack of evidence.

“It was only thanks to research by the Wiesenthal Center’s Dr. Stefan Klemp and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung Magazine that the case against Steidtmann was reopened," Zuroff said, "but unfortunately it will never come to court, nor will Steidtmann ever be punished.”

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