Wiesenthal Center lauds Germany, U.S. for Nazi-hunting efforts

BERLIN (JTA) — Germany and the United States earned praise for their Nazi-hunting efforts from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Sweden, Norway and several other European countries continue to fail miserably, however, according to Efraim Zuroff, the organization’s chief Nazi hunter.

The center’s 13th annual Status Report on the Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, released Sunday in advance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, gave A grades to Germany and the United States for “taking a proactive stance on” prosecuting the last living perpetrators of the the Holocaust.

Norway and Sweden were given F’s because, though both countries lifted the statute of limitations against prosecuting war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in recent years, the new rules don’t apply retroactively.

Several other countries — Austria, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania — also received F’s for failing to apply their existing strong laws, Zuroff said.

“In a certain sense it is worse,” he told JTA, “because they are able to do it, they have the legal framework but choose not to.”

Germany stepped up its efforts as a result of the 2011 conviction in Munich of John Demjanjuk as an accessory to tens of thousands of murders in the Sobibor death camp. The conviction, which was on appeal when Demjanjuk died in March 2012, opened the door for murder prosecutions for those proven to have been a death camp guard.

Since then, several alleged guards have been arrested. Trials are being prepared in some cases, while in others the individuals have either died or been deemed unfit to stand trial.

“The new German initiative is the most dramatic development in the hunt for Nazi war criminals in several decades,” Zuroff told JTA. It is “a very welcome step in the efforts to achieve maximum justice while it is still possible to do so.”

The center’s findings covered the period from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, and awarded grades ranging from A to F to evaluate more than three dozen countries that were either the site of Nazi crimes or admitted entry to Holocaust perpetrators after World War II.

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