Germany reopens hundreds of Nazi investigations
Nazi guard John Demjanjuk was convicted in Germany earlier this year.
October 5th, 2011
01:04 PM ET

Germany reopens hundreds of Nazi investigations

(Correction: An early version of this post included a reference to a "Polish death camp." It should have said "a Nazi death camp in Poland." CNN regrets the error.)

German prosecutors have reopened hundreds of investigations into suspected Nazi death camp guards, according to the associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Los Angeles-based Jewish human rights organization founded by a camp survivor.

"Though this is late in the game, and those who would be targeted are very old, this is tremendously important," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper. "This signals that there is a new generation of prosecutors who want to take a fresh and serious look, and it means that the larger German bureaucratic machine is paying attention to the importance of finding these criminals."

Germany is making a move now because of an unusual and opportune precedent established by the May 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, a guard at a death camp, Cooper explained. There was no direct evidence tying Demjanjuk to crimes, but prosecutors won a conviction on more than 28,000 counts of accessory to murder by demonstrating that he worked at the camp where deaths occurred.

Demjanjuk was deported from the United States in 2009 to stand trial in Germany, appearing in court wearing dark eyeglasses and a baseball hat. Demjanjuk has filed an appeal of his conviction. Because of his age and the unlikely flight risk he posed, he was freed but returned to prison in May, prompting German prison officials to search for a short-term nursing home for him.

"Practically speaking, you might have once had thousands of cases, but now you have maybe hundreds [of suspects]," Cooper said. "Factor in advanced age and illness, and then [consider] whether they [suspects] would be capable of defending themselves at trial. The number goes down significantly [of those who could be prosecuted]."

Not all prosecutions have been successful. In July, a Hungarian court acquitted a 97-year-old - accused of being one of the world's most wanted Nazi war suspects - because of lack of evidence.

But even a few convictions will be symbolically important, the rabbi said, and reinforced the words of Simon Wiesenthal who escaped from a camp in 1943. Wiesenthal lost 89 members of his family in the Holocaust, according to the Center's website. "Each trial is an inoculation against hatred," Cooper repeated Wiesenthal's words.

Cooper said that the Wiesenthal Center has a researcher based in Germany dedicated to tracking down former Nazis who communicates with German authorities. And the Center's head Nazi-hunter, Efraim Zuroff, is conducting a campaign called "Operation Last Chance" targeted toward rooting out Nazis in hiding. Read a CNN.com profile of Zuroff.

The Center, however, is not working with German authorities on the newly opened investigations.

"We certainly would like to help," Cooper said.

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soundoff (317 Responses)
  1. Frank Castle

    LET'S REALLY GET TO THE ROOT OF THE NAZI WAR MACHINE AND INVESTIGATE THE ECONOMICS THAT MADE IT FLORISH. PRESCOTT BUSH WAS THE DIRECTOR OF THE UNION BANKING CORPORATION. THIS CORPORATION ASSISTED IN THE FINANCING OF HITLER'S REGIME! ONCE HITLER DECLARED WAR ON AMERICA, THE U.S. GOVERNMENT SEIZED THE UNION BANKING CORPORATION UNDER THE TRADING WITH THE ENEMY ACT AS A FRONT OPERATION THAT WAS SUPPORTING THE NAZI'S. HOWEVER, MUCH OF THE THE PROFITS WERE ALREADY POCKETED BY PRESCOTT ALONG WITH 1.5 MILLION THAT WAS PUT INTO A TRUST FUND FOR HIS SON, GEORGE BUSH SR. .......YEARS LATER PRESCOTT BUSH WOULD BE ELECTED TO THE U.S. SENATE FROM 1952 THROUGH 1963.

    October 7, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. Frank Castle

    I FIND THESE ENDLESS HUNTS FOR HITLER'S PUPPETS AMUSING! BY CHASING THESE OLD MEN TO THEIR GRAVES, THE HUNTERS HAVE MISSED THE "BIG PICTURE." THESE MEN ARE GOLDFISH COMPARED TO THE GREAT WHITE SHARKS THAT HAVE AND ARE FLOURISHING IN THIS COUNTRY HIDING IN PLAIN SITE. THESE MEN HAVE HELD POSITIONS OF POWER FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE U.S. TO SENATORS AND CONGRESSMEN. THEY HAVE ALSO BEEN AT THE HELM OF MAJOR U.S. CORPORATIONS LIKE FORD, CHYSLER, IBM..IF YOU REALLY WANT JUSTICE, GO AFTER THE SHARKS...FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL...YOU CAN'T START A WAR WITHOUT IT !.

    October 7, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. bbbuddd

    talk about beating a dead horse!!! punish a man for something he had no control over,when in any military you follow orders!!!! even if you completely disagree!!!! and in ww2 gremany im sure if you didnt you would catch a slug

    October 7, 2011 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  4. Sandirs

    These people should have been prosecuted decades ago. Because they were not doesn't excuse murder. Capital crimes in the US have no statute of limitationsl And I agree that we should be hunting down the "Great White Sharks".

    Sam, the Germans' henchmen , the Roman Catholic Ustashe, killed more Orthodox Christians than Jews in the former Yugoslavia in sheer numbers. That's correct. And the Serbs have a suit against the Roman Catholic church in the name of one of the biggest and most notorious massacres. They and I agree that these murderers who acted in accord with the Franciscans (one wonders what St. Francis himself would say!!) that these crimes should not go unpunished.

    What's your problem, Sam.

    Hitler may have had some Jewish ancestry. He was an Austrian and a Catholic.

    If you herded people into the death chambers, you were part of the death machine. If you ran the camp movie theater, no, that's not enough for prosecution.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  5. POD

    Whose next.....the construction workers that built the camps, the cooks that made the meals, the train engineers that transported people to the death camps, the station masters and assistants that enabled the trains to reach their destination. The Hypocrisy here is that when the German Courts had real German Nazis(Death Camp SS and Gestapo officers) to prosecute in the 50's and 60's most got light sentences and some just walked right out the door.

    October 7, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. POD

    Educate yourselves.....and learn the truth.....

    August 11, 2010, 12:30 PM

    John Demjanjuk: The Last Nazi

    Funny thing is, he was never a Nazi, nor Ivan the Terrible, nor even German. So why now is he standing trial in Munich as accessory to 27,900 Nazi murders? Is this one last blow struck for justice for the Holocaust? Or is it a farce?

    By Scott Raab

    Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/john-demjanjuk-1109#ixzz1a6XXtce0

    October 7, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. POD

    During the Sobibor trials of 1965 ‚ÄĒ 66, Erich Fuchs, the SS man who helped build and test the gas chambers at Sobibor, Belzec, and Treblinka, testified that once the equipment at Sobibor was set up ‚ÄĒ the engine properly mounted and the connection secured from the exhaust pipe to the killing cell ‚ÄĒ a group of naked Jewish women was driven into the gas chamber by the Ukrainian auxiliaries to test the system. "If my memory serves me right," Fuchs told the court, "about thirty to forty women. About ten minutes later, the thirty to forty women were dead."

    Funny thing: Fuchs was sentenced to four years ‚ÄĒ slightly more than half the prison time Demjanjuk already has done.

    Read more: http://www.esquire.com/features/john-demjanjuk-1109-2#ixzz1a6Ytw04I

    October 7, 2011 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
  8. POD

    You want to talk about world class mass murdering crazies check this guy out......Lazar Kaganovich

    October 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. minxjeh

    I hear those European prisons are like a vacation.

    October 7, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. I wonder...

    What would the reaction of Jewish community be, if the author of the article used the term: : "Jewish death camp" and later added a correction in which she would write, that she meant a Nazi death camp in Poland, where Jews were killed. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if this really happened, her writing career would be over and CNN would be in 'hot spot'. What I'm trying to say is that CNN's policy must be to publish information without proofreading or editing it for historic correctness, as long as it is not too offensive. I wonder...

    October 10, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. Cythara

    Zionist, who have no shame like the rest of humanity, have one last chance to make propaganda on the back of Nazis. They can no longer citeAuschwitz as their 'pure killing camp' because it is generally accepted, now it was a work camp. The story of genocide was one concocted by the Soviets as an act of revenge against the Nazis for screwing up Communist plans to start WW2 on their terms ( the Germans were seeking to fight a pre-emptive war against Communism, although the Jews running American propaganda have never told you this).

    Now that the spotlight of financial crimes on Wall St. seems to keep sweeping over Jews and the majority of people around the world recognize the problems in Palestine were all begun by Israelis illegally taking property and ignoring international law and even common decency, more than ever, it is necessary to trot out 'a few old men' to, once again speak the old propaganda lies about how antisemitism led to the 'Holocaust'. This has always been a great propaganda shield to address any glaring criminal deficiencies discovered by groups of Jews, screwing their fellow man over.

    October 17, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |
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