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 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. Greg

    Holy crap, talk about beating a dead horse. Time to unleash some investigations against Israeli terrorism and crimes against humanity

    October 6, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
  2. Greydog

    All Europe (not to mention the US), is waiting on Germany to again bail Europe out of the present banking crisis. And now they want to fund trials for a group of 90 year old men . . Who may be innocent? Go figure . . .

    October 6, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Fish

      Funny, it was because of germany's success as an industrial nation and sophisticated society is what lead to British jealousy, sparking two world wars. Are others jealous of germany now, will they try once again to topple the nation?

      October 6, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. S1N

    I swear that these cases have devolved into a Jewish witch hunt. The fact that they can get a conviction for 28,000 counts of murder because he worked there, without any direct evidence tying him to a single one of the deaths, is absurd. I have a new name for you, Efraim Zuroff. It's Herr Hitler.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. S1N

    Bitter old Jews who try to convict everyone in sight, instead of only those actually responsible for killings = Nazis.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • sam kohen

      Just to let you know the Germans murdered even more Roman Catholics then Jews in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. Such these murderers also go free?

      October 6, 2011 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Peikovain

      A lot of Germans ARE Catholic. They did not target Catholics per se. They happened to kill more Catholics than they killed Jews because there are so many more Catholics available. But the Jews were seen as a foreign nationalitiy, and were mass-murdered because of it. Of course you know this, and that Jews who survived the war went to Israel, as did almost all Jews of the Arab/Muslim countries, where your animosity is directed at them for being a nationality there.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thor

      Wasn't Hitler Catholic?

      October 6, 2011 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark L.

      @ Thor – No, actually, I think both Hitler and Pope Pius XII were Satanic !!

      October 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thoughts . . .

      Born catholic, but was an atheist.

      October 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Fish

      Many more Catholics were truly murdered by Soviets before, during and after WWII.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thoughts . . .

      And the soviets killed many more people than the germans during the same period.

      October 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Yes, but nobody has done it so disgustingly systematically as the Nazis did. No nation has gotten it down to such an exact science, where the resources of an entire continent from every segment of society was designed and put to the task of exterminating undesirable people. It's not just what gets done its how it gets done.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • qanerd

      Utter B S pal. More people may have died but the people who were INTENTIONALLY put to d e a t h were overwhelmingly
      J e w s. BTW, I'm Catholic

      October 6, 2011 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • KeithTexas

      Why are you defending something that is not historically accurate?

      October 6, 2011 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan from Canada

      I agree with you. I had family in Ukraine killed during the war and they were Catholics.

      October 6, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cythara

      Statistically, the Jews died at roughly the same or slightly elevated rate as the general civilian populations around them. Several millions of civilians were killed in Poland, the Ukraine, Belarus and the Jews there died at about the same rate, per their proportion of the general population. The same pattern shows in the West, where fewer civilians died and fewer Jews died. In Germany, itself, there were 500,000 Jews before the war. 65,000 German Jews and their bank accounts emigrated with the help of the Nazis in the Ha Avera Act, or Agricultural Transfer Act (look it up) to Palestine before the war. Several thousands more emigrated to the US, Canada and Britain. 160,000 German Jews are said to have died during the war. About 275, 000 German Jews survived the war in Germany itself. At the same time about 9 million German civilians died. In the heart of 'evil Nazism', German Jews actually survived the war at a high percentage than did the general population! Of 500,000 prewar German Jews, nearly 70% survived the war.

      October 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      If they can't be directly linked to any of the actual murders, yes. Working in a camp is not enough. Actually KILLING someone is. If you can't prove they killed anyone, sftu.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      S1N – Accessory to murder is clearly what they are charging them with and if they worked at the camps they actually are guilty. Making a semantic argument over choice of words is a pretty feeble way to promote your racist hatred and only makes us laugh at you.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Christ

    Just another non-profit organization, running low on money, coming out with a public relations method to increase donations from the elderly emotional jewish community.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      LOL how true. They must be running low on money. Time to trot out this well worn issue

      October 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Fish

      Yep. Bring out your dead (nazis). Bring out your dead.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sam kohen

    It is precisely because of the laxness in persuing the prosceution of Nazi war criminals that there has been virtually no prosceution for war crimes commited since then such as:

    1.) Cambodia, the killing fields;

    2.) Former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia;

    3.) Central America, especially Guatamela;

    4.) Rwanda.

    That is the real tragedy.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      Actually, no. There has been virtually no prosecution because no one outside of those countries cares. They have very little political influence over the West, and the West historically decides who to prosecute. To attempt any further causal link is nothing more than ADL and Weisenthal propaganda.

      October 6, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Moorish

      5) Sabra & Shatilla massacre
      6) the massacre of the palestinian that still on as we speak

      ps: please don't forget to finish your list next time and stop playing innocent the world is waking up!!

      October 6, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      S1N has a very good point here. The west decides who will be punished and apparently only based on strategic value rather than Christian decency.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Leo Karras

    poor little oldfart ūüėõ

    October 6, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. S1N

    Weisenthal Center & Anti-Defamation League = Nazi Jews.

    October 6, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris HOnry

      Amazing how things turn out, isn't it? Hunter becomes the hunted, Jew becomes the Nazi. They stole the land of Palestine in 1948 and took over by violence just like their old pals.

      October 6, 2011 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
  9. Chris HOnry

    It is amazing how these people like to SAY " "Each trial is an inoculation against hatred," but they are full of hatred and want to perpetuate it on the next generations. Take your hate to your grave and stop trying to poison the rest of the world with your thirst for blood vengeance and hatred.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      Correct. I hate to say it's time to "move on", but rehashing ancient war crimes isn't going to heal or stop hatred

      October 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thoughts . . .

      Anyone else see the irony of this post?

      October 6, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Think

    Let’s find all the Jewish soldiers who killed Palestinians since 1948 and take them to court.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris HOnry

      YES, YES, YES, NOW we're talking JUSTICE !

      October 6, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • A Jew

      So are you saying you'd rather not round up Nazis? Or they should have finished the job? I don't know what your saying there other than having complete disgregard for history and the murders of 6 million people based on their religion (and 5 million more because of their mental state, skin color, and various other reasons) but you are a disgusting human being.

      October 6, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Fish

      A Jew – you made claims of 6m murdered for religion and 5m murdered for disabilities. Again you claimed 11m were murdered. Can you please substantiate with facts. That entails many bullets and gas. If even your count is correct (a big if), none died from natural causes or disease?
      Oh, and all 5m have disabilities? Facts please.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      OH BROTHER, get out the violin. The old persecution complex trots out

      October 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • pat carr

      big fish, don't bother with "a jew". he's just wanting to trout out the sympathy machine

      October 6, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Big Fish

      Thanks Pat Carr. I appreciate your comment. I want to place on record something that would make others, who are unaware of history, learn the art of thinking critically. Much of the typical WWII myths can be toppled with simple logic and facts – then watch he liars scurry about like blind mice.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thoughts . . .

      Big Fish . . . whether the number is 11m or 1m doesn't make it less wrong.

      A Jew . . . the germans were no worse than others in history.

      October 6, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. krm1007

    Just like these Nazis, those HVHEs (Highly Violent Extremist Hindus) should be tracked and hunted down who massacred millions of Pakistani women, children, elderly during the 1947 Independence from India. they were murdered in cold blood and never given a second chance. Shame on these Indians with an immoral and worse than a Nazi past, THIS SHALL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN !!!!

    October 6, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Jerry

    Jew think they are the only nation that lost 6 million people to a tyrant. 10 years before the Jews – 6 million Ukraineians die of hunger by Joseph Stalin . Its called the Holdimar by Ukrainians . But I bet if you asked anyone who is not Ukrainian very few people would know if it. Stalin did the same thing that Hitler did , just ten years earlier. Both are national trajedy's which ever way you look at them . What is gained by proscuting 90 year old people . They soon wiil have their day of reckoning . Teaching younger generations about it is the only way will be able to not repeat the mistakes of the past.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Kraznodar

      @Jerry – I have to disagree with you on one point – Stalin made Hitler look like a boyscout. His death toll topped a 100,000,000 between the death camps, forced starvation and the massed "punishment brigades". Compared to that Hitler was an incompetent, ineffectual putz.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Moorish

    This is absurd and ridiculous, the zionist should be the last to complain about Nazis, because they're worse than them, they kill innocent palestinians at will, they should be brought to justice , but again what goes around comes around their time will come again and the price to pay wil be very high.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  14. Il rkn


    October 6, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse |
  15. Martoon

    After reading these comments, I am amazed at how soon we forget about (or choose to deny) something so horrible. And if we forget, then it may happen again.

    October 6, 2011 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Fish

      Wrong. After reading these comments I'm amazed there are a large number who think, have intense interest in history, and would like the facts to back up "preached" and "accepted" mythical claims.

      October 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
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