The atrocities inflicted almost 70 years ago during World War II may be gone, but they are certainly not forgotten. The German special prosecutors’ office responsible for investigating Nazi war crimes has released recommendations to consider charges against Auschwitz guards serving during that time.
Though the acts have gone unpunished for decades, recent investigative efforts have unearthed information that may bring many men to justice. According to Kurt Schrimm, the federal prosecutor who serves as the head of the office in Ludwigsburg, there were forty-nine individuals investigated as potential suspects. From this population thirty people have enough incriminating information about them to be charged with accessory to murder. Other potential criminal charges may still be brought against Auschwitz guards, even those that have relocated to various countries during the course of the decades since the acts were supposedly committed. Some of the locations where past Auschwitz guards have immigrated include: Austria, Brazil, Croatia, the United States, Poland, and Israel.
Efraim Zuroff, who is the top Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem and the facility’s director said, “We commend the (prosecutors) for seeking to apply the precedent as widely as possible and hope that they will be able to find as many perpetrators as possible. It’s only a shame that this kind of legal reasoning was not applied previously, because it would have led to many, many more cases of people who definitely deserved to be brought to justice.”
Mr. Zuroff spoke about the greater devastation of allowing these crimes to remain unpunished for multiple decades. “At the same time, today’s positive development underscores the failure to take such measures during the past five decades, a decision which allowed thousands of the worst hands-on killers to elude justice,” he said.
Is there a certain point in time where retribution for past crimes should be relegated to history teachings? Ulrich Sander of the Association of Victims of the Nazi Regime does not think so. “These crimes against humanity must not remain unpunished,” he said.
[Image via Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Poland]