Wiesenthal Center: Will, not age, major obstacle in Nazi prosecutions

A lack of political will is more to blame than aging in the failure to prosecute Nazi-era war criminals, the Simon Wiesenthal Center said in an annual report.

“The lack of political will to bring Nazis war criminals to justice and/or to punish them continues to be the major obstacle to achieving justice, particularly in post-Communist Eastern Europe,” said the center’s report on on the Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals released May 1. “The campaign led by the Baltic countries to distort the history of the Holocaust and obtain official recognition that the crimes of Communism are equal to those of the Nazis is another major obstacle to the prosecution of those responsible for the crimes of the Shoah.”

Only the United States receives an A rating in the report, for proactive prosecution of war criminals.

“While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution, in many cases it is the lack of political will, more than anything else, that has hindered the efforts to bring Holocaust perpetrators to justice, along with the mistaken notion that it was impossible at this point to locate, identify, and convict these criminals,” the report said. “The success achieved by dedicated prosecution agencies, especially in the United States, should be a catalyst for governments all over the world to make a serious effort to maximize justice while it can still be obtained.” 

Croatia, Denmark and Britain get D ratings for making only a minimal effort and for not having any practical results.

Norway, Sweden and Syria are rated as failures in principle for not prosecuting war criminals for ideological reasons or because of statutes of limitations. Austria, Canada, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine are rated as failures in practice for having the necessary laws but not pursuing prosecutions.

Another 15 countries did not answer the center’s questions but “clearly did not take any action whatsoever to investigate suspected Nazi war criminals” during the 2010-11 period.

The center listed as most wanted Alois Brunner, the Adolf Eichmann deputy responsible for deporting Jews to death camps from Austria, Greece, Slovakia and France. He was last seen in Syria, where he sought postwar refuge, in 2001. He would be 99 today.

“The chances of his being alive are relatively slim, but until conclusive evidence of his demise is obtained, he should still be mentioned on any Most Wanted List of Holocaust perpetrators,” the report said.