"Last chance" hunt for Nazi war criminals to start in Germany

Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:28am EDT
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) - A "last chance" campaign to root out surviving Nazi war criminals and bring them to justice before they die will be launched next week in Germany, almost 70 years after the end of World War Two.

Nazi-hunters have been encouraged by the prosecution last month in Hungary of 98-year-old Laszlo Csatary for helping to deport Jews to Auschwitz and by the arrest in Germany of Hans Lipschis, a suspected former guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

"Operation Last Chance II" is the name given to the Simon Wiesenthal Center's publicity campaign, which includes putting up posters in big cities to enlist the help of the public in tracking down suspects.

Rewards of up to 25,000 euros ($32,600) are on offer.

On the striking poster is a black and white photograph of the notorious "Gate of Death" at the Nazis' Birkenau extermination camp with the train tracks leading up to it. The slogan "Late, but not too late" is emblazoned across it.

"This is really it. We have two or three years maximum, that's all," Efraim Zuroff, head of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Reuters.

The hunt is no longer for high-level perpetrators of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were murdered, but for thousands of people who helped in the machine of death. Zuroff says some 60 individuals could be alive and fit to go on trial.

"I don't imagine 60 people will be brought to justice but every single one is a victory," he said. "It may be two or three or five and there is no reason to forego these.   Continued...

File picture shows Simon Wiesenthal Center Director Efraim Zuroff as he attends a protest against the annual procession commemorating the Latvian Waffen SS unit, also known as the Legionnaires, in Riga March 16, 2012. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/Files