JERUSALEM - The dramatic capture of Holocaust architect Adolf
Eichmann in 1960 and his trial in Jerusalem a year later
was a milestone for Israel and a watershed in the global
hunt for Nazi war criminals.
In the 50 years since then, although there have
been no further convictions in Israel, numerous
notorious Nazis have been brought to justice
But despite the efforts of prosecutors, frequently
prodded into action by private individuals
who have dedicated themselves to hunting down
Hitler's killers, "hundreds,
if not thousands" of criminals are still at large, says Israeli Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff.
And with perpetrators and witnesses dying off,
or becoming unfit to testify, Nazi hunters
say that a current round of trials may be the
last, bringing to an end the bid to seek retribution
for the millions of victims.
It may well mean that the trial of Hungarian
Sandor Kepiro, due to start in Budapest next
month, could signal the end of the era.
Kepiro's trial, which begins May 5, could actually
be one of the last, if not the last major trial
of a Nazi war criminal on criminal charges," Zuroff
Zuroff heads the Jerusalem office of the Simon
Wiesenthal Centre, the Los Angeles-based organization
named after the Holocaust survivor who was
perhaps the best known of Nazi-hunters until
his death in 2005.
Information held at the centre shows that Kepiro,
97, was one of a group of Hungarian officers
who organized the murder of hundreds of civilians
in Novi Sad, Serbia, on January 23, 1942.
Their records show Kepiro was convicted in Budapest
in 1944 for violating the officer's code of
honour but he was never punished due to the
Nazi occupation, after which he escaped to
He was tracked down by the Wiesenthal Centre
in 2006, living back in Budapest.
It's the biological clock," explains
David Silberklang, senior historian at the Holocaust
research centre of Jerusalem's Yad Vashem institute,
citing 91-year-old John Demjanjuk as an example.
Demjanjuk is currently on trial at a court in
Munich on charges he helped to murder 27,900
Jews while serving as a guard at the Sobibor
Nazi death camp.
How many criminals can there be out there that
are a lot younger than he? Maybe there are still
some a few years younger, and a few that have
lived longer than he, but we're nearing the end
of it," Silberklang
Although time is running out, Zuroff says the
Wiesenthal Centre has chalked up a number of
successes in the past decade, with judicial
authorities around the world handing down 87
convictions and 77 indictments.
In 2002, the Wiesenthal Centre helped launch "Operation
Last Chance" offering cash rewards for information leading to the conviction of Nazi war
The campaign was a success, with organizers handing
over the names of more than 100 suspects to
Last year, a German court convicted Heinrich
Boere, a former SS man now aged 89, who was
jailed for life for the wartime murder of three
And two years ago, Demjanjuk was extradited from
the United States to stand trial in Germany.
The Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk had already been
tried once in Israel, accused in 1986 of being "Ivan
the Terrible" — a sadistic Nazi guard at Sobibor and Treblinka camps.
After being sentenced to death at the climax
of a dramatic and often harrowing televised
trial in Jerusalem, he was finally freed in
1993 after Israel's Supreme Court ruled on
appeal that there was "reasonable
doubt" in identifying him as Ivan.
During his career, Simon Wiesenthal, himself
a former camp inmate, provided investigators
with leads on many suspects, including Eichmann
and Franz Stangl, commander of the Sobibor
and Treblinka camps.
Stangl was arrested in Brazil in 1967, extradited,
tried in West Germany for the murder of 900,000
people, and in 1970 found guilty and sentenced
to life imprisonment. He died of heart failure
six months later.
Stangl built the Sobibor death camp and was the
commandant at Treblinka throughout its existence," Zuroff
You're talking about a person who had an actual
direct connection with the murder of at least
a million people."
Other well-known Nazi-hunters are Paris-based
Serge Klarsfeld, a Romanian Jew whose father
died in the Auschwitz death camp, and his wife
Beate, daughter of a Christian soldier in the
post-war German army.
They tracked down Klaus Barbie — "the
butcher of Lyon" — who was tried in France for the deportation of French Jews from Lyon to Auschwitz.
On July 4, 1987, Barbie was found guilty of crimes
against humanity and sentenced to life in prison.
Such catches are most likely a thing of the past,
We're in injury time now," he
The chances of getting criminal convictions are
diminishing as we speak. Every day, it's getting
harder and harder."