Should the passage of time mitigate punishment for war crimes so heinous that they shock the conscience? The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations(OSI) continues to aggressively pursue aging Nazi War Criminals. They vow to continue until the last one hiding in the United States is caught and brought to justice. The only **constitutional brand of justice the United States can inflict is to strip these Nazi geriatrics of their citizenship and deport them to their homelands hopefully to face a much harsher justice if prosecuted and convicted of World War II war crimes. The U.S. government has won 105 cases against former Nazis. Cases are pending against 16 others.
An appeals court has ruled against accused 87 year old Nazi guard John Demjanjuk bringing him one step closer to deportation. Demjanjuk, a retired auto worker, was once wrongly convicted of being the sadistic Nazi death camp guard “Ivan the Terrible” and sentenced to death in Israel. The Israeli Supreme Court later overturned the conviction, saying another man was probably “Ivan,” a sadistic guard at the Treblinka death camp where 870,000 people died. He was stripped of his U.S. citizenship again in 2002, with a judge ruled that he had worked as a guard at other death camps. He is still living free in the United States. The problem has been that no country would take him. This issue appears to be nearing closure as both Germany and Spain have now stepped up and demanded his extradition. Germany wants him for his alleged part in the torture of Jews at the Sobibor Death Camp. Spain wants him for the torture of Spaniards at Nazi concentration camps. Edward Nishnic, a spokesman for Demjanjuk’s family stated:
“This is taking it to the ridiculous……. It’s another form of harassment against a very and very frail man.”
There is no doubt that there is sympathy and support for Demjanjuk. Should there be?
Josias Kumpf(photo AP)
On June 16, 2008, a U.S. appeals panel upheld an order to deport 83-year-old Josias Kumpf. Kumpf is accused of serving as a Nazi SS guard whose duty was to finish off dying Jews in a two-day mass execution in Poland that killed more than 40,000.
On June 10, 2008 retired Pennsylvania steelworker Anton Geiser 83, was ordered deported. Geiser served as an armed SS guard at Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He later escorted prisoners to and from the Buchenwald concentration camp where tens of thousands of Jews and others were exterminated.
According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune:
“Geiser’s neighbors in Sharon said they were shocked by the lawsuit and will stand behind Geiser, describing him as a wonderful person. One neighbor, Diane Dach, said the government should not attempt to punish Geiser now....”
Paul Henss and wife
Last year U.S. authorities began deportation proceedings against an 85-year-old Georgia man who they say served as a Nazi guard and trained and handled attack dogs at the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps in Germany. Paul Henss is a German citizen who lives in suburban Atlanta. The Justice Department stated that he entered the U.S. in 1955 after hiding his concentration camp service.
When asked about the allegations Henss said:
Elfriede Rinkel led a quiet life in America for over 40 years with her Jewish husband, a German born Jew whose parents had died in the Holocaust. She had a dark secret. Her past included her job as a dog handler at the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbrück. She kept the secret from her late Jewish husband for forty-two years, living quietly in San Francisco. When he died the 84-year-old German woman, Elfriede Lina Rinkel, admitted that she served as a guard at the Ravensbrück concentration camp during World War II. She has since been deported back to her native Germany. When asked about her concentration camp activities Rinkel stated that she had “done nothing wrong” and had only watched prisoners so they would not “run away” She went on to state:
“I am not a Nazi. My relatives are not Nazis. I did nothing wrong,“
During World War II, many atrocities were committed against civilians by the Nazis and other Axis nations. These atrocities were committed as part of Hitler’s genocidal quest to rid Europe of all Jews and “inferior races”. Many of those responsible were captured and tried. Many managed to escape capture and slip undetected into countries all over the world. They hid their Nazi past when entering the United States and other countries. They managed to live quiet, peaceful lives. Many died of old age peacefully in their beds without ever having to face the brutality of their past having denied that peaceful passing to thousands.
Most scholars agree on a figure of between 1,000 and 3,000 war criminals who have found haven in the United States since the war’s end. Most have already died. Those still alive are in their eighties or older and often claim poor health as an excuse not to stand trial. You can view a list of the world’s most wanted Nazi War Criminals on the Simon Wiesenthal Center web site.
Time is running out to apprehend these geriatric fugitives. There is a general consensus that within a decade all but a few will be dead of old age or other illness. These are just the ones who may be residing in the United States. They are being hunted world wide by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. It is estimated that there are 480 suspected Nazi war criminals living in 20 countries. In the United States they often have wives, children,grandchildren and great-grandchildren who they will leave if deported. Most are suffering from multiple age related physical ailments. Should this be a consideration? Should the fact that they led quiet lives as model citizens matter? Should we now have mercy on those whose atrocities so transcended humanity that most were hanged or sentenced to long prison terms after the war. I f your father was murdered while you were a child and the murderer is caught 50 years later, does the passage of time lesson the heinous nature of what was taken from you? This and more was taken from millions of Jews, Poles, Christians, Gypsies and others by a regime so viscous that to even invoke the word “Nazi” in some forms or to deny the events took place is a crime in some countries.
Has the United States immigration bureaucracy made it a haven for geriatric Nazis wanting to live out their last days as free men? The deportation process including appeals in the United States can last years. Even when a deportation order is issued and the appeals exhausted there is often no country willing to accept these war criminals. The 8th amendment prohibits them from being incarcerated indefinitely until a country is found willing to accept them so they are set free. They should feel very fortunate. Nazis hiding in other countries are sometimes not so lucky. In 1960 Israeli agents kidnapped suspected Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann and spirited him back to Israel for trial. He was tried on public television(broadcast live on ABC). He was found guilty and hanged. Some Nazis in hiding are never apprehended. Dr. Josef Mengele, “The Angel Of Death”, was one of the most wanted war criminals in history. He performed gruesome genetic experiments on the children and adult inmates of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Despite a massive Israeli manhunt, he died a free man in 1979. He allegedly drowned while swimming.
Some suspected Nazi war criminals are very lucky and enjoying life abroad. 95 year-old Milivoj Asner holds the number 4 spot on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most wanted Nazi criminals’ list. He was recently spotted(photos) taking in the Euro 2008 soccer championship. Mr. Asner is wanted in Croatia to stand trial for deporting hundreds of Jews, gypsies and Serbs to World War II death camps. His native Austria has refused to extradite him citing his alleged failing health. The photos of him at Euro 2008 have sparked outrage in the Jewish community. They show him in apparent good health. The Asner case spotlights the criticism certain countries/nations have received for their refusal to take action with regards to Nazi war criminals living within their borders. Some of these are the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden. You can read a report on who is doing what here.
Does the passage of time in itself provide absolution for genocidal conduct during World War II? Should a 90 year old who murdered in the concentration camps or who aided said genocide suffer any less penalty because he is 90, has children or grandchildren? Should that person be deported and tried under the same laws that resulted in the hanging and imprisonment of the Nazi’s tried at Nuremberg?
Heinrich Bore(Photo AP)
This is an international dilemma. Germany is preparing for what will probably be its last World War II war crimes trial against 86-year-old former Waffen SS death squad soldier Heinrich Bore. Bore previously been sentenced to death by a Dutch court in 1949 but has never been extradited. He is currently living in a senior citizens home. Health issues may prevent his trial in Germany from ever going forward. Should it go forward?
Who is the oldest suspected Nazi war criminal living in the United States? That dubious honor belongs to 92 year old grandfather Vladas Zajanckauskas. He is suspected of being part of a Nazi “extermination squad” and of having participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Liquidation. His orders were as follows:
“You will kill every Jewish man, women and child you can lay your hands on….”
When asked about the allegations and his possible deportation Zajanckauskas stated:
“I hope they wouldn’t deport me. Last my days….and I already bought a grave for myself in cemetery, with stone and everything. My name. My wife’s name.”
In August 2007 Mr. Zajanckauskas was ordered deported to his native Lithuania where he is also facing a war crimes investigation. It is unclear as of this writing whether he has left the United States or is even living.
Vladas Zajanckauskas(photo BBC)
Should Mr. Zajanckauskas and other Nazi geriatrics be left alone to spend their few remaining days, months or years in peace with only the torment of the outraged masses that they are still free while millions died both out of genocide and fighting to end the genocide? It is a rhetorical question to those of us of Jewish Faith. It however is not a Jewish World.
**The thought of the United States actually “prosecuting” Nazi war criminals is a misnomer. All the U.S. can constitutionally do is strip them of their citizenship and deport them. These are civil and not criminal actions.
©2008 Brian Cuban