The race to catch former senior Nazis before they die has been "lost," Germany's Jewish leader said Monday as the country marked the 50th anniversary of its Nazi hunt agency. And she said she knows who is to blame.
The Ludwigsburg agency fought to bring the culprits of Auschwitz to justice
Knobloch was speaking at ceremonies marking 50 years of work by the so-called central office, which was established Dec. 1, 1958.
The agency's greatest achievements include compiling evidence between 1963 and 1965 to prosecute the key surviving commanders and guards from the Auschwitz death camp.
At Ludwigsburg in south-western Germany, where the agency has its office, German President Horst Koehler highlighted its contribution to restoring German honor in the world by ensuring that Nazis were duly punished for Holocaust crimes.
"We can thank these efforts to punish Nazi crimes for the fact that our nation is once again a respected member of the family of nations and is friends with former enemies," he said.
Charlotte Knobloch leads Germany's Jewish community since 2006
Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews, praised the agency but said the German justice system had not done enough.
"The race against time has been lost," she said. "An unknown number of grave crimes remain unpunished."
She accused Germany of not giving the Ludwigsburg agency sufficient powers to act fast against former Nazis.
Inquiries by its prosecutors must be handed over to prosecutors in the 16 German states once the cases are ready to bring to trial.
Treblinka guard targeted
John Demjanjuk, right, is once again in investigators' scopes
The agency hopes to mount one last major inquiry, against John Demjanjuk, 88, the former Ukrainian member of the SS who was acquitted by an Israeli court. The Ohio man is accused of being an infamous guard at the Treblinka extermination camp.
But even that inquiry was challenged last month, with state prosecutors in Munich saying it was not their business.
Michael Stolleis, a law historian, said the national office's foundation was preceded by foot-dragging among German politicians.
He said it was largely because of public and international pressure that the National Office of the State Justice Adminstration for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes had been set up in 1958.