In its annual report on the international community's efforts to bring ex-Nazis to justice, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has awarded Germany the highest possible grade. This is the first time Berlin has earned an "A."
Nazi hunters noted a huge change in German policy
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which describes itself as a Jewish human rights group, has recognized Germany's increased effort to prosecute former Nazis by awarding it top marks in its annual report on the international effort to bring World War Two war criminals to justice.
"There's been a monumental and highly significant change in German prosecution policy," the center's head, Efraim Zuroff, told Deutsche Welle.
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"German authorities and judges are taking a more proactive stance to investigating and prosecuting Nazi war criminals, and for this reason we are proud to award Berlin our highest mark," he said.
Zuroff singled out Germany's willingness to "prosecute non-Germans as well as Volksdeutsche - ethnic Germans - which for many decades was not the case." He also lauded Berlin's willingness to put non-officers on trial too.
Zuroff highlighted two examples that illustrate the change in German policy: the ongoing proceedings against John Demjankjuk - an 89-year-old Ukrainian national accused of being accessory to thousands of murders while a guard at the infamous Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland - and the conviction of Heinrich Boere, an SS officer sentenced last month to life in prison for murdering three Dutch citizens during World War Two.
Germany and the United States were the only countries to earn the top "A" grade from the Wiesenthal Center, while a number of countries were criticized in the report.
The center was founded by the late Austrian-Jewish Nazi hunter
The center listed Estonia, Lithuania and Ukraine along with Australia, Canada and Hungary as countries "whose efforts (or lack thereof) have resulted in complete failure during the period under review."
Zuroff said that no legal obstacles to the prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals existed in those countries, but that there was a general "lack of political will" to carry out the process of bringing elderly suspects to justice.
The report said the most disappointing case was that of Sandor Kepiro, who was convicted by Hungary of helping to organize the murder of at least 1,200 civilians in Serbia in 1942. Kepiro has never been punished for his crime, although the Wiesenthal Center has located him in Budapest.
Author: Gabriel Borrud
Editor: Nancy Isenson