There are still hundreds, if not thousands, of Nazi criminals out there, and it is essential that they be found and brought to justice. This is the warning of Efraim Zuroff, one of the greatest Nazi hunters in the world.
He participates in a live this Wednesday (27) – date which marks the International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust – promoted by the Israeli Confederation of Brazil on YouTube.
“Age shouldn’t be a protection for the people who committed these horrific crimes,” he told Folha Zuroff, who is the lead Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an Los Angeles-based organization that seeks to find the criminals of WWII.
“When we look at these people, we see frail elderly people, but when they committed their crimes, they were in great physical shape and devoted all of their energy to killing innocent men, women and children. We owe it to the victims, punishing the murderers, ”he said.
Asked about the role of former US President Donald Trump in the growth of white supremacist activities in the United States, Zuroff defends the Republican: “Former President Trump was certainly not anti-Semitic, nor did he want to empower extremists of right”.
How many Nazi war criminals did you help locate and prosecute? Is the total number of Nazi war criminals recognized as responsible? I located the emigration destination of some 3,000 suspected Nazi war criminals, who emigrated across the world, primarily to Anglo-Saxon democracies: the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and New Zealand. -Zeeland.
I passed the information on to the governments of those countries and it helped convince Canada (in 1987), Australia (in 1989) and the UK (in 1991) to pass special laws to allow criminal prosecution of Nazis living in these countries. In at least 40 cases in which I have been personally involved, have legal actions been taken against criminals or have they been publicly denounced. No one has ever calculated the total number of Nazis who were tried, but it is probably close to a million, mostly in the former Soviet Union and the Communist countries.
Do you have any estimates of how many Nazi war criminals are still alive and have not been tried? At least hundreds, if not thousands, if you accept my decision by Nazi criminals – a person who, in the service of the Third Reich or its allies, participated in the persecution of innocent civilians. The reason why so many people are still alive is the increase in life expectancy.
Why is it so important that these people are prosecuted and tried? The passage of time does not diminish the guilt of the murderers. Age should not be a protection for the people who have committed these horrific crimes. Just because a person turns 90 does not stop being a murderer and become “righteous among the nations” [honraria concedida pelo governo de Israel a que arriscou sua vida para salvar judeus dos nazistas].
When we look at these people we see frail old people, but when they committed their crimes they were in great physical shape and devoted all of their energy to killing innocent men, women and children. We owe it to the victims to punish the murderers. These trials send a powerful message: if you commit such crimes, efforts will be made to hold you accountable, even decades later.
Judgments are also important in the fight against Holocaust denial and distortion. These people are the last to deserve compassion, as they had no compassion for their victims, many of whom were elderly at the time. Contrary to popular belief, those involved in these crimes had a choice. Anyone who didn’t want to participate was allowed to do something else, and there isn’t a single documented case of someone being executed for refusing to kill Jews.
Today, which countries are safe havens for Nazi criminals? Austria has not prosecuted or prosecuted any Nazi war criminals for over 40 years, and it is not because there are no Nazis there.
Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg changed his mind and began to veto comments from Holocaust deniers on the platform. To what extent is social media helping to revive Nazi theories? Zuckerberg’s decision was correct and I hope social media will improve the monitoring of hate and incitement. There is no doubt that the existence of social media has encouraged extremists of all stripes.
A Southern Poverty Law Center investigation shows that there was a huge increase in white supremacist activity in the United States under the Trump administration. Do you think former President Trump actively promoted anti-Semitism and neo-Nazi groups, despite being a big supporter of Israel and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu? Former President Trump was certainly not an anti-Semite, nor did he want to empower right-wing extremists. Unfortunately, his victory in 2016 and his combative stance towards progressives have been misinterpreted by them.
How many Nazi criminals have been found in Brazil? No one knows the answer to this question. Unfortunately, several very prominent Nazi criminals fled to Brazil, such as Dr Josef Mengele, “the angel of death” from Auschwitz; Franz Stangl, the commander of the Treblinka and Sobibor death camps, who also worked at the Hartheim euthanasia center in Austria; Herberts Cukurs, deputy commander of Latvian notorious death squad Arajs Kommando; and Gustav Franz Wagner, deputy commander of Sobibior.
What is the most difficult aspect of the job of driving out the Nazis? Convince reluctant countries to prosecute and prosecute Nazi criminals.
Of all the Nazi criminals you helped locate, which was the worst? The most important was Dinko Šakić, commander of the Jasenovać concentration camp in Croatia, where around 100,000 Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Croatian anti-fascists were murdered. When I located him, he was the last concentration camp commander alive.
The rise of right-wing populist governments in the United States, Brazil, Hungary and Poland has brought to power leaders who often use anti-Semitic signals, while criticizing billionaire George Soros and globalization. Is this right-wing wave anti-Semitic, even though it is close to Netanyahu? Each country is a different story. There is no doubt that there are anti-Semitic elements in the policies of the Hungarian and Polish governments, especially with regard to the distortion of the Holocaust. They are trying to change the correct historical narrative of WWII and the Holocaust, to hide the important role their populations played in the murders and arrests.
Some critics say the Simon Wiesenthal Center is using accusations of anti-Semitism to silence opposition to the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians. How do you respond to this review? This criticism is totally bogus, simply an attempt to delegitimize our justified criticism of their unjustly persecution of Israel. There are cases in which the criticism of Israel is certainly correct and valid.