'Not Too Late': Nazi Hunters Launch Poster Campaign

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A photo taken in May 1944 on the platform at the entrance of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Zoom
AFP/ Yad Vashem Archives

A photo taken in May 1944 on the platform at the entrance of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center will hang posters in major German cities next week as part of its campaign to bring surviving Nazi war criminals to justice almost 70 years after the end of World War II. It is offering rewards of up to 25,000 for information.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said on Tuesday it was launching a poster campaign in major German cities, calling on the public for information to help it track down surviving Nazi war criminals.

The posters, which will go up on July 23, will feature a photo of the entrance to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and the slogan, "Late. But not too late! Operation Last Chance II."

The Wiesenthal Center is offering rewards of up to €25,000 ($33,000) for information leading to arrests and prosecutions. The posters will appear in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne and will have a hotline number for people to call if they have information.

Operation Last Chance II was launched in December 2011 to help step up prosecutions following a legal precedent set by the conviction that year of John Demjanjuk, found guilty by a Munich court of being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews while he was a guard at Sobibor in occupied Poland.

'Contribution Against Forgetfulness'

Legal experts say the Demjanjuk verdict in a Munich court paved the way for convictions of other surviving death camp guards. In what lawyers called a significant reinterpretation of the law, the court ruled that prosecutors no longer need to establish culpability in specific murders to secure a conviction. Having been a guard in a death camp is now seen as proof enough of having assisted in murder.

"Every single prosecution is an important reminder that justice can still be achieved for the victims of the Holocaust," said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office.

"This also is an important contribution against forgetfulness of future generations. The advanced age of the perpetrators should not be a reason to discontinue prosecution, since the passage of time in no way diminishes their guilt, and old age should not protect murderers."

Nazi hunters welcomed the prosecution last month in Hungary of 98-year-old Laszlo Csatary for helping to deport Jews to Auschwitz and the arrest in Germany of Hans Lipschis, a suspected former guard at Auschwitz.

Zuroff, a historian, coordinates the Center's research into Nazi war crimes and organizes its efforts to track down war criminals.

The Wiesenthal Center's Operation Last Chance campaign was first introduced in 2002.

Lipschis is among 50 Auschwitz guards who are still alive in Germany today and who are now being investigated following the Demjanjuk conviction.

Some legal experts say Germany's late rush to bring the surviving lower-ranking suspects to trial looks implausiblegiven the lenience shown for decades to people who were in more senior positions in the Holocaust machinery, most of whom are now dead.

In the 1960s and 1970s, German courts argued that the top Nazi leadership was principally to blame for the Holocaust and that people carrying out orders were bound by a chain of command and therefore had limited culpability.

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1. Too Late
Kingslea 07/17/2013
Sorry, but it's too late. I do not see the point in prosecuting 98 year old men who played no major role in the Holocaust. The leaders are long since dead. Time for these prosecutions to stop.
2. optional
bob searcy 07/17/2013
in a time of national crisis such as ww11 a refusal to follow orders would likely result in a bullet to the head. those screaming for empathy seem to be lacking in the ability to show empathy.
3. Causing hate is not the answer
Inglenda2 07/17/2013
A large number of those of us who are old enough to remember WW2, cannot and do not, defend the crimes committed against innocent civilians, by any country involved. Nevertheless, it would seem that many organisations, which claim to seek the justified punishment of war criminals, have forgotten that there are two sides to every story. Not every conscripted German soldier was a nazi criminal, any more than all Russian fighters can be accused of rape. With this poster campaign, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre would appear to have no other object in mind, than to cause hatred between members of the older and younger generations in Germany. This type of action has little to do with finding out the facts, but perhaps that is just the intention behind this hunt.
4. Ridiculous
johann84 07/17/2013
I found this absolutely ridiculous. It look like that MR. Zuroff has to justify his salary somehow. For God's sake, 70 yrs passed since ww2. Mr. Zuroff should turn his energy and funds to bring today's war criminals to court.
5. holocaust
rolymo35 07/17/2013
It is much too late to pursue this matter,enough is enough,trying to perpetuate this horror story for commercial gain & donations is inhuman, cruel and not in the interest of the German people who should stand up to this plan to humiliate them publicly
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