News agency Reuters is reporting that the world’s most wanted Nazi war criminal has been arrested and put under house arrest by authorities in Hungary. Laszlo Csatary, the 97-year-old who tops the Simon Wiesenthal Centre‘s dwindling list of wanted Nazi suspects, said nothing as he was whisked away in a car following his early-morning arrest in Budapest.
Csatary was then questioned for several hours by an investigating magistrate at a military prosecution office.
The Wiesenthal Centre accuses Csatary of organising the World War II deportation of some 16,000 Jews from the ghetto of Kosice, in present-day Slovakia, to their deaths at the Auschwitz extermination camp.
The Wiesenthal Centre said via its website that between 1941-1944, Csatary a senior police officer, beat, brutalized and sent 16,000 Jews to their deaths in the Ukraine and Auschwitz. He perpetrated his evil deeds in the city of Kosice, where, in 1944, Hungarian authorities transferred thousands of Hungarian Jews to German control and transport to the Auschwitz death camp ::::
Hungarian state prosecutor Tibor Ibolya said Csatary was surprised by his arrest. ”Our viewpoint is that at this age, being under house arrest is already quite a shock,” Mr Ibolya said. ”We have to make sure that this man remains alive and is able to stand trial. The suspect is in good physical and mental health. He is being cooperative. One of his arguments in his defence is that he was obeying orders.”
In a statement the Wiesenthal Centre said: Between 1941-1944, Csatary a senior police officer, beat, brutalized and sent 16,000 Jews to their deaths in the Ukraine and Auschwitz. He perpetrated his evil deeds in the city of Kosice, where, in 1944, Hungarian authorities transferred thousands of Hungarian Jews to German control and transport to the Auschwitz death camp. Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, personally visited there in late April 1944 to supervise the campaign to destroy Europe’s lost Jewish community. The total hopelessness is mirrored in these desperate words from a Kosice Jew awaiting his death enroute from Hungary to Auschwitz:
“I am afraid I cannot stand it for long, for we are suffering beyond description. We lie in the dust, have neither straw mattresses nor covers, and will freeze to death. The place is sealed, I do not see any way out…. We are so neglected, that we do not look human anymore. There is no possibility for cleaning anything. We have not taken off our clothes since coming here. Best greetings to you all, pray for us that we shall die soon.“
Today in Israel, during a meeting with Hungary’s President Janos Ader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned, “There is concern in Israel and the Jewish world over a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Hungary…such a dangerous phenomenon must be uprooted before it can spread.”
The Wiesenthal Centre says one of the most effective ways to combat the rising wave of anti-Semitism, and extremism in Hungary is to put on trial a Hungarian who embraced anti-Semitic, genocidal hate a generation ago. His trial will serve as a warning for young people attracted to Hungary’s extreme far-right.
In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court condemned Csatary to death in absentia, but he made it to Canada where he lived and worked as an art dealer before being stripped of his citizenship there in the 1990s. Csatary ended up in Budapest where he has lived freely ever since until the Wiesenthal Centre alerted Hungarian authorities last year.
Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Centre’s chief Nazi-hunter, welcomed the arrest and urged Hungarian authorities to complete the rest of the judicial process and bring Csatary to justice as quickly as possible. ”This is the debt owed to his many victims who were tortured and sent to be murdered at Auschwitz,” Mr Zuroff said. ”The passage of time does not diminish the guilt of the killers and old age should not afford protection to the perpetrators of Holocaust crimes.”
Most Wanted NAZI Denies War Crimes
UPDATE! August 1, 2012: Nazi war crimes suspect Laszlo Csatary, who is accused of overseeing the deportation of thousands of Jews during World War II, has denied all allegations against him, his lawyer said.
Lawyer Gabor Horvath made the announcement after the 97-year-old appeared at a three-hour closed-door hearing at the prosecutor’s office in Budapest.
The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Centre accuses Csatary of organising the World War II deportation of some 16,000 Jews from the ghetto of Kosice, in present-day Slovakia, to their deaths at the Auschwitz extermination camp.
Tuesday’s hearing was aimed at enabling prosecutors to lay out their evidence against Csatary, who was arrested earlier this month after apparently living for years undisturbed in Hungary.
No formal charges have yet been filed against Csatary, who was listed by the Wiesenthal Centre as its top most wanted Nazi war criminal, and is now under house arrest.
“He denied being an anti-Semite before, during and after the events of Kassa, (the Hungarian name for Kosice),” Mr Horvath said.
Csatary – who was sentenced to death in absentia in 1948 by a court in what was then Czechoslovakia – was led away in a car after Tuesday’s hearing, his face hidden under a blanket.
“Much of the hearing dealt with his alleged anti-Semitism, which he denied, citing examples within his family and his circle of friends,” Mr Horvath added.
Csatary also denied he was ever the commander of the Jewish ghetto of Kosice, which was then part of Nazi-allied Hungary, or that he had ever signed any documents in that capacity, Mr Horvath said.
Last week, a historian from Hungary’s Holocaust museum said several documents dealing with the deportations bore Csatary’s signature.
But Mr Horvath said Csatary could “easily be mistaken for someone else”.
He noted that several witnesses had talked of a black uniform, when black was worn by the German forces, not the Hungarian ones.
Mr Horvath said much of the prosecution’s evidence came from testimony given in previous trials against Csatary and other commanders.
The next step against Csatary is unclear, the lawyer said, noting there had been no mention at the hearing of a possible extradition procedure.
On Monday, Slovakian justice minister Tomas Borec said he wanted Csatary to be tried in his country, echoing a similar call by Slovakia’s Jewish community last week.
Csatary, whose full name is Laszlo Csizsik-Csatary, was arrested on July 18 in Budapest on information from the Wiesenthal Centre.
Csatary had fled to Canada after the war but apparently lived undisturbed in Hungary for about 15 years before he was arrested.
At the time of his arrest, Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Centre’s chief Nazi-hunter, urged authorities to bring Csatary to justice as quickly as possible.
“This is the debt owed to his many victims who were tortured and sent to be murdered at Auschwitz,” he said.
“The passage of time does not diminish the guilt of the killers and old age should not afford protection to the perpetrators of Holocaust crimes.”