Hungary begs off pursuing war criminal

Just when thinks government officials can’t possibly be any more tone-deaf when it comes to dealing with sensitive issues, along comes another dim-witted bureaucrat or two eager and able to lower the bar.

In Hungary, prosecutors said Monday that investigating a 97-year-old Nazi war criminal found alive and well in Budapest was “problematic” because the events took place so long ago and in a different country.

Laszlo Csatary has spent the past 15 years living undisturbed since he was deported from Canada for his actions during World War II, which included helping organize the shipping of nearly 16,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1944.

A probe into Csatary began in September after information was received from the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center, which ranks him number one on their wanted list, the public prosecutors’ office said.

The crime is alledged to have taken place in Kosice, which was then in Hungary but is now in Slovakia.

Prosecutors in Hungary said the investigation “therefore has to explore an event remote in both time and place,” with “significant part” of the probe dedicated to finding possible witnesses, some of whom may live abroad, according to Agence France-Presse.

“It took place 68 years ago in an area that now falls under the jurisdiction of another country – which also with regard to the related international conventions raises several investigative and legal problems,” a statement said.

“Finding the answers to the aforementioned questions is a precondition to clarifying the facts and determining further investigative actions.”

Not surprisingly, no name appeared to be attached directly to the comments.

One suspects that had Hungary not been allied with Nazi Germany during World War II the current government might have taken care of this matter long ago, never mind putting forth bland and insulting excuses about why an alleged war criminal is allowed to live out his days in the nation’s capital.

In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court condemned Csatary, who was senior policeman during the war, to death in absentia, but he escaped to Canada and worked as an art dealer in Montreal and Toronto until he was stripped of his citizenship and was forced to flee in 1997.

He ended up in Budapest where he lived undisturbed until the Wiesenthal Center alerted Hungarian authorities last year.

Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, handed over more evidence to Hungarian prosecutors last week highlighting Csatary’s “key role” in the 1941 deportation of some 300 Jews from Kosice, Hungary, to Ukraine, most of who were murdered, according to Agence France-Presse.

Zuroff told the wire service on Sunday that he has been “very upset and very frustrated” about the lack of action by Hungarian authorities.

“Something has to be done because he’s in good health at 97… but this could change very quickly.”

“The passage of time in no way diminishes his guilt and old age should not afford protection for Holocaust perpetrators.”

French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld said on Monday he doubted Hungarian authorities would prosecute Csatary, even as Paris urged Budapest to launch legal proceedings against him.

The Hungarian government of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban declined to comment on the case, saying it was a matter for the public prosecutor’s office.

The bottom line: Nazi war criminals and their eager assistants put millions to death in the most heinous fashion imaginable.

If nothing else, the world owes it to the memory of those who died at the hands of those criminal regimes to track down every last murderer still alive, no matter how much effort it takes.

(Above: Hungarian Jews being rounded by the SS in October 1944 in Budapest.)

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One thought on “Hungary begs off pursuing war criminal

  1. This case remains relevant from a number of perspectives, which seem to get no coverage in the media:
    1) How is it that Canada let a suspected Nazi just disappear?
    2) Csatary was essentially an art dealer in Canada–he ran a camp where he tortured wealthy Jews to get their art and money, so I wonder what he sold and how much of it is stolen property of murdered Jews. The fact that he can afford a lavish lifestyle in Hungary suggests he lived off his victims for a long time.
    3) His ability to evade the police, have multiple residences indicates he is a savvy criminal on the run.
    4) The Orban government in Hungary has a very similar political agenda as the Fascist government of Hungary in World War II–I know this is a serious accusation but their new constitution (as one law maker boasted, written on an iPad over the weekend) is a sham, their extra-territorial claims on other countries bodes ill for Hungary’s future. Orban is very comfortable having Csatary live out the rest of his days, because those are the types of Hungarian values that he represents–blaming Jews, and minorities is closely aligned with Orban’s message.

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