Alleged Hungarian Nazi war criminal Sandor Kepiro has died in Budapest at the age of 97. His family announced his death via the Hungarian news agency NTI.
Kepiro, a former Hungarian police captain, once headed the “most wanted” list of Nazi war criminals of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for rounding up more than 30 Jews and Serbs on a truck and sending them away to be shot.
A total of more than 1,200 Jewish, Serbs and Roma civilians were murdered over a three-day period in the Novi Sad massacre by Hungarian forces.
The Serbian town was then under Hungarian control, when the massacre began on January 23, 1942. At that time, Hungary was a member of the Axis powers with Germany, Japan and Italy.
Kepiro claimed that he was “the only person to refuse the order to use firearms” and instead said he intervened to save five people about to be killed by another officer.
He was twice convicted for his role in the Novi Sad raids. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison but served only a few weeks. His sentence was subsequently annulled and his rank reinstated.
Kepiro later traveled to Argentina in 1944, and remained there for some 50 years, but returned to Hungary in 1996, where he was eventually tracked down by Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.
On July 18, 2011, he was acquitted on the murder charges and freed by a Budapest court, having denied all the charges.
“I am innocent. I never killed, never stole. I served my country,” Kepiro said in a statement read by his psychologist. The verdict was delivered over a two-day session of 45 minutes each on doctors' orders in deference to Kepiro's frail health at the time.
The week the verdict was handed down, Kepiro entered the hospital; he arrived for the court session by ambulance and returned to the medical facility the same way.