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Germany Reopens Investigations into Hundreds of Nazi Guards

Germany has reopened dormant investigations into hundreds of Nazi concentration camp guards and other personnel.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 10/5/2011, 10:49 AM

The German government has launched a last-chance blitzkrieg on the dormant cases of hundreds of former guards and other personnel at Nazi death camps.

The investigations come in the wake of a new precedent set by the conviction in May of John Demjanjuk, 91, a former Nazi death camp guard, according to the Associated Press.

He was found guilty in a Munich court of assisting in the murder of more than 27,000 Jews at the Sobibor concentration camp while serving as a Nazi guard, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, praised the guilty verdict and the court for finally ending Demjanjuk's disguise and setting the record straight after years of struggling to complete the probe.

“He was, in fact, one of the sadistic and brutal murderers at Sobibor,” said Hier. [They] sentenced him to, what for a 91-year-old man, is a life sentence in jail.”

Demjanjuk was extradited from the United States where for years he worked as an auto worker in Ohio. His attorneys have appealed the sentence.

Kurt Schrimm, head of the German prosecutors' office tasked with investigating Nazi war crimes, informed the AP that officials are not waiting until the Demjanjuk appeal has ended, in order to begin work.

The reason has to do with the age of the suspects, most of whom are very old. The youngest are now in their eighties, making it clear that time is running out to prosecute whoever can be charged with their crimes.

The Wiesenthal Center's Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff said in Jerusalem that he will launch a new campaign to track down the last Nazi war criminals.

“It could be a very interesting final chapter,” he told the AP.  “This has tremendous implications even at this late date.”