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Published:July 24th, 2013 08:26 EST
Can the Simon Wiesenthal Center Nab 60 Nazis 68 Years After the End of WWII?

Can the Simon Wiesenthal Center Nab 60 Nazis 68 Years After the End of WWII?

By John G. Kays

"In my 33 years of hunting Nazis I never once had a case of a Nazi who ever said he was sorry. Don`t look at these people and see a frail old man or woman, think of someone who at the height of his physical strength devoted his energy to murdering innocent women and men. These are the last people on Earth deserving any sympathy because they had absolutely no sympathy for their victims." Efraim Zuroff -Jerusalem office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center

Nearly 70 years later, there are still Nazis living in freedom in Germany? As shocking as it is, the answer to this question is yes! A BBC News article got my undivided attention late yesterday afternoon as a substantial story, tied to history, tossed in amongst a bunch of white noise filler stories. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has identified something like 60 Nazis are still hiding out in Berlin or in other cities in Germany, or throughout Europe.

Well, perhaps they don`t know exactly where they are, or else they could have arrested them already. A poster campaign was launched as of yesterday, where 2,000 posters were put up in Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne; the name of the program is Operation Last Chance. You`ll want to take a close look at the poster, which has a photo of the rails pulling up to Auschwitz-Birkenau (location of the gas chambers). A catchy slogan on the poster reads: "Late but not too late."

This Nazi Hunt campaign looks quite impressive and carefully thought out, but why this sudden enthusiasm in July of 2013, when WWII (in Europe) ended approximately in April of 1945 (68 years ago)? Part of a resurgence of spirit is due to the nabbing of John Demjanjuk (a former [Sobibor] concentration camp prison guard), who was given a five year prison sentence in a Munich court (May 2011) without the use of eye-witnesses.

As I studied this information regarding the new Wiesenthal campaign, I couldn`t help but wonder how these former-Nazis could have survived and continued to thrive and live in freedom for almost 70 years. How had they escaped apprehension by the Allies in the first place? 

Or were some of them initially arrested, then let go by the Allies, since there were just too many to prosecute in the courts? I thought a little about the movie, The Boys of Brazil, but sensed it probably doesn`t describe what became of most of these notorious characters.

Okay, so then I had to do some reviewing; it was hard, but I completely read over the Wikipedia entry for Auschwitz, not exactly a tourist destination most of us are too anxious to visit. It`s a difficult body of data to internalize, with lots of statistics which were difficult to obtain, such as an accurate figure for the number of casualties losing their lives there. 

1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered at Auschwitz, is an ubiquitous, authoritative figure offered now. Noticeable also to me, which sent a chill down my spine, is that Rudolf Hoss had forgotten the exact date when Heinrich Himmler had explained the plan, the Final Solution, I mean. This has been debated, but it probably was disclosed in the summer of 1942, when Hoss met with Himmler in Berlin.

Before the Russians got to Poland, many of the records (the Germans are known for keeping good records, though) were destroyed. That`s not to say, many records were still left behind; and, of course, the surviving prisoners could probably easily identify their caretakers, the Nazis running the camp. 

So, I wonder how these culprits could have gotten under the radar screen so readily in an beaten-down, post-war German society? I`ve often heard of the vast levels of clemency that existed in Germany in the fifties say, but still...Let`s wish the best of luck to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and hope they`ll be successful in their new endeavor!