Nazi Hunters Discover Massive File Cache On Escaped War Criminals.

by Daniel Russ on November 28, 2009

Nazi War Criminal Josef Menegel And His Handiwork, Mengele Hid After The War In Brazil.

Nazi War Criminal Josef Mengele And His Handiwork, Mengele Hid After The War In Brazil.

“Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) — German investigators trying to track down Nazi criminals before they die may have had their “best break” in years after discovering a trove of Brazilian immigration files more than half a century old.

Kurt Schrimm, the top German justice official hunting Nazi fugitives, said his team stumbled on archives identifying “several hundred” Germans who moved to Brazil in the decade after World War II and who may be linked to Nazi crimes. Though only a fraction is still likely to be alive, Schrimm plans to follow up on the lead with Brazilian officials.

“The discovery will probably be our most important find in recent times,” Schrimm said in an interview Nov. 24 from his office in the southwestern German city of Ludwigsburg. Schrimm kicked off research in Brazil in July and will report again on findings after his team returns there in March.

The trial starting Nov. 30 of alleged death-camp guard John Demjanjuk in Munich underscores Schrimm’s effort to hunt down remaining Nazi criminals even if the search yields “order- takers, not givers” 76 years after Adolf Hitler took power. Demjanjuk, who is charged with aiding in the murder of 27,900 inmates in the Sobibor Nazi death camp in 1943, is the biggest catch yet for Schrimm, who took his job nine years ago expecting to close shop.

Instead, Schrimm, 60, a senior prosecutor in Stuttgart, doubled staff at the Central Office of State Judiciaries for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes from four to eight investigators — now down to seven. As the number of clues filed to the office dwindled through the 1990s, Schrimm pressed the Central Office to seek new leads.

Soviet Archives

Those leads included sifting through 1945 war trial documents from Soviet archives involving German prisoners of war and Soviet collaborators. A military-history archive in Prague was found to contain complete files on the Nazi Waffen-SS up to 1943. In 1990, Italian court documents on SS atrocities were discovered after having disappeared in the 1950s.

The Brazilian files focus on suspected Nazi criminals entering on provisional passports. Schrimm and his team followed up leads from a Brazilian source who came across letters warning the authorities of Nazis trying to slip into the country with travel documents issued by the Red Cross. Little was done to bar their entry, Schrimm said.

South American Refuge

South America became the refuge of several high-ranking Nazi officers after the Third Reich’s collapse, including Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann, death-camp doctor Josef Mengele and Gestapo member Klaus Barbie. While Eichmann and Barbie were caught and tried, Mengele died in Brazil in 1979. Eichmann, captured in Argentina, was hanged in Israel in 1962; Barbie, extradited by Bolivia, died in a French jail in 1991.

“As hopeful as we are about the Brazil findings, just 5 percent of the suspects may still be alive and able to stand trial,” Schrimm said. “The Nazi commanders are all dead, but that doesn’t make the crimes of their younger subordinates any less prosecutable.”

The Central Office conducts pre-investigations that are then handed over to state prosecutors once evidence is sufficient for a formal probe. Schrimm’s unit currently has about 20 investigations open.”

Source: Bloomberg


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