Israeli Nazi hunter who helped track down footage says he turned to national broadcaster after Berlin's slow response to his findings
BERLIN (JTA) — A German television channel is broadcasting interviews with two alleged members of World War II Nazi death squads located with help from an Israeli hunter of Nazis.
Efraim Zuroff, Jerusalem-based Nazi hunter for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, went public with the names after German state investigators appeared to be dragging their feet, he said in an interview.
The program by the ARB broadcaster featuring comments from Kurt Gosdek and Herbert Wahler was slated to air Thursday in ARD’s Kontakt magazine. They are alleged to be members of Einsatzgruppen, or mobile death squads, which historians say were responsible for about two million murders in the Soviet lands under German occupation.
According to Zuroff, who in 2014 had supplied German investigators with a list of 80 names of Einsatzgruppen members born in 1920 or later, said he became frustrated with the lack of response from the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Ludwigsburg. He decided to work with a reputable German broadcaster in the meantime.
The prosecution of such perpetrators became easier after the 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk in Munich, which set a precedent enabling accessories to Nazi genocide to be tried for murder.
Zuroff said he researched the names of former Einsatzgruppen members himself and then found those born in or after 1920. There were 76 men and four women, he told JTA. He provided the list to Ludwigsburg on their request, he told JTA.
When Ludwigsburg failed to act, Zuroff searched on his own for those who were still alive. ARD picked up the ball and managed to get interviews with two of them.
Zuroff said it was “one of the greatest moments of my life” when ARD told him about the interviews. According to a transcript he has seen, one of the men says he was working for the Einsatzgruppe, fixing cars.
But that’s not trivial, Zuroff said. “Those cars took people to the pits so they could murder tens of thousands of Jews.” In a statement issued Thursday, the Wiesenthal Center called on the German judicial authorities to expedite the trials of Einsatzgruppen members.
“I would hate to see a situation where, because of some bureaucratic problem or lack of staff in Ludwigsburg, these people will be not brought to justice,” Zuroff told JTA.