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After the Holocaust

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Nazi War Criminal Found in Hungary 64 Years after Death Sentence

July 16th 2012

Concentration Camp Survivor

One of the last surviving Nazi war criminals, a man who evaded a death sentence for 64 years, has been found living in Budapest, Hungary. A Hungarian national, László (or Ladislaus) Csizsik-Csatáry was placed in charge of the Jewish ghetto in Kassa (now located in Slovakia) during World War II. He was noted even at the time for the apparently sadistic pleasure he took in acts of cruelty and violence.

In the spring of 1944, he committed the crime that wrote his name into the history of infamy: he rounded up and deported almost 16,000 Jews to the Nazi death camps.

After the war, Csizsik-Csatáry's story became one of thwarted justice and bureaucratic malfeasance, as the murderer moved from country to country fleeing the inevitable punishment for his crimes.

He was first tried, in absentia, by Czechoslovakia, who sentenced him to death. Traveling under the false pretense of being a Yugoslavian citizen, Csizsik-Csatáry managed to find sanctuary in Canada. For decades, Csizsik-Csatáry must have believed he had escaped. Indeed, it was not until 1997 that his true identity was revealed, and his citizenship revoked. Somehow, he evaded justice again, disappearing from sight and prompting an international search by Nazi hunters.

In recent years, the Simon Wiesenthal center put Csizsik-Csatáry at the top of their list of Nazi war criminals being sought as part of "Operation Last Chance," the Center's final attempt to bring justice to surviving criminals before they are all deceased.

In the end, however, it was not the Center or the police who found the aging killer, but a British tabloid newspaper, The Sun. Using information provided by the Center, they followed a trail that ended in the apartment of a very old man who denied everything, but who they are certain is the monster they have been seeking.

It is currently unknown what Csizsik-Csatáry fate will be. He is 97 years old, and may well be able to avoid trial by pleading infirmity. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called for the Hungarian authorities to confiscate his passport and prevent him from escaping again.

This may not be necessary. Ironically, the man's ill-health may prevent any further attempts at flight, and he would find few interested in taking in an aging war criminal. His Czech death sentence still stands, and he could easily be extradited without further trial.

Whatever the outcome, it will likely be of little solace to his victims and their survivors. If there is any comfort to be taken, it is that Csizsik-Csatáry has spent almost the entirety of his adult life a hunted man, and now - thanks to a group of relentless investigators and some intrepid journalists - he will die one as well.

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