Category Archive: War Criminals

Notorious Nazi’s house of horrors to become a luxury villa

Developer plans to move his family into house used by Krakow-Płaszow camp commander Amon Goeth, featured in ‘Schindler’s List’

Amon_Göth-prisoner_1945The Poland home of a Nazi concentration camp commander who tortured and murdered Jewish captives in the building, is reportedly being renovated and restored as a luxury family home, to the dismay of Holocaust education activists.

Last year real estate developer Artur Niemyski bought the building, located in Plaszow, a suburb of Krakow, and plans to move in with his family when the repair work is complete, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

From 1943 to 1944, Amon Goeth, who held the rank of Hauptsturmfuhrer in the SS, lived in the house while serving as the commandant of the Krakow-Płaszow concentration camp. After the Krakow ghetto was liquidated on March 13, 1943, those considered still fit to work were sent there. Goeth’s cruel treatment of prisoners earned him the nickname “The Butcher of Płaszow.”

Survivors of the camp told of his brutality, which included shooting Jewish prisoners for sport and torturing others inside the villa. On one occasion he shot dead a Jewish boy for leaving a room without permission and kept two guard dogs that he would occasionally order to tear victims apart.

Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving some 1,200 Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust, was able to do so by taking advantage of his friendship with Goeth. Schindler was a frequent visitor to the home and many of those he saved by employing them in a munitions factory were prisoners in the camp.

The villa was depicted in the 1993 Steven Spielberg movie “Schindler’s List,” in which actor Ralph Fiennes, playing Goeth, was famously shown shooting Jewish prisoners from the balcony of the two-story building.

“My opinion is that this building was occupied for a small period by the Nazi, which should not influence this property forever,” Niemyski was quoted as saying.

“Many houses in the area were occupied by Nazis. Officers from the camp lived in all the houses in the street. Bad things may have happened in the old properties, but basically these were living compounds. Generally, I want to restore the house to be once again a Polish family house and keep it like this,” he said.

Niemyski added that while he will no longer allow educational tours to enter the home, he won’t be bothered if they gather outside.

“They can take photos from the outside, this is their right,” he said. “But I will not allow them to come in. Why should I allow people to look into my private property?”

He had no intention to cause offense, he added, noting his good ties with Jews.

“I used to be on good terms with the Jewish community. I have project-managed the renovation of a synagogue and I met at the time groups from Israel, New York, all over the world,” he said. “I don’t want to make somebody feel bad about what we are doing.”

Rabbi Naftali Schiff, founder of the British charity JRoots, said the renovation of the home was whitewashing its sinister past.

“We welcome dialogue with the owner, but he has made it clear to us that he wants the world to forget what happened there,” he told the Daily Mail.

The charity, which organizes Jewish heritage pilgrimages, has in the past brought groups to view the dilapidated building. JRoots has launched a campaign to have the villa preserved as a memorial site.

“We aim to inspire young people to light candles there and bring light into a dark place, to sing Jewish songs there that Goeth would have had you killed for singing. We ask young people to make a pledge in that house of cruelty to return to Britain and make society a better place,” he said. “Now all of this education has been lost. History is being erased before our eyes.”

Much of the testimony on Goeth’s crimes inside the home came from his two Jewish maids, Helen Horowitz and Helen Jonas-Rosenzweig, who both survived the war after being saved by Schindler.

On one occasion Goeth stabbed Horowitz in the leg for not setting enough places for dinner.

“I overcame the pain and ran into the kitchen,” she said, according to the Daily Mail report. “And then I saw he’d cut through a vein.”

Another time he assaulted her.

“He was a sadist, indescribable sadist,” she said. “He started beating me and threw me with all his strength.”

The maids were kept in the basement of the building, which is now being renovated for use as either a workshop or a wine cellar.

Former maid Jonas-Rosenzweig, who backs the memorial plan for the villa, spoke to the Mail of her experiences in Goeth’s captivity.

‘I was a prisoner in this house and a victim. I want the world to learn what happened there,” she said.

Jonas-Rosenzweig served Goeth, who was married twice, and the mistress he lived with, beautician Ruth Irene Kalder. The Nazi often held extravagant parties for other SS officers. She was also tasked with taking care of the fearsome dogs.

“One was black and white. He was so big,” she recalled. “I brushed the dog, I fed the dog.

“He would give this order to the dog, Ralph, and it would tear people apart. Tear people apart, grab them by parts of the body.”

She recalled how one day Goeth told her he was going to start shooting from his balcony at slave laborers digging ditches along the road next to his garden.

“He said to me, ‘Look at those pigs. If they don’t start working in a few seconds, they are all going to be dead,’” she said. The maid ran out to warn the workers and so prevented a shooting spree.

On September 13, 1944, Goeth was removed from his position at the camp and charged by the SS with the theft of Jewish property that, under Nazi law, belonged to the state, as well as with the mistreatment and abuse of prisoners under his command. But before he could be brought to trial, World War II ended and he was arrested by the US military in May 1945. He was put on trial and sentenced to death for “personally killing, maiming and torturing a substantial, albeit unidentified number of people.” He was hanged 10 days later, on September 13, 1946.

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Nazi hunter says hundreds could still be at large

Efraim Zuroff expects a spike in convictions in coming years despite most suspects being in their 90s

000_KS3GP-e1485486822551Hundreds or even thousands of Nazi war crimes suspects could still be at large, one of the world’s leading experts on the matter said Thursday, ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Efraim Zuroff said he expected a spike in convictions in the coming years despite most suspects being in their 90s, but admitted most were unlikely to face justice as many countries are unwilling to pursue cases.

“There are still hundreds, if not thousands of these Nazis, but the problem is who among them can be brought to justice?” the so-called Nazi hunter told an event ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Friday.

Since 2001, 104 Nazis have been convicted over their roles in the Holocaust, in which around six million Jews were systematically exterminated, figures from Zuroff’s Simon Wiesenthal Center show.

The annual number has been declining, however, and between April 2015 and March 2016 there was only one conviction, with two new cases filed.

In June a 94-year-old former guard at the Auschwitz death camp was convicted in Germany.

Zuroff said he expected the number to increase in coming years.

“There will be a spike because of the whole change in German prosecution policy,” Zuroff told AFP.

In 2011 German legal policy changed to allow prosecutions of those who worked for the Nazis in the death camps, rather than specifically having carried out a killing, allowing for new trials of men and women in their 90s.

While he hailed Germany’s commitment to prosecuting as many suspects as possible, Zuroff pointed out many other countries have not pursued trials.

Collaborators in many countries had been largely immune from prosecution as their governments were unwilling to push the matter, he said.

“In a country like Ukraine, for example, there are a lot of Ukrainians who were involved,” he said.

“They have never initiated a single investigation.”

Zuroff said in both Norway and Sweden statute limitations mean that Nazi war criminals could not be prosecuted.

“In Norway there were people who volunteered for the SS, were sent to the east and were involved in crimes against humanity in Ukraine,” he added.

Zuroff said it was a race against time to convict people before they die.

“It is drawing to an end for obvious reasons,” he said, calling it the “biological solution”.

Asked how the world would look back on their attempts to bring Nazis to justice across the world, Zuroff said “there is no question it failed.”

“The huge number of people involved made it impossible to bring all the perpetrators to justice, so the question is how many will be brought. I look at it that every person brought to justice is a victory.”

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Auschwitz war criminals targeted with help of virtual reality

“The advantage the model offers is that I get a better overview of the camp and can recreate the perspective of a suspect.”

death-campGerman prosecutors and police have begun using virtual reality headsets in their quest to bring the last remaining Auschwitz war criminals to justice, AFP reported Sunday.

Using the blueprints of the death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, Bavarian state crime office digital imaging expert Ralf Breker has created a virtual reality model of Auschwitz which allows judges and prosecutors to mimic moving around the camp as it stood during the Holocaust.

“It has often been the case that suspects say they worked at Auschwitz but didn’t really know what was going on,” Jens Rommel, head of the federal office investigating Nazi war crimes, told AFP.

“Legally, the question is about intent: must a suspect have known that people were being taken to the gas chambers or shot? This model is a very good and very modern tool for the investigation because it can help answer that question,” Rommel added.

“The advantage the model offers is that I get a better overview of the camp and can recreate the perspective of a suspect, for example in a watchtower,” Breker said.

According to Rommel, the model could help prosecute “a double-digit” number of suspects who are still alive.

In addition to blueprints from the Auschwitz archives, Breker used photographs from the period and visited Auschwitz himself in 2013 in order to construct the model.

German authorities have said that the model could potentially be lent to Yad Vashem after all of the criminal cases are closed, AFP reported.

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Himmler diaries reveal chilling details of Nazi wartime life

Journals illustrate how the SS chief kept tabs on even the banal minutiae of his daily routine, even as he oversaw the systematic slaughter of European Jewry

himmler-desk-afp-635x357BERLIN, Germany — Wartime diaries kept by top Nazi henchman Heinrich Himmler, serialized this week in Germany’s daily Bild, offer chilling insights into the life of one of the principal architects of the Holocaust.

Himmler, the head of the Nazi paramilitary SS, kept tabs on even the banal minutiae of his daily comings and goings, even as he oversaw the systematic slaughter of six million European Jews.

The journals, unearthed in Russia in 2013 and currently being studied at the German Historical Institute in Moscow, reveal a confidant of Adolf Hitler as a micromanager marked by deep contradictions.

They also “help to better make sense of key events and understand who took part in decision making for the regime,” researcher Matthias Uhl of the German Historical Institute told AFP.

“Now we can say exactly whom Himmler met each day, where he was, and who his closest advisers were.”

The documents, found in the archives of the Russia defense ministry, cover the years 1938, 1943 and 1944. The German institute plans to published an annotated version by 2018.

The journals for 1941 and 1942 were already discovered in 1991 in Russia, which holds 2.5 million documents from the Wehrmacht, the Nazi-era German military.

The image that emerges is of a caring family man who nevertheless kept mistresses and had secret children as part of one illicit love affair.

Himmler is shown to be a passionate stargazer and avid card player even as he ordered massacres and oversaw the death camps.

“The man who planned the Holocaust was obsessive about organizing his personal life,” Bild said.

“Between [poison] gas, execution orders and thousands of rendezvous, he took care of his family, his mistress and his hobbies.”

On January 3, 1943, for example, Himmler received one of many “therapeutic massages” from his doctor, took part in meetings, called his wife and daughter and then ordered, after midnight, the killing of several Polish families.

According to Bild, Himmler was an ambitious careerist who met with more than 1,600 people between 1943 and his suicide in British custody in May 1945.

“The number of contacts, as well as attempts by Himmler to gain influence through the SS on important institutions of the party, state and army, are impressive,” Uhl said.

“He tried, during the course of the war, to consolidate his power.”

Himmler’s secretaries, one of whom, Hedwig Potthast, bore him two children, noted down regular inspection tours to the concentration camps including Sachsenhausen, with Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels, on March 10, 1938, and the Sobibor extermination camp on February 12, 1943.

“Himmler wanted to have a demonstration of the ‘effectiveness’ of killing by gas,” Bild said.

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Germany jails ex-Auschwitz guard, 94, for five years

Reinhold Hanning found guilty on 170,000 counts of accessory to murder; volunteered for SS at 18; was at camp from 1942-4, claimed he wasn’t involved in killings

Germany-Auschwitz-Tri_Horo-e1465672102396-635x357BERLIN (AP) — A 94-year-old former SS sergeant who served as a guard at Auschwitz was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty Friday of 170,000 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he helped kill 1.1 million Jews and others at the Nazi death camp in occupied Poland.

Reinhold Hanning admitted to the Detmold state court during his trial that he volunteered for the SS at age 18 and served in Auschwitz from January 1942 to June 1944, but said he was not involved in the killings in the camp.

“It disturbs me deeply that I was part of such a criminal organization,” he told the court in April. “I am ashamed that I saw injustice and never did anything about it and I apologize for my actions.”

Despite his age, Hanning seemed alert during the four-month trial, paying attention to testimony and occasionally walking in to the courtroom on his own, though usually using a wheelchair.

Several equally elderly Auschwitz survivors testified at the trial about their own experiences, and were among about 40 survivors or their families who joined the process as co-plaintiffs as allowed under German law.

Leon Schwarzbaum, a 95-year-old Auschwitz survivor from Berlin who was used as slave laborer to help build a factory for Siemens outside the camp, told the court at the start of the trial that he regularly saw flames belching from the chimneys of the Auschwitz crematoria.

Reinhold-Hanning-195x293“So much fire came out of the chimneys, no smoke, just fire,” he told the court. “And that was burning people.”

Schwarzbaum later said he does not want Hanning to go to prison and is happy that he apologized, but had hoped that he would have provided more details about his time in Auschwitz for the sake of educating younger generations.

“The historical truth is important,” Schwarzbaum said.

Hanning joined the Hitler Youth with his class in 1935 at age 13, then volunteered at 18 for the Waffen SS in 1940 at the urging of his stepmother. He fought in several battles in World War II before being hit by grenade splinters in his head and leg during close combat in Kiev in 1941.

He told the court that as he was recovering from his wounds he asked to be sent back but his commander decided he was no longer fit for front-line duty, so sent him to Auschwitz, without him knowing what it was.

Though there is no evidence Hanning was responsible for a specific crime, he was tried under new legal reasoning that as a guard he helped the death camp operate, and can thus be tried for accessory to murder. Though the indictment against Hanning focused on a period between January 1943 and June 1944 for legal reasons, the court said it would consider the full time he served there.

The same argumentation used in Hanning’s case was used successfully last year against SS sergeant Oskar Groening, to convict him of 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for serving in Auschwitz. Germany’s highest appeals court is expected to rule on the validity of the Groening verdict sometime this summer.

Groening, 95, was sentenced to four years in prison but will remain free while his case goes through the lengthy appeals process and is unlikely to spend any time behind bars, given his age.

In Hanning’s case, prosecutor Andreas Brendel recommended six years in prison while his defense attorneys argued for an acquittal, rejecting the new legal reasoning.

The precedent for both the Groening and Hanning cases was set in 2011, with the conviction in Munich of former Ohio autoworker John Demjanjuk on allegations he served as a Sobibor death camp guard. Although Demjanjuk always denied serving at the death camp and died before his appeal could be heard, it opened a wave of new investigations by the special prosecutor’s office in Ludwigsburg responsible for Nazi war crime probes.

The head of the office, Jens Rommel, said two other Auschwitz cases from that renewed effort are still pending trial — another guard and also the commandant’s radio operator, contingent on the defentants’ health, which is currently being assessed — and a third is still being investigated by Frankfurt prosecutors.

Rommel’s office, which has no power to bring charges itself, has also recommended charges in three Majdanek death camp cases, and has sent them on to prosecutors who are now investigating.

Meantime, the office is still poring through documents for both death camps, and is also looking into former members of the so-called Einsatzgruppen mobile death squads, and guards at several concentration camps.

Rommel said even though every trial is widely dubbed “the last” by the media, his office still plans on giving more cases to prosecutors and politicians have pledged to keep his office open until 2025.

“That seems to me to be the outside boundary,” said Rommel, who’s not related to the famous German field marshal of the same surname. “If the cases will make it to trial that’s hard to say, you can’t really look into the future — but we have the mandate to keep investigating as long as there’s still the possibility of finding someone.”

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Historian names living member of infamous SS battalion

British citizen Mychajlo Ostapenko, 88, was allegedly a rifleman in Ukraine’s 31st Punitive Brigade, which took part in crushing the Warsaw uprising

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A British historian claims to have discovered a former member of a Nazi battalion that was involved in numerous World War II atrocities, living out his days in Lancashire, England

“These people ought to be held accountable for what they have done, even if it happened many years ago,” Dr. Stephen Ankier told the Daily Mail.

Ankier said he had found military rosters, payroll lists and other documents from Poland and Germany that prove 88-year-old British citizen Mychajlo Ostapenko was a rifleman in Ukraine’s 31st Punitive Battalion, a unit of volunteers led by SS officers, and was held captive in a POW camp in Rimini, Italy, after being captured by British forces.

Ostapenko, who came to Britain in 1947 and was granted citizenship in 1956, denied the allegations, saying he was in Poland during the war.

“I don’t know nothing about what was going on,” he told the Daily Mail. “I was in hospital in Poland for about nine months with appendicitis. Then I was at home. I was in an army but I never fought anyone. I haven’t done anything wrong. I haven’t killed anybody. I was in the Rimini camp. The British looked after us well. I can’t remember anything else. I’m sorry.”

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SS war criminal lived in Britain for 66 years

Nazi hunter claims recently deceased 89-year-old was a member of unit that massacred Poles, Jews during WWII

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A Nazi soldier who helped murder Jews during the Holocaust lived undetected in London for 66 years until his recent death, a British Nazi hunter said

The man, a former SS soldier in a unit that massacred Poles and Jews during World War II, was identified as Serhij Woronyj by the Daily Mail, which reported about the case on Thursday. He worked as a printer and lived a London apartment until his death from a heart attack in March 2013 at the age of 89.

A private researcher, Stephen Ankier, told the Daily Mail that his research showed that Woronyj belonged to the 31st Punitive Brigade, also known as the Ukrainian Self Defense Legion, which later became part of the 14th SS-Volunteer Division “Galician.”

The SS division was involved in putting down the Warsaw Uprising, in which an estimated 200,000 civilians and rebel fighters were killed.

Woronyj was captured by British forces in 1945 after the unit surrendered itself to the British at the end of the war, calling themselves the First Division of the Ukrainian National Army. They presented themselves as nationalists dedicated to the anti-Soviet cause and were accepted to settle in Britain with minimal checks for war crimes.

Ankier traced Woronyj after making dozens of trips to scour archives in Germany and Poland as well as travelling all over Britain, the Daily Mail reported.

Soldiers from the division were also involved in the destruction of Huta Pieniacka, a village in Poland that also served as a shelter for Jews, in which 1,000 people were killed.

One of Woronyj’s neighbors, who did not want to be named, said he was “a big man who kept himself to himself.”

Ankier made international headlines last year after he discovered one of the unit’s commanders, Michael Karkoc, living in Minnesota. German authorities are now considering if there is enough hard evidence to prosecute Karkoc and have him extradited from the United States.

Germany can prosecute ex-SS man living in America, court rules

Berlin says Michael Karkoc held a ‘German office’ even though he is not German and his alleged crimes were not committed on German soil

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BERLIN — Germany’s highest criminal court has ruled that the country has jurisdiction over the case of a retired Minnesota carpenter that an Associated Press investigation exposed as a former commander in a Nazi SS-led unit.

The Federal Court of Justice said in its ruling published Thursday that 95-year-old Michael Karkoc’s service as a commander in the SS-led Ukrainian Self Defense Legion made him the “holder of a German office.” This gives Germany the legal right to prosecute him even though he is not German, his alleged crimes were against non-Germans and they were not committed on German soil.

Someone in that role “served the purposes of the Nazi state’s world view,” the court said.

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