Nazi war crimes suspect Csatari dies aged 98 awaiting trial | South China Morning Post
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WAR CRIMES

Nazi war crimes suspect Csatari dies aged 98 awaiting trial

Hungarian alleged to have helped send 12,000 Jews to the death camps was due to stand trial

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 August, 2013, 1:14am
 

A 98-year-old Hungarian who topped the dwindling list of surviving Nazi war crimes suspects has died in hospital while awaiting trial for allegedly sending 12,000 Jews to the death camps.

Laszlo Csatari died on Saturday of pneumonia after a long fight with illness, his lawyer Gabor Horvath said.

Csatari was alleged to have been a senior police officer actively involved in the deportations from the Jewish ghetto in Kassa, now known as Kosice in present-day Slovakia, during the second world war.

After being sentenced to death in absentia by a Czechoslovakian court in 1948, he escaped to Canada, where he lived and worked as an art dealer before being stripped of his citizenship in the 1990s.

He returned to Hungary, where he lived undisturbed for about 15 years until prosecutors began investigating his case in late 2011 on the basis of information from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which put him at the top of its list of surviving alleged Nazi war criminals.

He was placed under house arrest in July last year and in June prosecutors charged him.

They said that as commander of a collection and deportation camp in the Kassa ghetto he was "actively involved in and assisted the deportations" in 1944.

Csatari "regularly beat the interned Jews with his bare hands and whipped them with a dog-whip", prosecutors said.

He also allegedly refused requests to cut windows into airless train wagons each transporting around 80 men, women and children to the gas chambers of Nazi-occupied Europe, mostly at the Auschwitz camp in Poland.

The Jewish population in and around Kassa was crammed into the ghetto following the occupation of Hungary by German troops in 1944 after the country's dictator and former ally was deposed by Hitler.

The silver-haired Csatari denied committing war crimes in several hearings held behind closed doors, according to his lawyer.

The case was suspended on July 8 on grounds of double jeopardy, since Csatari has already been convicted of the charges presented.

But last week, a higher court ruled proceedings could resume after the prosecutor successfully appealed against the suspension.

In recent years, the authorities in Europe have made renewed efforts to bring to justice the small number of people still alive thought to have been involved in the Holocaust.

Most notable was Ukrainian-born former Sobibor guard John Demjanjuk, deported from the United States in 2009 and sentenced in Germany in 2011 to five years in prison for complicity in 28,000 murders.

He died at a nursing home last year aged 91 while freed and awaiting an appeal.

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