Holocaust Survivors' Network
FROM: w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m
Nazi hunt yields Romania war crimes suspects
March 4, 2005
BUCHAREST -- A prominent Jewish rights group said yesterday that its hunt for Nazi war criminals in Romania had flushed out 15 suspects it hoped to see prosecuted by the country's top court.
About half a million Jews were killed during the Holocaust in Nazi ally Romania, including Transylvania, which was then under Hungarian rule. Israel has repeatedly urged the Balkan country to face up to its ugly past.
"The suspects are alleged to have actively participated in the persecution and murder of Jews in several places in Romania," top Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff, who opened a Holocaust crimes hotline in Romania, said in a statement.
Zuroff said the top prosecutor's office was asked to start an investigation into alleged crimes by four suspects, the first people likely to be prosecuted in Romania for war crimes since the fall of communism in 1989.
The chief prosecutor's office said it was investigating the cases and it would closely cooperate with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The center launched "Operation Last Chance" in 2003, offering 10,000 euros for information leading to the capture of war criminals, saying it was the last opportunity to find those responsible for the Holocaust.
As late as 2003, the leftist government denied a Holocaust had taken place on its territory, prompting a diplomatic row with Israel and forcing the creation of an international commission of experts to study the EU candidate's Nazi past.
The commission revealed that up to 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed by Romanian civilian and military authorities. Many were slaughtered in pogroms, murdered in forced labor camps or death trains.
Another 135,000 Jews living in the Transylvania and 11,000 Roma were killed.
Romania, led by pro-Nazi Marshal Ion Antonescu became an ally of Germany in 1940 when it turned into Adolf Hitler's main operational base in southeastern Europe. But it switched sides shortly before the end of World War II when it became clear the Third Reich's days were numbered.