The Simon Wiesenthal Center updated its list of most wanted Nazis on April 1, 2008, along with an update about various countries' cooperation in helping bring Nazi war criminals to justice after all these years. "I pray for the health of Nazis every day," said Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Wiesenthal Center and coordinator of research on Nazis remaining worldwide. "But only for those I can bring to justice." Following are my original profiles of those on the most-wanted list.
Dr. Aribert Heim
Known as "Dr. Death" and the "Butcher of Mauthausen," Heim is known for his gruesome experiments and murders of prisoners in the Austrian concentration camp. Heim is said to have injected a variety of lethal substances into patients' hearts and conducting organ removal without anesthetic, killing hundreds of prisoners in the two months he worked at the camp. He was also a doctor at Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald camps. He's been on the run since 1962, when he found out he was about to be arrested for war crimes. His children claim he died from cancer in 1993 in Argentina (he was thought to be in Chile in 2006, where his daughter lives), but withdrawals in recent years from Heim's secret bank accounts put authorities hot on his trail.
Also known as John Demjanjuk, the U.S. resident and Ford auto plant worker first came under suspicion in 1977 of being Treblinka Concentration Camp guard "Ivan the Terrible." (For Ford, Demjanjuk worked on Diesel engines; in court, he was accused of operating the Diesel engines at the gas chambers.) In 1986, he was extradited to Israel to face charges, and in 1988 was sentenced to death for war crimes -- a sentence overturned by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993. The fact that he served at the Sobibor and Majdanek death camps was less in doubt, and in 2002 was ordered deported to Ukraine by a U.S. judge. His 2008 appeal of the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court failed; the same week, Poland dropped its investigation into his war activities.
Dr. Sandor Kepiro
Kepiro was a Hungarian police captain during the three-day Novi Sad, Serbia, massacre in 1942, in which more than 1,200 civilians were killed -- shot along the Danube and dumped into the freezing waters. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1944, but was set free by Hungary's fascist regime and fled to Argentina. Two years later, Hungary's communist government convicted him of war crimes in absentia. After that regime fell, Kepiro returned in 1996. Ten years later, the Wiesenthal Center discovered his whereabouts and held a press conference outside his Budapest apartment. Kepiro told reporters that he did round up victims, but claims that soldiers and not his paramilitary police committed the killings. Hungary has opened a new probe.
Asner served as a Croatian police chief of the Ustasha, and is accused of sending hundreds of Jews, Gypsies and Serbs to death camps. By 1942, the entire Jewish community in Asner's town, Pozega, was wiped out. After the war, Asner fled to Austria, where he was granted citizenship. Some five decades later he felt comfortable enough to settle again near Pozega, where he was discovered by a young Croatian historian. Asner promptly fled back to Austria. In 2005, Croatia requested extradition, but Austria denied the request on the basis of Asner's citizenship. When it was discovered that he's lost his citizenship, Austria denied extradition on medical grounds.
A former SS officer, Kam has been indicted in Denmark for the 1943 slaying of anti-Nazi newspaper editor Carl Henrik Clemmensen. Germany refused his extradition, maintaining that the kidnapping and slaying was manslaughter and not murder, thus the statute of limitations had supposedly expired. The Daily Telegraph, probing Kam's life in Germany last fall, noted he "has regularly attended veterans' rallies of SS men. He has also been closely associated with Heinrich Himmler's daughter Gudrun Burwitz and her network Stille Hilfe (Silent Aid), set up to support arrested, condemned or fugitive former SS men." Danish authorities are now investigating his role in the deportation of Jews.
After the war, while in Allied custody, Boere admitted killing three men -- Fritz Hubert Ernst Bicknese, Teun de Groot and F.W. Kusters -- in 1944 as part of a Waffen-SS hit squad tasked with taking out the Dutch resistance. Boere found shelter in Germany before a Dutch court convicted him in the slayings in 1949. Germany has since refused to extradite him. Yet in April 2008, a German prosecutor brought charges against Boere in what was dubbed as possibly Germany's last World War II war crimes trial. "I'm not interested in what happened back then," Boere told Der Spiegel last fall. UPDATE: Boere was convicted on charges of killing the trio and sentenced to life in prison by a German court on March 23, 2010.
Karoly (Charles) Zentai
Hungarian Karoly Zentai, who later anglicized his name to Charles, is accused of conducting manhunts against and committing slayings of Jews in Budapest. Witnesses claim that in 1944, Zentai pulled a Jewish teen (Peter Balazs) not wearing his yellow star off a train, took him to army barracks, beat him to death, then threw his body into the Danube. Hungary has been trying to get Zentai extradited from Australia since 2005. Zentai's attorneys joined a technical challenge to the extradition law mounted by an Irishman wanted for fraud in Dublin. Efraim Zuroff, Israel director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, called the legal morass in Australia "one of the most bizarre efforts ever mounted to block the prosecution of a Holocaust perpetrator."
Mikhail Gorshkow The onetime interrogator for the Gestapo is accused of helping kill about 3,000 men, women and children in the Slutsk ghetto in Minsk, Belarus. Born in Estonia, Gorshkow became a U.S. citizen in 1963, only to be denaturalized in 2002. Before the court decision, Gorshkow fled the U.S. and was awarded an Estonian passport. Ever since then, Estonian officials have been probing the alleged war crimes in his background, while remaining fuzzy about his exact current whereabouts.
The former Lithuanian Security Police (Saugumas) official fled to the U.S. after the war and told immigration officials he'd worked as a "forester." Dailide worked as a real estate agent, retiring in Gulfport, Fla., but was deported in 2004 after his citizenship was revoked in 1997. He was convicted by Lithuania for capturing Poles and Jews, including women and children, trying to escape from the Vilna Ghetto. Jews arrested by his unit were summarily executed by the Nazis. But the court refused to send him to prison "because he is very old and does not pose danger to society." Eighty-five percent of Lithuania's Jews were killed in the war.
A member of the Estonian Political Police in Tallinn in 1941-42, it is alleged that Mannil arrested Jews and communists who were subsequently executed by the Nazis and Estonians collaborators. After the war, testimony of Mannil's activities interrogating prisoners (many of whom were subsequently killed) was heard by Sweden's Sandler Commission; he was expelled from Sweden and denied entry to Britain. Mannil, a businessman and art collector who found refuge in Venezuela for five decades, was promptly expelled when he tried to take up residence in Costa Rica in 2003. He is barred from entering the United States. Estonia, which has never prosecuted a Nazi collaborator, cleared Mannil of war crimes after an investigation.
The Wiesenthal Center is skeptical as to whether the "best man" to Adolf Eichmann is still alive; the last reported sighting of him was in 2001. Brunner has been found responsible for the deportation of more than 128,000 Jews from France, Austria, Greece, and Slovakia to death camps. He was last living in Syria -- where the regime sheltered him for decades and where he worked as a "government adviser" -- which has stymied French efforts to make Brunner serve a life sentence for war crimes (he was convicted in absentia in 2001). The Austrian government has offered 50,000 Euros for his capture. Brunner told the Chicago Sun-Times by phone in 1987, "The Jews deserved to die. I have no regrets. If I had the chance I would do it again."