At 98 years old, Laszlo Csatary has been charged with partaking in Nazi war crimes that resulted in the deaths of over 15,000 Jews during World War II. Csatary was said to have overseen a concentration camp in Kassa, now known as Kosice in Slovakia, where Jews were gathered for deportation to Auschwitz. He denies the allegations against him, reports the BBC.
Mr Csatary insists that he was merely an intermediary between Hungarian and German officials in Kosice and that he was not involved in war crimes.
It was barely a year ago when it seemed like the charges against Csatary would be dropped. There was still an investigation and a prosecutor in Budapest called the claims “groundless,” reported JTA. The investigations were conducted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, named after the famous Nazi hunter.
Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, told JTA that he would check if the Hungarian prosecution had interviewed any witnesses before dropping the charges. Zuroff said an 84-year-old Holocaust survivor had accused Csatary of arranging for four of her brothers to be pulled out of a labor camp and murdered at Kamyanets-Podilsky, along with other family members.
Csatary has been a wanted war criminal since 1948, when he fled to Canada after a charge and began life there as an art dealer. But when his citizenship was revoked in 1997, he fled again, The New York Times reports.
The center lost track of Mr. Csatary after that, until it received a tip in September 2011 that he was living quietly in Budapest. Mr. Zuroff said he tracked down Mr. Csatary there and then notified the Hungarian authorities, who began an investigation.
The Independent reports that Csatary’s charge has been changed to a life in prison sentence, said Lucia Kollarova, a spokesperson for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Bratislava, Slovakia.
We would prefer the war criminal Laszlo Csatary to be extradited to Slovakia,” Kollarova said. We don’t believe that given his age there is a realistic chance [he would be imprisoned in Hungary].
The case will be tried within three months, according to Bettina Bagoly, a spokesperson for Budapest’s Chief Prosecutor’s Office, and the same woman who refuted the charges against Csatary in 2012.