Jewish Group Decries New Documents

Friday, July 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — Documents unearthed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center indicate that the government of Hungary notified U.S. occupation forces in Germany in 1947 that Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was in the U.S. zone, but U.S. authorities did not respond to the request for his extradition for four years.

Just a year earlier, Eichmann had escaped from a U.S. prison camp. With the help of ex-Nazi officials, he eventually got to Argentina in 1958. But the founder of the Wiesenthal Center believes that if the United States would have taken the Hungarian request seriously, Eichmann, who was in charge of the ``Final Solution'' to exterminate the Jews of Europe, might have been found far earlier.

``They made it easier for Adolf Eichmann to live in anonymity, and not to worry because no one was looking for him,'' said Rabbi Marvin Hier.

The letter, addressed to the military governor of the American zone of Germany, requested that Eichmann be delivered to Hungary to stand trial for participating ``with the instructions of Himler (sic) SS commander in the liquidation work of the Jews in Hungary.'' It was sent on April 23, 1947, by Stephan Ries, the minister of justice in Hungary.

A reply to the letter, dated May 15, 1951, was sent by the president of the U.S. extradition board, which was responsible for sending war criminals to other nations for trial.

The response stated that the request for extradition was denied, because a ``definite address'' was not provided, and more details of the alleged crimes were needed. ``The material submitted in this case does not meet the technical requirements required,'' the letter read.

Hier said the letter showed ``callous disinterest'' on the part of the U.S. government, and that it was because Hungary was a communist country.

``For the United States to sit on this information,'' he said, ``just because the country was communist, is outrageous.''

A Wiesenthal Center historian said that since the Nazi threat disappeared after the war, and the United States was more concerned about the Soviets, American officials ``wanted to get out of the war crimes business.''

``Had the U.S. issued the equivalent of an all-points bulletin, maybe more people would have been looking for him,'' said Aaron Breitbart, senior researcher at the center. ``The reason we still have the Nazi war criminal issue today is that the job was not properly done a half a century ago.''

Another historian disagreed with the center's assessment, saying the U.S. search concentrated on Austria, Eichmann's last known whereabouts, and that several nations, such as France and Greece, asked for Eichmann's extradition.

``The request from Hungary was not very high on the agenda,'' said Hans Safrian, a former fellow at the National Holocaust Museum in Washington and the author of a book on Eichmann.

Safrian also noted that Nazi war criminals were extradited to and later hanged in several communist nations, including Poland and Czechoslovakia.

``It was a common practice,'' Safrian said. ``The perpetrators didn't like that, because they knew they would get harsher treatment in the East.''

Still, Safrian concurred that the long delay of the U.S. response showed that the Americans were ``not very forthcoming.''

Israeli intelligence agents eventually found Eichmann near Buenos Aires in 1960. He was tried in Israel for his crimes against European Jews, and was hanged in 1962. Simon Wiesenthal, for whom the Los Angeles center is named, was involved in the search for Eichmann and several other suspected war criminals. Wiesenthal currently lives in Vienna, Austria.

``Eichmann deported more than 400,000 Jewish men, women and children just from Hungary to the death camps,'' Safrian said. ``That's the main thing.''


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