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Should 97-year-old Nazi war criminal be tried?

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According to The Sun, a 97-year-old Nazi war criminal responsible for the deaths of almost 16,000 Jews has been tracked down to an apartment in Budapest, Hungary.

Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary allegedly was complicit in the murder of Jews during at Auschwitz in 1944. He was an officer for the Nazis, in charge of policing the ghetto of Kassa in Hungary (today this is Slovakian Kosice), where he allegedly committed atrocities.

Since his trail in 1948 distressing details of his war crimes have surfaced, making him the number one most wanted war criminal in the world.

His crimes included forcing prisoners into stress positions, drowning them in icy water, forcing women and children to dig up frozen earth with their bare hands and in official documents found by the Simon Wiesenthal Center it was discovered that he also took a particular pleasure in beating women with a whip he carried on his belt. He also helped transport up to 16,000 Jews to the concentration camp in Auschwitz

Csizsik-Csatary was brought to trail in absentia for his war crimes after the war in Czechoslovakia and was sentenced to death by court. He however escaped to Canada and discarded with his true identity, living under the guise of an art dealer until he was discovered again in 1997. The Canadian government revoked his citizenship but again Csizsik-Csatary escaped before the government had enough time to serve his deportation papers.

The Sun reporters and the Simon Wiesenthal Center tracked him down to a flat in Budapest, where they confronted him with his true identity and asked whether he was in fact the Csizsik-Csatary who had committed the alleged war crimes.

He has since been captured, but what kind of justice should be served to this war criminal? Should he be sentenced to death as his 1948 trail ordered, or should he be put back on trail and his punishment reconsidered according to today’s law?

At 97, to many it may seem as far as futile to imprison or execute this offender after he has lived the largest portion of his life in freedom - escaping the consequences of his actions even though he stopped many from living the full long life he has enjoyed.

To put him back on trail also seems a waste of time since by the time it possibly came to fruition, he may well have died, yet again escaping punishment.

So what’s the solution? Even though his crimes are heart wrenching and difficult to even read, I feel he should be allowed a fair trail where he is present and able to answer for his crimes himself. Human beings should be allowed this right to defend themselves and taking this away from Csizsik-Csatary, though some might say is justified, is an imitation of the elimination of rights practiced by the Nazis and therefore wrong.

By today’s existing law in the Czech Republic, which used to be part of Czechoslovakia, there is no capital punishment. The last execution took place in 1989 and the law changed in 1990 and so a retrial is the only option for Csizsik-Csatary.

For many Jews and even the survivors this seems infinitively unfair. If what is alleged of him is true, then Csizsik-Csatary effectively escapes prosecution, evades capital punishment and builds a career for himself in another country, enjoys a long life and then is offered a retrial to answer for his crimes when his life is practically over.

Unfortunately, this can be the only justice served without breaching human rights. Who’s to say he even remembers every injustice he committed? Who’s to say he will feel remorse or guilt? He may not even be sane, being so advanced in years, yet further exempting him of the punishment he should be dealt with.

For many survivors, it may have to be comfort enough to know he is no longer out there living life. 

War survivor Eva Franick sees the slim positive side, saying that the capture made her feel good.

She says: "It's nice to know that there are people out there who still care about serving justice to those people, because we no longer have the strength.

"Even if he is 97, having his life end like this is also a punishment."

Unfortunately this may have to be the ultimate comfort to many, as a life long imprisonment, however much it is deserved, doesn’t look like it will happen, at least not for very long.




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