Nazi suspect dies before Germany trial

2010-11-22 18:10
Berlin - Samuel Kunz, one of the world's most-wanted Nazi suspects who was under indictment on allegations he was involved in killing hundreds of thousands of Jews at a concentration camp in occupied Poland, has died, a Bonn court said on Monday.

The 89-year-old Kunz died on November 18, the Bonn state court said in a short statement. Court spokesperson Joachim Klages said Kunz died in his hometown, near Bonn, but did not have details on the cause of death.

Allegation against Kunz surfaced as prosecutors were poring through World War II-era documents in preparation for another case, that against the retired autoworker from Ohio, John Demjanjuk, who is now being tried in Munich.

The discovery prompted the Simon Wiesenthal Centre to list Kunz in April as the world's third most wanted Nazi due to the fact that he was allegedly involved personally in the killings and to the "enormous scope" of his suspected crimes, said the centre's chief Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff.

"This is incredibly frustrating and I would urge the German authorities to expedite the remaining cases so that justice can be achieved," Zuroff said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem, after learning of Kunz's death.

Still, he said: "He was under indictment - I think that's very important, I wouldn't minimise that fact - at least a small measure of justice was achieved."

Involved in entire process

Kunz was indicted in July on ten counts of murder and 430 000 counts of accessory to murder on allegations he trained at the SS Trawniki camp in occupied Poland and was sent from there to the Belzec death camp as a guard from January 1942 through July 1943.

In his indictment, prosecutors said he was involved in the entire process of killing Jews at the Belzec death camp: From taking victims from trains to pushing them into gas chambers to throwing corpses into mass graves.

In addition to being charged with participating in the execution of the Holocaust, Kunz was also accused of "personal excesses" in the alleged shooting of 10 Jews.

"In July 1943, the defendant is accused of having shot two persons who had escaped from a train going to the death camp and had been captured by guards," according to the Bonn court.

Between May and June 1943, he reportedly killed eight others who had been wounded but not killed by another guard at Belzec.

"The defendant then took the weapon from the other guard to shoot the wounded victims to death," the court said.

High-profile case

Kunz had long been ignored by the German justice system, with authorities in the past showing little interest in going after relatively low-ranking camp guards. But in the past 10 years, a younger generation of German prosecutors has begun pursuing all people suspected of involvement in the Holocaust, regardless of rank.

The highest-profile case is that of Demjanjuk, the 90-year-old retired autoworker accused of being an accessory to the murder of 28 060 Jews as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland. He denies he was ever a camp guard.

Prosecutors allege that both Kunz and Ukrainian-born Demjanjuk trained at Trawniki.

Though Kunz was due to testify in the Demjanjuk case, he backed down after learning he was under investigation himself.

Among other ongoing cases, prosecutors are still investigating another Ukrainian, Alex Nagorny, who testified in the Demjanjuk trial. They are currently trying to determine whether he is the same person as a Nagorny implicated by witnesses as a guard who participated in the killings at Treblinka.

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