Laszlo Csatary, another name on the Simon Wiesenthal Center List of Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals, has been charged by a Hungarian court for his participation in Nazi war crimes. Laszlo Csatary, 98, is accused of having overseen deportations of Jews to the Auschwitz death camp while serving in the Kosice police. After Kosice, then called Kassa, was annexed by Hungary in 1938, laws drastically restricting the rights of Jews were implemented. A ghetto was established in 1944, with trains living to Auschwitz. 70 percent of Kassa’s Jewry was murdered.
The indictment accuses Mr Csatary of torturing and murdering 15,700 Jews during World War II – partly as a culprit, partly as an accomplice. “With his actions, Laszlo Csatary… deliberately provided help to the unlawful executions and torture committed against Jews deported to concentration camps… from Kosice,” the prosecutors’ statement said.
Shortly after the war, Mr. Csatary fled to Canada as a refugee, where he spent nearly fifty years in Toronto. In 1948, a Czechoslovakian court sentenced him in absentia to death for torturing Jews. He disappeared in 1997 after being stripped of his Canadian citizenship. With help from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and from Operation Last Chance, reporters from the Sun’s newspaper tracked him down to a two-bedroom apartment in a smart district of Budapest, Hungary.
Anti-facist protesters and journalists have been celebrating the news and are besieging Laszlo Csatary’s Budapest apartment. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Centre, welcomed the arrest of Mr. Csatary: “[Mr. Csatary] was known to be a sadist, he had a determination to round all Jews up and forcibly deport them to Poland. To achieve justice against this man will bring a degree of closure for families of the victims, for the Jewish communities of Hungary and Slovakia.” But controversy surrounds the exact role of Laszlo Csatary and the timing of the trial. The evidence is thin and his responsibility questionable. Laszlo Karsai, Hungary’s pre-eminent Holocaust historian, himself the son of a Holocaust survivor declared “Csatary was a small fish. I could name 2,000 people responsible for worse crimes than he was. The money spent hunting down people like him would be better spent fighting the propaganda of those who so energetically deny the Holocaust today.”
Mr. Csatary is also charged in Slovakia. He denies all allegations against him. His Hungarian trial is expected to start within three months.