One of the last most-wanted Nazi war criminals still at large has been found living comfortably in Budapest and the group that has been hunting him for decades is urging Hungarian prosecutors to finally bring him to justice.
Laszlo Csatary, who is accused of helping send 15,700 Jews to their death at Auschwitz, was photographed by Britain's tabloid Sun newspaper, which identified him as Ladislaus Csizsik-Csatary, living in a two-bedroom apartment in a "smart district" of the city. The photos show the fugitive, now 97, standing at his door wearing just socks and underpants.
The newspaper quoted him denying complicity with the Holocaust-era killings but last week the Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center submitted new evidence to Hungarian prosecutors on the man who is No. 1 on its most-wanted list.
The Center said Csatary was a senior police officer in the Slovakian city of Kassa (now known as Kosice), then under Hungarian rule. In 1941, he is said to have played a "key role" in the deportation of 300 Jews to Ukraine, where they were killed.
As a “commander” in the Royal Hungarian Police in Kassa, Csatary is accused of complicity in the deportations of thousands of other Jews from Kosice and the surrounding area to the Auschwitz death camp in the spring of 1944. According to the Wiesenthal Center, witnesses reported that he oversaw the Jewish ghetto with extreme cruelty, whipping women and forcing them to dig holes with their bare hands.
“Several thousand Jewish families have felt sorrow and hurt because of this man and it would be a disgrace, for the entire Hungarian nation, if Csatary were to escape justice,” Peter Feldmajer, president of the Hungarian Jewish Community, told the Sun.
Cstary was sentenced in absentia to death by a Czech court after the war. By then he had fled to Canada, where he worked under a false identity as an art dealer. He was discovered in the mid-1990s but disappeared before the Canadian government could deport him. His whereabouts were unknown for 15 years until he was tracked down in a quiet neighborhood of Budapest.
"The passage of time in no way diminishes his guilt and old age should not afford protection for Holocaust perpetrators," said Wiesenthal Center director Efraim Zuroff, whose group's Operation Last Chance aims to bring the last surviving Nazis to justice before they die of natural causes.