Yad Vashem - AP - 19.4.12
Ultra-Orthodox visitors to Yad Vashem, March 18, 2012. Photo by AP
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On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Simon Wiesenthal Center announced three new names had been added to its list of most wanted Nazi war criminals. All three have a Canadian connection and two are currently in Canada.

The Wiesenthal Center, based in Los Angeles, which tracks Nazi war criminals and anti-Semitism, has given Canada failing marks on pursuing Nazis within its borders.

The two suspects in Canada are Vladimir Katriuk, said to have been the commander of a Ukrainian army unit that committed mass murder in Belarus, and Helmut Oberlander, who allegedly served in one of the mobile killing units, the einsatzgruppen, that murdered large numbers of Jews in southern Ukraine.

Katriuk fled to Canada after the war, but in 1999, after Canadian authorities discovered his past, he was stripped of his Canadian citizenship - but it was reinstated in 2007, a move ratified by a Canadian court in 2010. However, new evidence has surfaced recently of Katriuk's alleged war crimes, which the Wiesenthal Center hopes will lead to a reconsideration of his case.

Oberlander likewise has had his Canadian citizenship repeatedly revoked on account of his Nazi past, but then restored, and it is now pending again. The einsatzgruppen, to which he was allegedly deployed, are believed to have killed more than 23,000 people, mostly Jews.

The third wanted man is Laszlo Csatary, who as a police commander in Hungarian-occupied Slovakia is alleged to have played a key role in the deportation of 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. After the war he, too, fled to Canada. The Canadian government stripped him of citizenship in 1997 and he left the country voluntarily, and is now living in Hungary.

"Despite the somewhat prevalent assumption that it is too late to bring Nazi murderers to justice, the figures clearly prove otherwise," said Efraim Zuroff, the center's director in Israel. "We are trying to ensure that at least several of these criminals will to be brought to trial during the coming years. While it is generally assumed that it is the age of the suspects that is the biggest obstacle to prosecution, in many cases it is the lack of political will, more than anything else."

Over the past 11 years, about 90 Nazi war criminals have been convicted for their wartime deeds by courts worldwide, and some 80 new indictments have been filed against those suspected of war crimes, Zuroff said. Also, more than 3,000 new investigations have been opened against suspected Nazis.

Appraising the justice meted out by different countries where Nazi war criminals live, Zuroff lauded German authorities but took the governments of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Ukraine to task, along with Sweden and Norway, which he said refuse to prosecute war criminal suspects because of their statutes of limitations.

A Wiesenthal Center report gives high marks to the United States, Italy, Spain and Serbia along with Germany for their pursuit of perpetrators of Nazi war crimes. The prosecutor's office in Hungary also got high marks for its efforts but the center rebuked Hungarian courts for its laxness in actually trying suspected Nazi criminals.