Nazi Hunter: 80 Death Squad Fighters Still Alive

Simon Wiesenthal Center presses German government to investigate 76 men, four women who served in Einsatzgruppen.

Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, November 25, 2013. AP

The Simon Wiesenthal Center has identified dozens of former members of Nazi mobile death squads who might still be alive, and is pushing the German government for an investigation, The Associated Press has learned.

The Wiesenthal Center's top Nazi hunter, Efraim Zuroff, told the AP on Wednesday that in September he sent the German justice and interior ministries a list of 76 men and four women who served in the so-called Einsatzgruppen.

Zuroff narrowed down the list of possible suspects by choosing the youngest from a list of some 1,100 known to his organization from the estimated 3,000 members of the death squads.

All 80 would be very old if still alive, with dates of birth between 1920 and 1924, Zuroff said.

"Time is running out," Zuroff said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem. "Something has to be done."

Germany's Interior Ministry had no immediate comment but the Justice Ministry said it had passed the details of the letter to the special federal prosecutors' office that investigates Nazi-era crimes.

The head of that office, Kurt Schrimm, told the AP he hasn't yet received the new information.

The Einsatzgruppen followed Nazi troops as they battled their way eastward in the early years of the war, rounding up and shooting Jews in the opening salvo of the Holocaust before the death camp system was up and running.

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, they had killed more than a million Soviet Jews and tens of thousands of others by spring 1943.

A handful of Einsatzgruppen members were tried and convicted after the war but most have gone unpunished.

Schrimm has said, however, they could now be prosecuted under new German legal theory that service in a Nazi unit whose sole purpose was murder is enough to convict someone of accessory to murder — even without evidence of participation in a specific crime.