The Los Angeles-based Nazi-hunting organisation said in its report for 2010 that Germany had joined the United States as the only countries to earn an “A” grade and that German policy changes had resulted in two convictions, three indictments and more than 100 new investigations.
“This year for the first time ever, we have awarded the highest grade to another country, Germany, in addition to the United States,” said the report, published by the centre’s Israel office on Thursday.
“During the past year, Germany achieved remarkable success in the wake of significant changes in its prosecution policy, which we believe are of unique significance for the efforts to hold Nazi war criminals accountable for their crimes,” it added.
Although the United States obtained no convictions during the year, the centre said that was largely because of its vigour in the past, adding that it had charged two suspects and launched fresh investigations into five more.
“The Americans, who for years have achieved the best practical results, have more or less finished their task, hence the lower figures achieved during the period under review,” it said.
At the other end of the scale, the centre gave fail grades to nine countries it said had underperformed, splitting them into two groups.
It listed Syria as ideologically unwilling to prosecute former Nazis, while Norway and Sweden were bound by statutes of limitation.
It placed Australia, Canada, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, and Ukraine in its group of countries “which are able, at least in theory, to take legal action against Holocaust perpetrators, but have failed to achieve significant positive results.”
It noted that the United Kingdom, like Australia, had closed its specialist agency for the prosecution of Nazi-era crimes, making successful prosecutions on regular charges “extremely unlikely.”
The centre said the single most disappointing case was Hungary’s failure to act against Sandor Kepiro, who the report alleges was one of the Hungarian officers who organised the murder of hundreds of civilians in Novi Sad, Serbia on January 23, 1942.
“Kepiro was convicted in Budapest in 1944 for violating the code of honour he had sworn to uphold, but was never punished due to the Nazi occupation and his subsequent escape to Argentina,” it said.
“He was exposed by the Wiesenthal Centre living in Budapest in the summer of 2006.”