Hungarian prosecutors said they have taken into custody, and charged with war crimes, a man suspected of taking part in the deportation of Jews in 1944.
Prosecutors said that Laszlo Csatary, whose case was brought to their attention by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, was taken into custody on Wednesday.
Csatary — also known as Csizsik-Csatary — is the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most wanted former Nazi to have escaped prosecution. He was confronted in Budapest days ago by a team of reporters for the British newspaper The Sun, acting on information provided by the Wiesenthal Center.
Csatary, now 97, allegedly helped deport nearly 16,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1944. During the war, he was in charge of the Jewish ghetto in Kassa, Hungary (today Slovakian Kosice). Over the years, reports have surfaced of the extreme cruelty which Csatary exhibited, and the pleasure that he displayed in doing so.
Csatary was convicted in absentia for war crimes and sentenced to death by a court in Czechoslovakia in 1948. He escaped to Canada where, living under an assumed identity, he worked as an art dealer. When Csatary was discovered in 1997, his Canadian
citizenship was revoked, and he once again escaped prosecution, fleeing Canada while the government was building a case for his deportation.
Prosecutors said that considering Csatary’s age, he is in a good physical and mental state. They said they want him kept under house arrest.
Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, considered the world’s foremost Nazi-hunter, told The Times of Israel on Sunday that a Holocaust survivor now living in Sydney testified that Csatary took part in the capture of Jews of foreign nationality in Hungary as early as 1941, and also ordered that Jews be brought back from manual labor so that they could be deported to Ukraine, where they were subsequently murdered.
The new material, including the testimony, was presented to the Hungarian prosecutor last week, Zuroff said.
In an April report released by the center, Csatary was described as having “served as the commander of the Hungarian police” in the Hungarian-occupied Slovakian town of Kassa, today known as Kosice, and “in charge of the ghetto of ‘privileged’ Jews.”
According to the report, Csatary “helped organize the deportation to Auschwitz of approximately 15,700 Jews from Kosice and vicinity in spring 1944.”
Acting on information provided by the Wiesenthal Center, Sun reporters tracked down Csatary to a small apartment in Budapest. They asked him both about his alleged Nazi past, and his more recent departure from Canada. The paper reported that he denied everything and slammed the door in a reporter’s face.
According to the Wiesenthal Center’s list of most wanted Nazis, published in April, Csatary was located “several months ago… in the framework of Operation: Last Chance,” the center’s campaign to bring former Nazis to justice before they die off.
The war crimes unit of the Canadian Justice Department referred to Csatary as a “commander” in the Royal Hungarian Police in Kassa in charge of officers who guarded the ghetto. When preparing their case, Csatary confessed to being involved in a “limited role”
in the “ghettoization” of Jews.
According to the report, he supervised the lists of the ghetto’s inhabitants, conducted personal searches of Jews and confiscated valuables. In late April 1944, the Jews were rounded up by the
local police into a brickyard, and from there they were loaded onto trains that brought them to the Auschwitz death camp.