Budapest — Trained by life in surmounting grief, Marika Weinberger focuses on the silver lining in the recent decision in Budapest not to try Hungarian war criminal Laszlo Csatary in connection with the murder of her nine uncles in 1941.
“At least now I won’t need to testify and relive the pain,” Weinberger, 84, told JTA in a phone interview from her home in Sydney, Australia. She says she is nonetheless prepared to do “everything necessary to bring Csatary to justice.”
Weinberger claims that Csatary, a former police officer who was arrested last month in Budapest, was responsible for deporting her uncles to a killing site in Ukraine. Yet prosecutors in Budapest last week dismissed her claims without ever speaking to her, raising concerns by Weinberger and others about the seriousness of the investigation.
The Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia has called publicly for Csatary’s extradition to that country based on information it claims to have that points to Csatary taking property from Jews in Kosice, a city in eastern Slovakia. Those charges also are being investigated, says Martin Kornfeld, the federation’s CEO.
Kornfeld adds that he has no indication that alleged acts of cruelty by Csatary to Jewish prisoners were being investigated. He notes that the acts were addressed in Csatary’s 1948 conviction in absentia by a Czechoslovakian court for torturing prisoners at Kosice.
The office of Budapest’s chief prosecutor, Dr. Zsolt Grim, did not respond to interview requests for this article.
According to Weinberger, her father told her that Csatary had organized the deportation of her mother’s nine brothers from Kosice on Aug. 19, 1941.
Her testimony was part of the file that the Simon Wiesenthal Center had prepared on Csatary that led to his arrest last month. The center’s research implicates Csatary in the deportation of 300 people from Kosice in 1941 and another 15,700 in 1944.
Csatary was arrested after London’s The Sun newspaper published an expose about him. Csatary had fled to Canada in 1949 after the Czech court sentenced him in absentia to death for war crimes. He returned to Hungary in the 1990s after Ottawa revoked his citizenship.
Last week, the Budapest Prosecutor’s Office dismissed Weinberger’s testimony and dropped the charges from 1941, saying Csatary was not in Kosice at the time and lacked the rank to organize the transports. The Hungarian prosecution team is said to be continuing to probe allegations pertaining to the allegations from 1944.
Weinberger, a former vice president of the Sydney Jewish Museum and a past president of the Australian Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, stands by her story.
“I was young, but I remember the name Csatary,” she said. “It surfaced when my father was trying to find out what happened to my uncles.”