Most Wanted List of Nazis Shifts With Two More Nabbed

How Do Nazi-Hunters Rate the War Criminals?

By Anne Cohen

Published June 24, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page
Video: Nate Lavey

When a recent exposé unmasked a 94-year-old Minneapolis resident as the commander of a Nazi-led unit and as an SS officer during World War II, the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter faced a vexing dilemma: Who should be bumped off the center’s “Most Wanted War Criminals” list next year to make room for him?

Fortunately for him, a spot just opened up. Laszlo Csatary — the longtime top man on the list for his alleged role in deporting 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz from a ghetto in Hungarian-occupied Slovakia — was charged with war crimes in Hungary on June 17. He will be tried within 90 days, at which time his name could be dropped as a wanted Nazi.

Michael Karkoc, a Ukrainian immigrant and retired carpenter, was not even on the list before The Associated Press located him living quietly in Northeast Minneapolis. His discovery, followed by Csatary’s indictment, highlights the sometimes quirky process by which a usually anonymous and elderly individual living quietly somewhere, but with a dark secret, can suddenly find himself posted everywhere as one of the world’s most wanted human rights offenders.

In any given year, who gets bumped “depends on how many people are brought to justice,” explained Efraim Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi hunter. In addition, old Nazi war criminals don’t just fade away; they also die. “Two of those people might pass away this year,” Zuroff said of the present list members. But don’t fear for the list’s demise. Despite the passage of time since World War II, said Zuroff, “There’s no shortage of names, there are plenty of people who should be brought to justice and whose names are known.”

J. Edgar Hoover, who launched the world’s first most wanted list in 1950 with the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted,” may enjoy pride of authorship of this unique publicity and marketing device. But the Wiesenthal Center’s “Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals” is not far behind in terms of prominence.

All of which highlights a series of questions about the state of Nazi hunting some 68 years after the Nazis’ defeat: What does it take to catch a Nazi nowadays? Who makes the list? What kind of heinous act warrants first place? And what happens when someone is brought to justice or dies?

Zuroff, director of the center’s Israel branch, and author of “Operation Last Chance: One Person’s Quest To Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice,” has spent countless hours developing a system to classify the remaining Nazis at large.

The center’s annual list, he said, is not necessarily a roll call in absolute terms of the world’s worst surviving Nazis. Rather, he said, these are “the people we hope will be brought to justice in the coming year.”

Three factors determine where someone falls on the list. The first is command responsibility. For example, Csatary was a senior officer in the Hungarian police force at the time his crimes were committed.

The second determining criterion is whether one personally committed murder. Csatary did not, which brings Zuroff to the third standard: the scope of the crime. “He didn’t commit murder himself,” Zuroff said. “But he was responsible for the death of more than 15,000 people. That gives him top priority.” Csatary, 98, is currently under house arrest in Hungary, awaiting possible extradition to Slovakia to stand trial.

Zuroff’s main task is pressuring governments into taking action against those whose crimes have already been denounced or exposed. Until that initial exposure, the center has little or no role to play and must rely on individual government agencies. The case of Csatary, pursued from beginning to end by Zuroff and his team, is an exception. “That’s our victory!” Zuroff exclaimed when asked about the news.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.