92 year old Nazi located by Simon Wiesenthal Center


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

At age 92, the past caught up with Sandor Kepiro on Thursday, when the Simon Wiesenthal Center identified him as a onetime police captain twice found guilty in one of the worst atrocities committed by Hungarian forces during World War II.
At a press conference in a synagogue opposite Kepiro’s Budapest apartment, members of the Simon Wiesenthal Center broke what for him had been 60 years of relative anonymity as they issued copies of a recently rediscovered wartime court verdict. In it, Kepiro was charged and found guilty along with 14 other Hungarian Army and gendarmerie officers of taking part in the Novi Sad massacre in January 1942, during which over a thousand people, the majority of them Jews, were killed.
The atrocity took place over three days during which hundreds of families were rounded up and ultimately shot by machine gun on the shores of the Danube. Their bodies were then dumped into the frozen waters, which had to be broken up by cannon fire.
Although found guilty and sentenced to 10 years in prison, Kepiro never served his sentence – he was freed by Hungary’s fascist regime shortly after his trial in 1944 – and fled to Argentina after the war. In 1946, the Communist government of Hungary tried him again and sentenced him to 14 years in absentia. He returned to Budapest in 1996.
Questioned about his role in the killings by reporters in Budapest on Thursday, Kepiro said he had been a junior officer in the gendarmerie at the time and denied that he had taken an active part in the executions. He conceded he had been involved in the round up of civilians.
“We had a list of people who had to be collected by us. It was given by a committee, which was dealing with the identification of people,” said Kepiro.
Efraim Zuroff, the Israel director of the Wiesenthal Center, listed Kepiro, a former lawyer, as one of four leading suspects he said he hoped would be tried for crimes committed during the Nazi era. The pursuit, which the center calls “Operation: Last Chance,” hopes to find and prosecute criminals from the World War II before they die.
The other three suspects are Milovoj Aser, a former Croatian police commander accused of persecuting Jews in Slavonska Pozega, Croatia; Charles Zentai, a Hungarian accused of killing an 18- year-old Jew in Budapest; and Aribert Heim, a doctor accused of conducting medical experiments on inmates at Mauthausen concentration camp.
But the vigor with which the center is pursuing its goal does not seem to be matched by the Hungarian authorities. Military prosecutors here say Kepiro’s trial is no longer valid, and a new investigation, lasting perhaps years, would have to be reopened.
Kepiro spent over an hour on the doorstep of his apartment building seeking to dismiss the accusations against him. Soldiers, he said, and not members of the gendarmerie were responsible for the killings. He also said he refused orders to take part in anything illegal. “I was the only one who asked for a written command,” he said. “At the time of the massacre I was reluctant. Prove that I was a war criminal.”
The 1944 verdict provided by the Wiesenthal Center also refers to Kepiro’s request for written orders, but said he cooperated with his commanding officers despite the fact none were given.