Published: August 12, 2013
Laszlo Csatari, Hungarian who topped the dwindling list of surviving Nazi war crimes suspects has died in hospital while awaiting trial for allegedly sending 12,000 Jews to death camps.
Laszlo Csatari “died on Saturday morning. He had been treated for medical issues for some time but contracted pneumonia, from which he died,” his lawyer Gabor Horvath said on Monday.
Csatari was alleged to have been a senior police officer actively involved in the deportations from the Jewish ghetto in Kassa, now known as Kosice in present-day Slovakia, during World War II.
After being sentenced to death in absentia by a Czechoslovakian court in 1948 he made it to Canada where he lived and worked as an art dealer before being stripped of his citizenship in the 1990s.
He returned to Hungary, where he lived undisturbed for some 15 years until prosecutors began investigating his case in late 2011 on the basis of information from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which put him at the top of its list of surviving alleged Nazi war criminals.
He was placed under house arrest in July 2012 and in June prosecutors charged him. They said that as commander of a collection and deportation camp in the Kassa ghetto he was “actively involved in and assisted the deportations” in 1944.
Csatari, also known as Csatary, “regularly beat the interned Jews with his bare hands and whipped them with a dog-whip,” prosecutors said.
The silver-haired Csatari denied committing war crimes in several hearings held behind closed doors, according to his lawyer.
The case was suspended on July 8 on grounds of double jeopardy, since Csatari has already been convicted of the charges presented, but last week a higher court ordered that proceedings resume.
Slovakia meanwhile had commuted the 1948 death sentence to life imprisonment and authorities there issued a subpoena for him to attend a hearing last month, but he failed to show up.
A court in Kosice had been due to rule on September 26 where he should serve his sentence.
The Wiesenthal Centre, the Los Angeles-based organisation named after the famous Nazi-hunting Holocaust survivor who died in 2005, estimates that only around 60 potential defendants are still alive.