staff and news service reports
updated 11/22/2010 7:03:37 AM ET 2010-11-22T12:03:37

The world's third most-wanted Nazi suspect has died before he could be brought to trial, a German court said Monday.

Samuel Kunz, 89, died Nov. 18, Bonn's state court said in a statement.

Kunz, a retired civil servant who was living near Bonn, was indicted on charges he was involved in the entire process of killing Jews at the Belzec death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

He was said to have taken victims from trains, pushed them into gas chambers and thrown corpses into mass graves. No trial date had been set.

Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's top Nazi hunter, said it was "incredibly frustrating" that Kunz died before trial.

But he said it was important that he was indicted.

"At least a small measure of justice was achieved," Zuroff said.

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Officials said Kunz was accused of taking part in the killing of 430,000 Jews and he was also charged with personally shooting 10 dead at Belzec, BBC News reported in July.

He was 20 when he started working as a camp guard and charges were brought in a juvenile chamber of the Bonn court, the BBC reported. People aged between 18 and 21 can either be dealt with by the courts as adults or children in Germany.

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'Very few survived'
In a statement in July, after Kunz was indicted, Zuroff said special credit should be given to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Special Investigations, because its investigations into John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen currently on trial for war crimes, had "yielded crucial information" about Kunz.

"We’re pleased that Kunz was indicted and that it's possible to bring Nazi perpetrators to justice years after their crimes were committed," Zuroff said in the July statement.

"This case is important, because it will shed light on Belzec, though little known, was where hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered and very few survived," he added.

"The indictment reflects recent changes in the German prosecution policy, which has significantly increased the number of suspects brought to justice, changes that the Wiesenthal Center has long pushed for," Zuroff added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Report sheds light on how U.S. dealt with Nazis

  1. Transcript of: Report sheds light on how U.S. dealt with Nazis

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: A dark chapter in America 's past is getting new attention tonight with the disclosure of a never-before-seen Justice Department report on what the US government did to hunt down Nazis after World War II , in some cases, giving them protection in the US. Now Jewish groups are calling for a full disclosure. We get more from our justice correspondent Pete Williams .

    Unidentified Man #1: Liftoff. We have a liftoff.

    PETE WILLIAMS reporting: The never-disclosed report details the government's complicated dealings with former Nazi scientists, including one of the experts behind the 1969 launch that put a man on the moon .

    Unidentified Man #2: Magnificent sight out here.

    WILLIAMS: Arthur Rudolph , who had worked on rockets for Hitler's Germany , was brought to the US after the war under a secret program to keep other countries from getting their hands on German scientific breakthroughs. That program, says Holocaust survivor Jerry Wartsky , was appalling.

    Mr. JERRY WARTSKY: We paid too much of a price for it, I think.

    WILLIAMS: Though the US knew Rudolph had been a Nazi , he was not considered complicit in atrocities. He became the father of the mighty Saturn rocket that made the space program possible. But in 1984 , as the Justice Department , armed with new evidence, prepared to prosecute him for involvement in the Nazi use of slave labor, he left the US and renounced his citizenship. It's among dozens of cases detailed in a Justice Department report never made public but obtained by The New York Times.

    Mr. ERIC LICHTBLAU (The New York Times): The government knows much more about the history of American collaboration with the Nazis than was previously acknowledged in this remarkable post- World War II period.

    WILLIAMS: The report describes internal US government battles over, for example, whether it could be proven that Swiss banks bought gold looted by the Nazis from Jewish victims. Jewish groups that do their own Nazi hunting say the Justice Department should make the report public.

    Rabbi MARVIN HIER (Simon Wiesenthal Center): They wind up deep sixing and sitting on the report, which only leads to guesswork. Why are they doing that? What are they hiding?

    Mr. ABRAHAM FOXMAN (Anti-Defamation League): We're still covering up, we're still hiding the role that some in our country played by some perverse sense of national interest. I think it's time that our country knew.

    WILLIAMS: But a former director of the Justice Department 's Nazi hunting unit says whatever comes out must be accurate for the sake of history.

    Mr. NEAL SHER (Former Justice Department Official): We're talking now about the issues of the Holocaust and justice. And, it seems to me, imperative that what is released be accurate.

    WILLIAMS: But it may never be formally released at all. Tonight the Justice Department says the report is a draft that contains some mistakes. It was never finished, the government says, because prosecutors decided they had higher priorities, chasing current cases. Pete Williams , NBC News , at the Justice Department .


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