Efraim Zuroff chronicles his life as a Nazi hunter

Efraim-Zuroff1 (1).PNGEfraim Zuroff, the director of Simon Wiesenthal Center and the author of Operation Last Chance: One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice. (Gero Breloer/Associated Press)

First Aired on Day 6 (26/07/13)

Nazi hunting is no easy business, as Efraim Zuroff described in a recent interview on Day 6. The historian and author of Operation Last Chance: One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice, believes people who have committed these atrocities should be held accountable for their actions. 

It is the impetus behind Zuroff's search for the remaining Nazi war criminals who killed people en masse during the Holocaust. "Unfortunately we can't bring to life a single one of the Nazi's victims, but what we can do is to see to it that those who turned them into victims will be held accountable for their actions." 

So, why now? Predictably, these remaining criminals are very old now, some of them over 90, and there is little time left to find them. While some people think it's better to move on, this isn't the case for Zuroff. "The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers. Old age should not afford protection to people who committed such heinous crimes; just because a murderer reaches the age of 90 does not turn him into a righteous gentile," said Zuroff, adding that we have obligations to the victims to provide them with closure.

 Zuroff mentioned that many of the men prosecuted are still proud today of what they once did. "Don't think of them as some old, unfortunate, frail person; think of them back then and what they did... They are the last people in the world who deserve sympathy because they had no sympathy for their victims." 

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For Zuroff, the history of the Holocaust is not something we should forgive or forget. His book recounts his story of hunting Nazis and his quest to bring justice to their victims. The effort originally began at the Nuremberg trials, a series of military tribunals in which prominent leaders of Nazi Germany were prosecuted. Regardless of the several high-profile arrests that have been made since then, many Nazi war criminals have escaped arrest and trial. 

To track them down, Zuroff, also the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, has just launched a major campaign. Echoing his book, the campaign is aptly named "Operation Last Chance -- Late But Not Too Late." The organization finds the criminals, compiles the evidence for the court, and creates the political will to prosecute them. In essence, the campaign is the final push to capture and put on trial the people responsible for some of the most horrific crimes committed in human history. 

 Zuroff hopes that this work will send a strong message to people that if crimes like this are committed in the future, these criminals should be held accountable. "If many more of the people responsible for the Holocaust had actually been punished, perhaps we would not have seen so many tragedies after the Holocaust like Cambodia, Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia." 

Ultimately, Zuroff said that this is only part of a larger fight against Holocaust deniers, adding that "in places like Eastern Europe today we're seeing systematic attempts to rewrite the narrative of World War II and the Holocaust...We still have plenty of work to do."

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