BERLIN -- A Hungarian war crimes suspect who allegedly brutalized and deported thousands of Jewish prisoners to the infamous Nazi death camp of Auschwitz during World War II has died of pneumonia, his lawyer said Monday.
Laszlo Csatary, 98, who died in a hospital in Budapest on Saturday, was charged with war crimes by Hungarian prosecutors in June. He denied allegations that he was involved in torture and deportation while serving as a police commander in the town of Kosice in 1944. Kosice is now in Slovakia but was then part of Hungary, an ally of Nazi Germany.
Csatary was found guilty in absentia in 1948 by a court in Kosice of whipping and torturing Jewish prisoners and sending them to Auschwitz. He was sentenced to death, but his sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment.
Csatary had been on the run for decades, first in Canada and then in Hungary, before he was detained in Budapest in July 2012.
Proceedings in Hungary had been suspended on July 8 of this year on the grounds of double jeopardy, as he had already been convicted of the charges against him. That decision was under appeal.
According to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Csatary played a role in the deportation of about 15,700 Jews to Auschwitz, where the majority were murdered.
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office, said: “It is a shame that Csatary, a convicted and totally unrepentant Holocaust perpetrator who was finally indicted in his homeland for his crimes, ultimately eluded justice and punishment at the very last minute.”
Zuroff said the fact that Csatary had been able to live “undisturbed” in the Hungarian capital for so long raised questions about the Hungarian authorities’ commitment to holding Holocaust perpetrators accountable.
Vasagar is a special correspondent.