Historian: Hundreds of Nazi war criminals still alive

A poster created by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to publicize its Operation Last Chance II project shows a photo of railway tracks leading into Auschwitz and says in German: "Late, but not too late."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi hunter says there are still quite a few Nazi war criminals at large, more than people might think.

The death of 98-year-old Hungarian Nazi war crime suspect Laszlo Csatary before he could be tried has disappointed the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish Nazi-hunting organization that discovered Csatary and named him as its most-wanted suspect.

"It was very frustrating — the case slipped through our hands," said Efraim Zuroff, the Los Angeles-based center's chief Nazi hunter and Jerusalem office director.

Related: Hungarian charged with Nazi-era war crimes dies

Zuroff told MSN News that despite Nazi war criminals growing old and passing away, there are still quite a few left.

"There are many many hundreds — nobody knows the exact number of how many" Zuroff said from Jerusalem. "Because life expectancy has risen, many of the people involved in these crimes are still alive."

He said that Nazi war criminals are located all over the world, with the majority in Germany and Austria.

"The problem is now more manageable in terms of its scope," Zuroff said of the current status of investigations and prosecution of suspects.

However, one of the challenges is that many countries lack the zeal to bring Nazi war criminals to justice, he said.

A 2013 report by the Wiesenthal Center on the worldwide investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals awards grades to evaluate the efforts of more than 36 countries that were either Nazi war crime sites or admitted Holocaust perpetrators after World War II.

"There's maybe two or three years left for us to do maximum justice," Zuroff said.

Last month, the center ran the "Operation Last Chance II" poster campaign in Germany, offering rewards of up to 25,000 euros — $33,080 — for useful information that could help prosecute Nazi war criminals.

"We got a tremendous amount of information and a lot of suspects — it appears we have some serious potential leads," Zuroff said.

Related: Alleged Auschwitz death camp guard arrested

"Not every tip will lead to a suspect," Zuroff said, explaining that tips are researched for credibility, whether the person is healthy enough to stand trial and whether he or she has already been prosecuted for the crime.

Since launching the original Operation Last Chance campaign in July 2002, the Wiesenthal Center has received about 660 names of suspected Nazi war criminals, of which 106 were turned over to local prosecutors, Zuroff said.

There was legal action taken in eight cases — including extraditions, official investigations and trials, he said.

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