Hungary Alleged Nazi-Era War Criminal Csatary Dies Age 98

Suspected Nazi-Era War Criminal Laszlo Csatary
Suspected Nazi-Era war criminal Laszlo Csatary leaves the courthouse in Budapest on July 18, 2012. Photographer: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images

Laszlo Csatary, a Hungarian who’d been convicted by Slovakia for aiding the deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps and who was awaiting trial in his home country, died at age 98.

Csatary died Aug. 10 from pneumonia at a hospital in Budapest, his lawyer, Gabor B. Horvath, said today by phone. His trial was scheduled to start in the fall, Horvath said. Csatary denied the allegations against him.

A Slovakian court sentenced Csatary in absentia to death in 1948, with the punishment later commuted to life imprisonment. Hungarian prosecutors detained him last year after pressure from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Nazi-era war criminals. About 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including more than 500,000 from Hungary, according to the Budapest-based Holocaust Memorial Center.

“We didn’t expect to see justice served in this world,” Lucia Kollarova, a spokeswoman for the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Slovakia, said today by e-mail. “However he didn’t escape higher judgment.”

In 1944, Csatary worked as a Hungarian policeman in charge of 12,000 Jews held in a brick factory in Kosice, now part of Slovakia. He beat detainees with a dog leash “regularly and without justification and without regard to the detainees’ gender, age or health,” according to a June 18 statement from Hungary’s prosecutor’s office.

On June 2 of that year, as Jews were forced into trains for deportation to Nazi death camps, Csatary rejected a request to have a window cut in a wagon where 80 people were crammed to let in air, according to the charges.

A Slovakian court had been due to decide next month on where he should serve his life sentence, Marcela Galova, a court spokeswoman, said today by phone.

Csatary lived in Canada after the war and returned to live in Hungary in 1996, Horvath said.

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