Austria examines evidence on Nazi guard

Source:ap.org Author:VERONIKA OLEKSYN Date:03/25/14 Click:

VIENNA, Austria - Austrian prosecutors are examining new allegations against a female Nazi concentration camp guard who evaded prosecution decades ago for lack of evidence, officials said Tuesday.

The new material alleges that Erna Wallisch fatally beat a man at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland, said Gerhard Jarosch, a spokesman for the Vienna public prosecutor's office.

The prosecutor's office did not say whether it plans to pursue charges against Wallisch, 85, who lives in Vienna, based on the new evidence from the Polish Institute of National Remembrance.

"We are now checking to see if it was really her," Jarosch said.

Telephone calls to a number for an Erna Wallisch in Vienna went unanswered Tuesday.

The evidence was sent in response to a request from Austrian authorities last year, said Thomas Geiblinger, a spokesman for Austria's Justice Ministry. He said the material included "a handful of testimonials" and has been passed on to prosecutors.

Proceedings against Wallisch were withdrawn in 1968 because there was not enough evidence to try her for murder, said Winfried Garscha, who heads a research center for postwar trials at the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance. Austrian media reported the investigation came to a halt in the early 1970s.

By then, the time limits had run out on charging Wallisch with assault and battery. There is no statute of limitations for murder in Austria, Garscha said.

Efraim Zuroff, chief Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Wallisch guarded and brought prisoners to gas chambers at Majdanek. She also served at Ravensbrueck, a concentration camp in northern Germany.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center tracked her down some time ago after it received an anonymous letter suggesting she was alive in the Austrian capital, Zuroff said.

He sent a letter Tuesday to Austria's justice minister saying the "new evidence and witnesses uncovered by the Poles have created an unforeseen opportunity to achieve justice in this case."

"What I want to happen is for this woman to be arrested, prosecuted and held accountable for her crime and sent to jail for the rest of her life," Zuroff said by phone from Jerusalem.

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