A war criminal in Budapest: The case of László Csatáry

I subscribe to Google Alerts for news on Hungary that I might not otherwise find, and in the last day or so I have been flooded with links to the László Csatáry case.  I must have read at least a dozen descriptions of the career of the former police officer who was in charge of the Kassa/Košice ghetto in 1944. Most of the accounts agree on the essentials. He was instrumental in sending 300 so-called alien Jews to Kamenetz-Podolsk in Ukraine in 1941 where the deportees were murdered by the Germans. And he engaged in acts of extreme cruelty in the Jewish ghetto.

In Kassa two ghettos were set up, one in the center of the city and another in the outskirts of Kassa in a brickyard. This latter ghetto also housed Jewish citizens from the surrounding villages. They numbered 15,700, and according to the articles I read only 450 managed to survive the deportation to Auschwitz.

The mayor of Kassa was a rabid Hungarian Nazi who received eager help from the local police force, including László Csatáry, a high-level police officer who was put in charge of the brickyard. Csatáry’s cruelty was infamous already at the time; news of his cruelty even reached Mrs. Horthy.

Csatáry has the dubious distinction of being mentioned by Randolph L. Braham in his monumental The Politics of Genocide: The Holocaust in Hungary.   According to Braham there is a detailed eyewitness account of events in Kassa and of Csatáry’s cruelty that appeared in Menóra-Egyenlőség (June 1, 1984), a Canadian publication. Moreover, Braham himself has a few relevant documents on Csatáry in his possession.

As the Soviet troops were advancing László Csatáry with many others retreated with the German and the Hungarian armies, ending up in Germany. From there he emigrated to Canada in 1949. First he settled in Nova Scotia and later in Montreal where he was an art dealer. By the 1990s he lived in Toronto. Whether he used his own name when he entered Canada is unclear, but he didn’t tell the truth about his citizenship and his criminal record to the Canadian immigration authorities. He claimed to be a Yugoslav citizen. Moreover, a year before, in 1948, he was condemned to death in absentia in Czechoslovakia.

He lived undisturbed in Canada until 1997 when it was discovered that he had provided false information about his nationality and had failed to provide information concerning his collaboration with Nazi occupation forces while serving with the Royal Hungarian Police. As a result, the Canadian government revoked his citizenship on August 28, 1997. As deportation proceedings were under way, Csatáry voluntarily left the country. In October 1997, when officials of the Canadian Justice Department’s war crimes unit went to Csatáry’s home, his daughter told them he was living in Europe.

László Csatáry today. Photo by The Sun

Although the daughter didn’t say anything specific about her father’s whereabouts, it looks as if Csatáry settled in Hungary. He lived undisturbed in Budapest for the last 15 years, until a few days ago when a couple of reporters from the British tabloid, The Sun, found him in a “smart section of Buda.”

At this point the story becomes a bit muddled. Ephraim Zuroff, the current head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, received information from “a paid informant” that Csatáry was living in Hungary. According to one account the informant will receive $25,000, but only when Csatáry is convicted. Because Csatáry is now 97 years old and because the Hungarian judicial system is exceedingly slow, I have the suspicion that “the very reliable informant” will never receive his bounty.

When did Zuroff inform the Hungarian authorities about Csatáry’s whereabouts? It is hard to say, but I found one source that claims that the Hungarians were told about Csatáry’s Hungarian sojourn already in 2006. In September 2011 Zuroff even gave them Csatáry’s Budapest address. Nothing happened, and the frustrated  Zuroff turned to The Sun, whose reporters broke the story.  According to one report Zuroff and The Sun have cooperated on several cases hunting down war criminals. Zuroff’s aim was to bring the case to the attention of the public because it was becoming obvious that the Hungarian prosecutors had no intention of bringing charges against Csatáry any time soon, if at all.

The spokesman for the prosecutor’s office announced that the investigation has been under way but added that collecting all the facts surrounding a crime that was committed 68 years ago is a very lengthy affair, especially since the witnesses are scattered all over the world. Moreover, the scene of the crime, Kassa/Košice, today belongs to Slovakia.

According to Zuroff, the Wiesenthal Center “last week submitted new evidence to the prosecutor in Budapest regarding crimes committed during World War II by its No. 1 Most Wanted suspect László Csatáry.” This new evidence is “related to Csatáry’s key role in the deportation of approximately 300 Jews from Košice to Kamenetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, where almost all were murdered in the summer of 1941.” The Hungarian prosecutors promised to investigate this evidence as well.

All this couldn’t have come at a worse time for the Hungarian government. The Orbán government is under fire at the moment because of its tacit approval of an emerging Horthy cult and because of its foolish identification with far-right anti-Semitic writers of the interwar period. László Kövér, speaker of the house, got disinvited by his counterpart in the Israeli knesset because Kövér sponsored the reburial of József Nyirő in Romania. In a great hurry Kövér was replaced by the new Hungarian president, János Áder.

While Áder was amiably chatting with the Israeli president Shimon Peres, the leading Israeli paper Haaretz ran an article entitled “Israel has a tough time finding a Hungarian leader not identified with anti-Semites.” Haaretz learned that “Hungarian President János Áder also participated in a ceremony honoring an anti-Semitic artist convicted of war crimes during the Holocaust.” The person in question was Albert Wass, “a nationalistic anti-Semitic writer found guilty of murdering Jews.” According to the paper Áder attended an unveiling ceremony of a Wass memorial in 2008.

And now the clear implication that the Hungarian authorities, although they have known that László Csatáry lived in Budapest for six years, failed to bring charges against him. All in all, it doesn’t look good. Actually, it looks very, very bad.

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Member

The good news is that as far as we know Csatary did not write any poems, novels or dramas, otherwise he would become mandatory to be studied next to other nazi literature. like Wass and Nyiro. Unfortunately I am not sure if they will not name some streets after him, as he is the typical true Hungarian who the liberals and communists try to frame.

gdfxx
Guest

97 years old. He probably lived his life as a good father to his daughter, who knows, maybe even as a grandfather or great-grandfather. Something that he did not allow his many victims to have a chance to do.

At this point of his miserable life there is no punishment possible that is sufficient for his crimes. I really would like to believe that there is hell after death for him. But I don’t.

Member

gdfxx :
At this point of his miserable life there is no punishment possible that is sufficient for his crimes. I really would like to believe that there is hell after death for him. But I don’t.

There is never a punishment big enough for the kind of crimes these despicable monsters did, but being outcast from society, having your family wish you would be someone else, having society despise you because they know what you did is some form of punishment. He deserves no freedom, the strolls to the stores, the phone calls with his family. He should be put into solitary confinement, so he will never know if even his family ever could forgive him. His only entertainment should be all the documentaries that were made on the horrors he participated in.

Member

gdfxx :
I really would like to believe that there is hell after death for him. But I don’t.

Well, I believe in hell and I’m sure they are waiting for him. But prison first ….

Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

You write that “The person in question was Albert Wass, “a nationalistic anti-Semitic writer found guilty of murdering Jews.”

In fact, none of the hundreds of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by the U.S. government on Albert Wass contain any information that would prove that he was guilty of the murder of Jews. That he was thoroughly vetted is shown also by the fact, that one of Albert Wass’ sons attended and graduated first in his class at West Point, later becoming a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. This would hardly have been possible if his father was a murderer of Jews.

Details of Albert Wass’ show trial in Kolozsvar are detailed in the book “A grof emigralt, az iro otthon maradt” by Erno Raffay, Mihaly Takaro and Karoly Vekov. published by Szabad Ter Kft in 2004. It gives an excellent insight into how the judiciary worked in ‘liberated’ Erdely.

Member

Sort of relevant.

There are excerpts on the MTI’s (Hungarian News Agency) web site from Janos Ader’s (president) speech he gave today on a ceremony marking Raoul Wallenberg’s 100th birthday. As you know Ader replaced Laszlo Kover, the president of the parliament who became persona non grata in Israel after proudly attending a memorial service honoring the nazi collaborator, author and parliamentarian Jozsef Nyiro.

In the Knesset, he said the following: we should also remember the six million victims of the Holocaust, including the hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews, ** who were not protected by the Hungarian state **.

He should have rather stayed home … Mr. Ader. You failed miserably. We are back to square one.

In 1944, the Hungarian authorities, in coordination with the German security police, began to systematically deport the Hungarian Jews. The Hungarian police carried out the roundups and forced the Jews onto the deportation trains.

gdfxx
Guest

Csaba K Zoltani: “In fact, none of the hundreds of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by the U.S. government on Albert Wass contain any information that would prove that he was guilty of the murder of Jews. That he was thoroughly vetted is shown also by the fact, that one of Albert Wass’ sons attended and graduated first in his class at West Point, later becoming a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. This would hardly have been possible if his father was a murderer of Jews.”

The fact that the US government has no relevant documents about Albert Wass’s crimes does not mean that those crimes did not take place. It just means that the US government has no proof of them. Had the proof of those crimes been in the government possession, Albert Wass would have been extradited to the Romanian authorities.

I don’t know where Mr. Zoltani lives, but in the US children are not judged based on their fathers’ deeds, even potential or real criminal deeds, but by their own merits

Lehet-valaki-rendes?
Guest

Albert Wass was a totally confused person.
Decent and nice at one point, but also a loyal officer to Szalasi.
It is hard to explain that someone could be that unscrupulous.
He was just a product of the race hating Hungary. Sometimes totally irrational.

Ader Janos is hardly normal. How can a normal person serve an Orban?

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

It seems to me that one quick way of dispensing justice in the Csatary case is to turn him over to the Slovak authorities, since the scene of the crime is in Slovakia. Also, there is apparently an already standing conviction by the Czechoslovak state, of which Slovakia is a legal successor.

Another option may be to send him toThe Haugue, although that will simply guarantee that he lives out his life in complete comfort.

Having him tried in Hungary is the most problematic. Lack of evidence from Kassa, etc. makes a new trial highly unlikely.

Perhaps the Israelis can kidnap him to Israel and try him as they did in the case of Eichman.

Member

Csaba K. Zoltani is protecting a big time anti-semite. Albert Wass regularly published ant-semitic articles in Hungarian nazi publications.

I can’t find the English original of the following. If somebody has it please publish it here. It’s an article written by Wass. It’s from the Metapedia, the “white supremacist encyclopedia”.

http://hu.metapedia.org/wiki/Antiszemitizmus:_a_XX._sz%C3%A1zad_%C3%A1m%C3%ADt%C3%A1sa

Professor Balogh also had a post about him:

http://esbalogh.typepad.com/hungarianspectrum/2010/08/about-albert-wass.html

Jean Pierre Katz
Guest

Csatáry László már “vizsgálat tárgyát” a magyar rendőrség, mert tavaly ősszel. Ez az ember meggyilkolta 15.700 ártatlan embert, köztük a nagymamám, nagy kegyetlenség. Ő volt ismert, hogy megvernek, hogy azok a nők, és lyukat ásni a kezüket.
Mit fog csinálni Magyarországon? (Azt már elmondta, hogy letartóztatták őt is problematikus annak ellenére, hogy már 1948-ban bűnösnek találták.) Letartóztatni, adj neki egy érmet és egy szobor, vagy semmi? Nemrég nyilas nácik tartottak fel, mint hősök.
Az egész világ figyeli.

Looking at Hungarian blogs about this subject today I see mostly pro-Nazi antisemetic comments. Hungary considers Arrow Cross leaders as heroes.

The world is watching what will Hungary do about a murderer of 15,700?

koeszmeod
Guest

Csaba K. Zoltani: Even if there are no documents on the murdered Jews, there are plenty of documents on Albert Wass’ anti-semitic writings , contacts with the nazi community in excile. Ader was attending the ceremony– he honored an anti-semitic writer.

Which is even worth as Mutt mentioned, Today Ader said in Israel that the Hungarian government did not do anything “teltlenul szemlelte” when Jews have been deported. SHAME!!!! He should have said that the Hungarian government actively deported the Hungarian Jewish citizens. 200 000 Hungarian officials worked perfectly and fast to get rid off more than half a millon Jews.

Member
Csaba K. Zoltani : You write that “The person in question was Albert Wass, “a nationalistic anti-Semitic writer found guilty of murdering Jews.” In fact, none of the hundreds of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act by the U.S. government on Albert Wass contain any information that would prove that he was guilty of the murder of Jews. That he was thoroughly vetted is shown also by the fact, that one of Albert Wass’ sons attended and graduated first in his class at West Point, later becoming a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. This would hardly have been possible if his father was a murderer of Jews. Details of Albert Wass’ show trial in Kolozsvar are detailed in the book “A grof emigralt, az iro otthon maradt” by Erno Raffay, Mihaly Takaro and Karoly Vekov. published by Szabad Ter Kft in 2004. It gives an excellent insight into how the judiciary worked in ‘liberated’ Erdely. Nice to see that new people are tuning in. F.Y.I. Eva wrote the following in a previous post: “Although one cannot be sure whether Albert Wass was actually responsible for the death of a number of Romanians and Jews for which he… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Jean Pierre Katz :
Csatáry László már “vizsgálat tárgyát” a magyar rendőrség, mert tavaly ősszel. Ez az ember meggyilkolta 15.700 ártatlan embert, köztük a nagymamám, nagy kegyetlenség. Ő volt ismert, hogy megvernek, hogy azok a nők, és lyukat ásni a kezüket.
Mit fog csinálni Magyarországon? (Azt már elmondta, hogy letartóztatták őt is problematikus annak ellenére, hogy már 1948-ban bűnösnek találták.) Letartóztatni, adj neki egy érmet és egy szobor, vagy semmi? Nemrég nyilas nácik tartottak fel, mint hősök.
Az egész világ figyeli.
Looking at Hungarian blogs about this subject today I see mostly pro-Nazi antisemetic comments. Hungary considers Arrow Cross leaders as heroes.
The world is watching what will Hungary do about a murderer of 15,700?

‘What Hungary will do’….most likely, is hide him in some monastery.

Wondercat
Guest

“That [Albert Wass] was thoroughly vetted is shown also by the fact that one of [his] sons attended and [was] graduated first in his class at West Point, later becoming a brigadier general in the U.S. Army. This would hardly have been possible if his father was (sic; ‘were’) a murderer of Jews.”

Sippenhaft, rokonság büntetőjogi felelőssége. Not a concept that USA law and custom endorse, Zoltani úram.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Sackhoes Contributor :
It seems to me that one quick way of dispensing justice in the Csatary case is to turn him over to the Slovak authorities, since the scene of the crime is in Slovakia. Also, there is apparently an already standing conviction by the Czechoslovak state, of which Slovakia is a legal successor.

I agree. In 1997, in relation with the Canadian trial, a Slovak prosecutor gathered 29 testimonies (see SME, april 2012).

Since it seems that the Canadian court did not notify Slovakia of the issue of their proceedings, I find it dubious that they would have informed Hungary at the time. Thereof, there was no reason why the Hungarian justice system should have investigated M. Csatary beetween 1997 and 2011 (or maybe 2006).

So, Slovakia could issue an EAW… but then it would become another issue, wouldn’t it?

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
The Hungarian president János Áder said according to Népszabadság in Israel’s Knesset ; The Hungarian state did nothing to save the Jews, it just looked on the bloodbath, it looked on without action how they were deported and annihilated (my quick translation)* With all respect due to a head of state, this is mendacity. The Hungarian state under its head Horthy has made laws against the Jews, concentrated them in ghettos, robbed them and let its gendarmes (Magyar Királyi Csendörség) whip the unfortunates into the cattle-trucks, always 80 persons into one truck. Many of them died on the way to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Let me remind those readers, who do not know Hungarian. References to “alien” elements that controlled the media and is playing prominent role in academia in the capital are frequent in Fidesz near media. This is of course an anti-Semitic code. State controller Budai and Fidesz media mob started an implicit anti-Semitic smear campaign in January 2011 against “liberal” philosophers with no evidence whatsoever. The anger of so many Hungarians suffering from unemployment, inflation and impoverishment is been directed implicitly and explicitly against the Jews. Scapegoating is skillfully manipulated by some publicists in Fidesz near media who blame the… Read more »
Turkmenbasi
Guest

With due respect to the whole subject, for how long will the West want to ram down its double standard on this region? When will the first western journalist appear in front of a Moscow flat and demand the arrest of a former guard who had been in charge of the commie concentration / gulag camps in Kolyma? How many people in the West know in 2012 about Kolyma? Are there 200 in total?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolyma

And when will Hollywood make its first film on those horror years? Will it be in the year 2300?

Member

Turkmenbasi :
With due respect to the whole subject, for how long will the West want to ram down its double standard on this region?

Of course, as long as Russia, unlike Germany, remains reluctant to deal with its past. But this is no excuse for Hungary applying a standard completely different from other countries in this region. (Which also have very unpleasant things in their past, of course. For a nice comparison with Slovakia, regrettably only in Hungarian: http://dotoho.blog.hu/2012/05/23/miert_kinos_beismerni_horthy_felelosseget .)

For how long will this silly argument (“Gulag justifies Auschwitz, or vice versa, so let’s forget about the whole thing”) keep resurfacing?

enufff
Guest

gdfxx :
97 years old. He probably lived his life as a good father to his daughter, who knows, maybe even as a grandfather or great-grandfather. Something that he did not allow his many victims to have a chance to do.

I got to know about this on Monday morning through BBC news. Told my husband about it, and his response was “what can they do with this 90 y.o. man?” I was like, er… “well, if he is alive and well, he could still spread his belief to the young.” Plus what you mentioned above.

Unfortunately, I think majority of Hungarians will not get what is the fuss is all about.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

As the Soviet troops were advancing László Csatáry with many others retreated with the German and the Hungarian armies, ending up in Germany. From there he emigrated to Canada in 1949.

Germany? May I ask, if this is public information, where you found it? Based upon the Yugoslav citizenship, I presumed he was more likely to have come back to Hungary, and then emigrated to Canada through the British Refugee Service, whose vetting was notoriously unreliable.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest
Do a little googling on Displaced Persons at the end of WW2. After Horthy was captured by the Germans and taken to Germany as a prisoner, a large portion of the Hungarian Army and the State apparatus swore loyalty to the Nyilas (Hungarian Nazi) leader, Szallasi. As the Soviet Army advanced westward, they retreated and ended up in Austria or Germany. While many of them returned to Hungary after the war was over, many of them didn’t, along with others from other countries, which did not want to or were afraid to return to countries occupied by the Soviets. These people, referred to as DPs, were in fact stateless, living in camps or makeshift lodgings. As the Cold War became more rigid, western countries, especially the traditional immigration oriented countries like Canada, Australia and Argentina started to take in these DP’s. Eventually the US opened its borders, too. Some of these people were innocent victims of vicious history. To refuse taking oath to Szallasi meant serious hardship or even death, so they went along. Some of them, like Csatary, were rabid anti-Semites, who were in position to cause suffering and death to Jews and the Roma. After the war they… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest

Csatáry has been detained and interrogated by prosecutors:
http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20120718-orizetbe-vettek-csatary-laszlot.html

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Csaba K Zoltani, Wass was an anti-Semitic scribbler and it can’t be justified to poison young Hungarians with his scrawling. The fact that statues are erected in Hungary for this shady character shows, were this UE-country is sliding to.

petofi
Guest

enufff :

gdfxx :
97 years old. He probably lived his life as a good father to his daughter, who knows, maybe even as a grandfather or great-grandfather. Something that he did not allow his many victims to have a chance to do.

I got to know about this on Monday morning through BBC news. Told my husband about it, and his response was “what can they do with this 90 y.o. man?” I was like, er… “well, if he is alive and well, he could still spread his belief to the young.” Plus what you mentioned above.
Unfortunately, I think majority of Hungarians will not get what is the fuss is all about.

The fact is that the majority of Hungarians are anti-semites, notoriously supported in their beliefs by the devious Catholic
Church. I daresay that if you turned the Bishop of Hungary upside down…out would pop the name and phone number of Chatary, who could probably be found cowering in some remote
Hungarian monastery….

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Éva, the Israeli reaction is predictable. No reaction from the government, but I expect some reaction of the media.
In the case of Kövér it was different, because he really exaggerated.
I believe the Hungarian government establishment is beyond hope. Even
Foreign affairs minister Martonyi who speaks foreign languages and is a polite gentleman has to tell the untruth quite frequently in order to try to polish the bad image of his country.
It is amazing, that Efraim Zuroff had to act, in order that he was investigated now by the public prosecutor.
Of course Jobbiks MP Zsolt Németh – not to be confused with the other Zs. Németh, state secretary in the FO – has reported Zuroff for the “minimization of communist crimes”.

Member
Member

Mr Csatary was taken into custody a few hours ago in Budapest. He’s saying he is not guilty of anything. He was only executing orders.

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