As world travel gets easier and the barriers of relocating from one country to another continue to decrease, America and Germany continue to be two of the countries most frequently involved in citizen swaps. In fact, the amount of people moving to Germany from the USA and, in return, from Germany to the United States has surged at a rapid pace. It now appears, however, that there will be many new forced immigrations as well.
That was the word out of Germany as news spread that the standard for trying potential criminals of war-crimes has been lowered and that the country would therefore step up efforts to force suspects to leave their homes in America to come and stand trial in Germany.
The change resulted from the successful prosecution of John Demjanjuk over one year ago that charged him as an accessory to murder in almost 30,000 cases stemming from the Second World War. Demjanjuk lived in the USA but was charged in court in Munich. He was a guard at one of the infamous death camps of Poland and, as many have over the years, escaped prosecution on the basis of his claims that he never actually committed the murders but was just “working” at the camp.
This has been a common story over the decades. However, as authorities have learned more about the war and the way that these common “workers” also very likely had a helping hand in the brutal murder of millions of people they have been able to prosecute defendants without having to tie them to specific crimes.
Another high profile case, being investigated against Johann “Hans” Breyer of Northeast Philadelphia, has also gained global attention. Breyer has long claimed that his job in the camps did not involve any illegal activity and, in fact, a federal court ruled several years ago that he could remain in the U.S. However, the case of Demjanjuk has reopened the case and Breyer, 87 years old, is again being pursued.
While the constant moving back and forth of Germans and Americans has been an extremely positive development over the decades since the end of the war, it is good to see the German authorities not resting on these laurels and willing to push the issue while knowing that this could strain the relations of the two countries. It has been proven again and again that even workers with supposedly legal jobs at the camps often rotated duties with some of the other overtly violent workers and that very rarely was there someone on the premises of the death camps without blood on their hands.
Let’s hope that the German Nazi hunters continue their thorough pursuit of these alleged perpetrators and that friendly relations and back and forth transfers will not cease between Germany and the USA as a result.