Justice Thomas Walther (born 1943) is a lawyer based in Kempten, in the province of Bavaria in Germany. He is a former judge and German federal prosecutor for the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. He is known as the “last of the Nazi hunters” for his work in setting legal precedent in seeking punishment for former SS officers and guards who were involved in the Holocaust, whether directly responsible for deaths or not.
Kempten is the largest town of Allgäu, in Swabia, Bavaria, Germany. The population was about 68,000 in 2016. The area was possibly settled originally by Celts, but was later taken over by the Romans, who called the town Cambodunum. Kempten is the oldest urban settlement (town) in Germany.
Bavaria, officially the Free State of Bavaria, is a landlocked federal state of Germany, occupying its southeastern corner. With an area of 70,550.19 square kilometres, Bavaria is the largest German state by land area. Its territory comprises roughly a fifth of the total land area of Germany. With 13 million inhabitants, it is Germany's second-most-populous state after North Rhine-Westphalia. Bavaria's capital and largest city, Munich, is the third-largest city in Germany.
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
His father Rudolph saved two Jewish families during the Kristallnacht anti-Jewish riots of 1938. “My father had quite a lot of Jewish friends in the ‘30s and he had hidden two families in our big garden during the Night of Broken Glass and they stayed there for some weeks until they had organized their escape to Australia and Paraguay.”
Kristallnacht or Reichskristallnacht, also referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, Reichspogromnacht[ˌʁaɪçs.poˈɡʁoːmnaχt] or simply Pogromnacht[poˈɡʁoːmnaχt](
After 23 years, he retired as a judge in 2006, joining the Central Office for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes, setting out to change the precedent on prosecuting Nazi guards. After the war, it is estimated that between 7,000 to 8,000 SS guards served at Auschwitz. Before Walther became a Nazi hunter, only 48 were convicted.In 2011, after standing trial for two years, German courts decided to convict John Demjanjuk without any direct evidence of murder –simply by being a guard who watched thousands march to their death made him complicit in the murder of 27,900 Dutch Jews at Sobibor. Demjanjuk, 91, was found guilty in May 2011 of helping to murder more than 28,000 Jews at Sobibor and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released pending an appeal and was moved to a nursing home. The two major contributions Walther helped bring into law were that a Nazi did not have to be directly involved to be guilty of aiding and abetting a murder during the Holocaust; and a Holocaust survivor who testifies in a German court does not have to directly identify the defendant. Walther took this opportunity to help find any remaining German citizens who were former Nazi SS guards. Given that his hunt for Nazis started almost 70 years after the Holocaust ended, many had passed away. He eventually located four former Nazi guards: Oskar Gröning, Reinhold Hanning, Hubert Zafke and Ernst Tremmel. In April, Tremmel died just days before he was to go to trial at the age of 93, and Zafke’s trial has been postponed indefinitely – he’s been deemed unfit to stand trial due to his ill health. On June 15, 2015, Gröning, known as the “Bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” became the 50th Nazi guard to be convicted since the war ended. The New York Times wrote, "Thomas Walther, a German lawyer who was the driving force behind the trial of Mr. Demjanjuk, represented Holocaust survivors as co-plaintiffs in the trials of Mr. Hanning and Mr. Gröning. He expressed frustration that Mr. Hanning never responded to his clients’ pleas to recount his experience at Auschwitz so that present and future generations would know of it. But in a telephone interview on Thursday, Mr. Walther said that the clients he had contacted on hearing of Mr. Hanning’s death insisted that the most important thing was that Mr. Hanning was brought to justice and that his deeds were recounted in court.” June 17, 2016 Hanning was convicted for the crimes he committed at Auschwitz, and Walther helped bring the 51st Nazi guard to justice following the war. Hanning’s trial has been dubbed by many as the “Last of the Nazi trials.”
John Demjanjuk was a retired Ukrainian-American auto worker, a former soldier in the Soviet Red Army, and a POW during the Second World War.
Oskar Gröning was a German SS Unterscharführer who was stationed at the Auschwitz concentration camp. His responsibilities included counting and sorting the money taken from prisoners, and he was in charge of the personal property of arriving prisoners. On a few occasions he witnessed the procedures of mass killing in the camp. After being transferred from Auschwitz to a combat unit in October 1944, Gröning was captured by the British on 10 June 1945 when his unit surrendered, although his role in the SS was not discovered. He was eventually transferred to Britain as a prisoner of war and worked as a farm labourer alongside his fellow Germans.
Reinhold Hanning was an SS guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp in occupied Poland.
Gröning worked as an accountant at Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland, sorting and counting the money taken from those killed or used as slave labour, and sending it back to his Nazi superiors in Berlin. The court in the northern city of Lüneburg acknowledged that he had only been a "cog in the wheel" at the camp but that it had taken thousands of such people to keep running "a machinery designed entirely for the killing" of human beings. Presiding judge Franz Kompisch called it "scandalous" that it had taken so long for the German justice system to prosecute such cases.
The occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during the Second World War (1939–1945) began with the German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, and it was formally concluded with the defeat of Germany by the Allies in May 1945. Throughout the entire course of the foreign occupation, the territory of Poland was divided between Germany and the Soviet Union (USSR) with the intention of eradicating Polish culture and subjugating its people by occupying German and Soviet powers. In summer-autumn of 1941 the lands annexed by the Soviets were overrun by Germany in the course of the initially successful German attack on the USSR. After a few years of fighting, the Red Army drove the German forces out of the USSR and across Poland from the rest of Central and Eastern Europe.
Lüneburg, also called Lunenburg in English, is a town in the German state of Lower Saxony. It is located about 50 km (31 mi) southeast of another Hanseatic city, Hamburg, and belongs to that city's wider metropolitan region. The capital of the district which bears its name, it is home to roughly 77,000 people. Lüneburg's urban area, which includes the surrounding communities of Adendorf, Bardowick, Barendorf and Reppenstedt, has a population of around 103,000. Lüneburg has been allowed to use the title "Hansestadt" in its name since 2007, in recognition of its membership in the former Hanseatic League. Lüneburg is also home to Leuphana University.
Rafi Yablonsky of Jewish National Fund Toronto said: “When we write these final chapters on the Holocaust, Thomas Walther, the last of the Nazi hunters, should not just be included – he should be recognized as a post-Holocaust member of the “Righteous Among the Nations.”
The Jewish National Fund was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement. The JNF is a non-profit organization. By 2007, it owned 13% of the total land in Israel. Since its inception, the JNF says it has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of land and established more than 1,000 parks.
At the 2017 March of the Living ceremony, Walther said, "Shalom. I have worked for quite a long time to change the law practice in Germany [regarding] accessory to murder in places just like Auschwitz… I did it for the survivors, I did it for the victims and I did it for the children of the victims. And I did it as well for the future… And the future is with me here, the young generation….They are my hope - they are also my future and your future, and your hope. To life!”
The March of the Living is an annual educational program which brings students from around the world to Poland, where they explore the remnants of the Holocaust. On Holocaust Memorial Day observed in the Jewish calendar, thousands of participants march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp complex built during World War II.
Sobibór was a Nazi German extermination camp built and operated by the SS during World War II near the railway station of Sobibór near Włodawa within the semi-colonial territory of General Government of the occupied Second Polish Republic.
The Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, known in German as der Auschwitz-Prozess, or der zweite Auschwitz-Prozess, was a series of trials running from 20 December 1963 to 19 August 1965, charging 22 defendants under German criminal law for their roles in the Holocaust as mid- to lower-level officials in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death and concentration camp complex. Hans Hofmeyer led as Chief Judge the "criminal case against Mulka and others".
Operation Last Chance was launched July 2002 by the Simon Wiesenthal Center with its mission statement being to track down ex-Nazis still in hiding. Most of them were nearing the end of their lifetimes, hence the operation's name. Efraim Zuroff is director of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem who serves as the Israeli liaison as well as overseer of this project, the focus of which is investigation, prosecution, and conviction of the last remaining Nazi war criminals and collaborators. Many have obtained citizenship in Canada and the United States under false pretences; usually by misrepresentation, omission, or falsification of their criminal past, specifically war crimes which rose to the level of crimes against humanity.
The two Treblinka trials concerning the Treblinka extermination camp personnel began in 1964. Held at Düsseldorf in West Germany, they were the two judicial trials in a series of similar war crime trials held during the early 1960s, such as the Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann trial (1961) and the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials (1963–65), as a result of which the general public came to realize the extent of the crimes that some two decades earlier had been perpetrated in occupied Poland by Nazi bureaucrats and their willing executioners. In the subsequent years, separate trials dealt with personnel of the Bełżec (1963–65), Sobibor (1966), and Majdanek (1975–81) extermination camps.
Siegfried Graetschus was a German SS functionary at the Sobibor extermination camp during Operation Reinhard, the deadliest phase of the Holocaust in occupied Poland. He was assassinated by a Sonderkommando prisoner during the Sobibor uprising.
Dov Freiberg born Berek Freiberg, was a Holocaust survivor, writer, and witness at the Eichmann trial and the Demjanjuk case. During World War II, selected by the SS to join the Sonderkommando work unit, Freiberg participated in the Sobibor prisoners' revolt in October 1943, and managed to escape into nearby woods and survived until the Soviet Army liberated the region in July 1944.
The Sobibór trial was a judicial trial directly concerning the Sobibór extermination camp personnel. The trial was held in 1965–66 in Hagen, West Germany. It was one of a series of similar war crime trials held during the early 1960s, such as the Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann trial of 1961 and the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963–65, as a result of which the general public came to realize the extent of the crimes that some twenty years earlier had been perpetrated in occupied Poland by Nazi bureaucrats and their executioners. In the same and in subsequent years, separate trials dealt with personnel of the Belzec (1963–65), Treblinka (1964–65), and Majdanek (1975–81) extermination camps.
Allan A. Ryan (Jr.) is an American attorney, author and university and law school professor. He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and graduated from Dartmouth College and magna cum laude from the University of Minnesota Law School. He served as a law clerk to Justice Byron White of the Supreme Court of the United States and as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. In the U.S. Justice Department, he was Assistant to the Solicitor General and from 1980 to 1983 Director of the Office of Special Investigations, Criminal Division, responsible for the investigation and prosecution of Nazi war criminals in the United States. Since 1985, he has been an attorney at Harvard University, first in the Office of General Counsel and since 2001 as Director of Intellectual Property, Harvard Business School Publishing.
Ivan the Terrible is the nickname given to notorious guard Ivan Marchenko, at the Treblinka extermination camp during the Holocaust. The moniker alluded to Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, the infamous Tsar of Russia. "Ivan the Terrible" gained international recognition from the 1986 John Demjanjuk case. Already in 1944 a cruel guard named "Ivan", sharing the distinct duties and the extremely violent behavior with a guard named "Nicholas", is mentioned in survivor literature ; however, very little is known about Ivan Marchenko. John Demjanjuk was accused first of being Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka concentration camp, but in 2011 he was accused of war crimes as a different guard named Ivan Demjanjuk who served at the Sobibor extermination camp.
The Belzec trial in the mid-1960s was a war crimes trial of eight former SS members of Bełżec extermination camp. The trial was held at the 1st Munich District Court and should be seen in the context of the Sobibor trial, which followed the Belzec trial, because five of the defendants were accused in both trials. In addition, the Belzec and Sobibor trials, along with the Treblinka trials, form a body of evidence of the crimes of mass extermination as part of the so-called Action Reinhardt programme - the killing of over two million Jews and 50,000 Roma and Sinti. These trials are directly related to the mass murder of 100,000 people in the official Nazi Euthanasia programme known after the war as Action T4, as many of the security guards worked in the euthanasia centres before transferring to the extermination camps. The first Euthanasia trials were carried out shortly after the war.
Kalman Taigman also Teigman Hebrew: קלמן טייגמן was an Israeli citizen born in Warsaw, Poland, who testified at the 1961 Eichmann Trial held in Jerusalem as one of the remaining few Jewish inmates of the Sonderkommando who escaped from the Treblinka extermination camp during the prisoner uprising of 1943.
Trawniki men were Central and Eastern European collaborators recruited from prisoner-of-war camps set up by Nazi Germany for Soviet Red Army soldiers captured in the border regions during Operation Barbarossa launched in June 1941. Thousands of these volunteers served in the General Government territory of occupied Poland until the end of World War II. Trawnikis belonged to a category of Hiwis, Nazi auxiliary forces recruited from native subjects.
Philip Bialowitz was a Polish Holocaust survivor and resistance fighter. He was the last Polish Jewish survivor of the Sobibor extermination camp.
Max Eisen is an author, public speaker and Holocaust educator. He travels throughout Canada giving talks about his experiences as a concentration camp survivor, to students, teachers, universities, law enforcement personnel, and the community at large. He has worked with the March of the Living, the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre,the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, and the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI).
Hubert Zafke was a Nazi S.S. medic who served in several concentration camps during the second world war. After serving 3 years in prison following the war, Zafke settled in Gnevkow, Germany where he married and raised four sons and worked in an agricultural company. However, 71 years after the end of the war, following preliminary investigations by the central office for the investigation of Nazi crimes Zafke stood trial for 3861 counts of accessory to murder. After a lengthy trial delayed multiple times by Zafke's failing health, the trial was dropped as Zafke was found to be unfit for trial.