Why were so few perpetrators caught and punished?

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Claus Barbie

The French lawyer Serge and his wife Beate Klarsfeld, also devoted their lives to the pursuit of Nazi war criminals. Their most famous case led to the arrest of Klaus Barbie (known as the butcher of Lyon).

During the war, Barbie had served as a head of the Gestapo in Lyon, France. He was responsible for the rounding up of French Jews to be sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, including 44 Jewish children from an orphanage.

After the war, he evaded arrest and escaped to South America. In 1987 he was brought back to France and found guilty of crimes against humanity. Barbie was sentenced to life imprisonment.


Should the world continue to search for and try perpetrators of the Holocaust? If so, what would be the reason?

The vast majority of perpetrators escaped prosecution. Many of them went back to their pre-war lives. Many more Nazi war criminals escaped to countries outside Europe.

However, certain organisations and individuals have dedicated their lives to hunting down and prosecuting perpetrators and collaborators.

Simon Wiesenthal

Simon Wiesenthal (1908-2005) was a Holocaust survivor who dedicated his life to raising public awareness, and hunting down Nazis who had escaped justice. He initially worked for the War Crimes section of the United States army. However, in 1947 he opened the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre in Austria. 

Wiesenthal lobbied western governments to locate and prosecute escaped Nazi war criminals. He also found evidence leading to the capture of leading Nazis. His most famous case concerned Adolf Eichmann, about whom he provided key information.

Josef Mengele

SS doctor Josef Mengele performed medical experiments without anaesthetic on child prisoners in Auschwitz. He abused every medical ethic.

After the war he escaped to South America. Despite every effort he was never brought to justice.

The vast majority of Nazi offenders have escaped punishment.