Germany's Nazi-hunting agency turns 50

Dec. 1, 2008 at 4:19 PM

BERLIN, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- Germany's Central Office, an agency that tracks down suspected Nazi war criminals, is still functioning 50 years after its founding, officials say.

The Central Office was established on Dec. 1, 1958, 10 years after the Nuremberg tribunals, when Germans began to realize that many of the perpetrators of the Holocaust and other war crimes had actually gotten away, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported Monday.

The Central Office has investigated 7,367 cases and many trials involving ex-Nazis responsible for the deaths at the Auschwitz, Treblinka or Buchenwald concentration camps wouldn't have been possible without its work. In recent years, however, things have slowed considerably.

"Realistically speaking, the chances for (new trials) diminish with every year," Central Office head Kurt Schrimm told Deutsche Welle. "It's not as if we don't find new evidence and suspects. Our biggest problem is to prove that they're guilty. It's getting harder and harder, not only because the accused get older, but also the witnesses -- if we can even find them in the first place."

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