Laszlo Csatary was set to go to trial for his role in sending tens of thousands of Jews to their death during the Holocaust, but mother nature beat Hungarian courts to the punch.
The 98-year-old convicted war criminal died this weekend of pneumonia, Csatary’s lawyer said. He was set to go to trial in Hungary in the fall, after already being convicted in Slovakian court of leading the deportation of Jews to Nazi death camps. He was sentenced to death in the 1948 trial, but escaped capture for more than six decades.
Last year Laszlo Csatary was arrested by Hungarian officials with help from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a group that hunts down Nazi war criminals to bring them to justice.
During World War II, Csatary served as a Hungarian policeman who oversaw 12,000 Jews in a brick factory in Slovakia. He gained a reputation as a cruel and sadistic guard, using a dog leash to beat detainees of all ages and genders. When Nazis ordered the Jews to be transported to a death camp, Laszlo Csatary rejected a request to cut a window into the train car carrying 80 people.
Many Jewish groups were disappointed that Csatary never served a sentence for his crimes.
“We didn’t expect to see justice served in this world,” Lucia Kollarova, a spokeswoman for the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Slovakia, said today by e-mail. “However he didn’t escape higher judgment.”
After his conviction in 1948, Csatary moved to Halifax and became a Canadian citizen in 1955. He worked as an art dealer in Montreal until 1997, returning to Hungary after Canadian officials sent him notice of a deportation hearing.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, based in Ottawa, said the mishandling of the case is “emblematic” of how Canada allowed the country to become a safe haven for war criminals.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center eventually tracked down Csatary in 2012 to bring him to justice.
Laszlo Csatary died Friday in a hospital in Budapest.