JERUSALEM, OCT. 13 -- The Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Jewish Nazi-hunting organization, today released a list of 10 most-wanted World War II criminals it believes are still alive, pressing the United Nations to open its extensive war crimes files for restricted public use.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the center, told a press conference here his group feared that the United Nations may restrict access to its files to historians and academic researchers and not allow Hier's group to examine the records for investigative purposes.
"It is imperative that murderers of our people not be protected by the very body set up to prosecute them," said Hier.
To illustrate the issue's urgency, the Wiesenthal center named 10 war crimes suspects from the U.N. list who it believes are still at large. Among them: Gestapo head Heinrich Mueller, last seen in 1945 at Adolf Hitler's Berlin bunker; three deputies of Adolf Eichmann, the official in charge of organizing the transportation of Jews to the death camps, and three doctors who allegedly selected gas-chamber victims and carried out brutal medical experiments.
Hier said that releasing the U.N. files on these men could help force governments to take steps to locate and prosecute them.
The U.N. files were compiled by the War Crimes Commission, which was established in 1943 and completed its work in 1948. The 17-nation panel compiled a list of 38,000 names and 12,000 dossiers on individuals, much of it raw data. One of those on the list is former U.N. secretary general Kurt Waldheim.
Until now the files have been accessible only to governments on a confidential basis. But Israel -- which has been allowed to examine the files over the past year, including the Waldheim dossier -- has pressed Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to open them for more general use. The United States has backed this request.
Perez de Cuellar has said the decision is up to the 17 former members of the commission, and all have agreed to increased access, but disagree widely on the extent. Perez de Cuellar is to meet with the members Wednesday in New York.
Hier said some members, including France, have expressed fears that the raw files and list of names, many of them misspelled and duplicated, could be used to smear innocent people if released. Hier said the Wiesenthal center -- named after the Austrian Jewish Nazi hunter -- sympathizes with that position and believes access should be limited to responsible groups.
Nonetheless, he contended that a clause restricting access to scholars "would not protect the innocent but rather the perpetrators. . . . We feel that some of the countries must have something to hide."
Hier said western governments "have done a dismal job" in pursuing Nazi war criminals over the years and needed outside public pressure to continue working. A systematic search of the U.N. files could turn up new evidence to strengthen the case against suspected war criminals, he said.
"Frankly this is the tip of the iceberg," Hier said of his list. He said his group estimates that the number of Nazi war criminals still living is "in the thousands."
Among those he named were:Alois Brunner, Eichmann's principal assistant, allegedly responsible for deportation to the death camps of 128,000 Jews. He is said to be living in Damascus, under the name of Georg Fischer. Eichmann was kidnaped from Argentina by Israeli agents in 1960 and tried and executed in Israel.Friedrich Warzok, commandant of the Janowska concentration camp in Lwow, Poland, who allegedly assisted in the murder of 40,000 people. His whereabouts is unknown.Drs. Hans Wilhelom Koenig and Horst Schumann, who worked at the Auschwitz death camp. Their whereabouts are unknown, although Koenig is believed to be living somewhere in Scandinavia.
The center also released a list of 10 other alleged war criminals believed to be living in western countries. It named one of them, Antanas Gecas, who allegedly ordered mass murders of Jews in Lithuania and who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he is under investigation by the British authorities.
Gecas' name has appeared publicly before. Nine others on the list were not named because they are under investigation by authorities in Britain, Australia and Canada.
Ephraim Zuroff, the center's representative here, said the United States, Australia and Canada make good-faith efforts to investigate war criminals living in their countries, but he said Britain "refuses to take any action whatsoever."