Britain freed hundreds of suspected Nazi war criminals involved in the Holocaust under pressure from the United States, a leading historian has claimed.
Dr. Dan Plesch uncovered United Nations War Crimes Commission documents which prove the Nazis were freed from British prisons under pressure from the US.
Among the suspected war criminals released was Oskar Groening – dubbed the ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’ – who was handed a four-year prison sentence for his role in the Holocaust earlier this month.
Other prominent Nazis freed by the UK were Erich von Manstein, Gerd von Rundstedt and Albert Kesselring.
Plesch said Britain freed the Nazis under pressure from the US, which wanted Germany as an ally in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.
The director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS, part of the University of London, added that Germany also applied pressure to release suspected war criminals.
“There was a political argument at the time in which those opposed to international criminal justice succeeded … There were lots of people who were either released without much investigation — and then there were people who were actually in prison camps and let out. Hundreds of suspects and convicted Nazis [were released],” Plesch told the Jewish Chronicle.
“Indeed, British jails were empty by 1957 after much pressure from Germany and German army veterans associations who refused to support rearmament against the USSR while they remained in jail.”
Oskar Groening, theformer guard at Auschwitz jailed earlier this month by a German court, was found guilty of being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews at the infamous death camp.
Plesch said governments should learn from this incident and investigate charges of war crimes levied against countries such as Israel and Syria.
“These are very important lessons for our own time … states, including Israel, need to give much more serious attention to the importance of international criminal law today,” Plesch told the Jewish Chronicle.
Israel faced accusations of war crimes on Tuesday when Amnesty International published a report stating there is “strong evidence” that at least 135 civilians were killed in a bombardment of Rafah during last year’s Gaza War.
The United Nations implicated Syrian leader Bashar Assad in war crimes earlier this year, claiming he is responsible for “vicious” abuses including torture, mass killing and rape.