EQUIPO NIZKOR
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24Jul08

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The lawsuit concerning the Spanish victims of the National Socialist camps is admitted to the courts.


On 17 July 2008, Central Investigating Court No. 2 of the National Court (Audiencia Nacional) issued its decision to admit the case concerning the Spanish victims of the National Socialist concentration camps. The decision was notified to the parties on 21 July and allows the continuation of the process commenced by the assignment of Preliminary Inquiry 211/08 which was in turn initiated by the filing of the criminal action by Equipo Nizkor on 19 June 2008.

This decision will initiate, for the first time in ordinary Spanish jurisdiction, a judicial investigation into the crimes of National Socialism, and particularly the criminal responsibility of Johann Leprich, Anton Tittjung, Josias Kumpf and Iwan (John) Demjanjuk, who were members of the SS Deathīs Head Battalion (SS Totenkopf-Sturmbann) and, further, constitutes legal recognition of all Spanish victims who suffered the ordeal of the National Socialist camps during the Second World War.

The decision to admit the case is a direct consequence of a report of 9 July 2008 from the Prosecutorīs Office of the National Court which concluded that the Spanish courts have jurisdiction in this case.

For the first time, after 60 years, the claimants come before the Spanish courts which hitherto have failed to acknowledge them as victims. In the majority of cases they have not had their Spanish nationality returned to them and this obliges them to litigate before the Spanish courts with the nationality granted by countries such as Belgium, Austria or France.

The initial plaintiffs in this lawsuit are: David Moyano, survivor of Mauthausen, born in Spain, former French combatant and a Belgian national; Silvia Dinhof-Cueto, an Austrian national, daughter of Victor Cueto, a survivor of Mauthausen from Asturias, Spain, now deceased. Silvia Dinhof-Cueto is a member of the Commemorative Association of Spanish Republicans in Austria; Jesús de Cos Borbolla, a Spanish national, whose father, Donato de Cos Gutiérrez was taken prisoner at Dunkirk and killed at Gusen, Mauthausen; Concha Ramirez Naranjo, a Spanish national whose husband, Gabriel Torralba, was imprisoned in Auschwitz Concentration Camp and later transferred to Flossenbürg Concentration Camp, where he was eventually liberated by US troops. Also participating in the lawsuit is Aurore Gutiérrez, a French national, whose grandfather Agustín Puente Lavin and two uncles, Marcos Puente Izaguirre and Francisco Elías Puente Izaguirre, were killed at Sachsenhausen

The principal focus of these proceedings is on the Spanish victims of the concentration camps ("KL" - Kozentrationslager) at Mauthausen, Sachsenhausen and Flossenbürg.

The denaturalization proceedings of the said SS Totenkopf members in the United States courts have taken place over the course of the last 20 years. In well-known cases such as that of Iwan (John) Demjanjuk, the Supreme Court of the United States, as recently as May 19 2008, denied Demjanjukīs petition for a writ of certiorari. Moreover, on May 22 2008 a US Immigration Appeals court upheld the removal order for Josias Kumpf and that decision has not been appealed by him.

This lawsuit is based, inter alia, on the evidence relied on in the Judgement of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946 which held that the SS, including the Death's Head Battalion (SS Totenkopf-Sturmbann), was a criminal organisation involved in the "the persecution and extermination of Jews, brutalities, and killings in concentration camps, excesses in the administration of occupied territories, administration of the slave labour programme and the mistreatment and murder of prisoners of war" as well as other crimes.

The submission of this lawsuit, prepared by and under the strategic supervision of Equipo Nizkor, is supported by various organisations representing the victims of Franco and the victims of the National Socialist concentration camps as is apparent in the communiqué we published on 30 June 2008 in which over 60 organisations requested, inter alia, that the "State Public Prosecutor provide the necessary instructions so that the Prosecutorīs Office of the National Court releases its mandatory report to the Investigating Judge informing him that the Spanish courts have jurisdiction over the case and that the said court proceeds to declare the lawsuit admissible in a timely and efficient manner, both of which are general conditions of any judicial proceedings pursuant to the legal standards of due process in Spain".

The signatory organizations made "a very special appeal to the Workers' General Union (UGT) and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) to support this criminal action which includes in the evidence submitted on its behalf, the KL Sachsenhausen daily records that identify Francisco Largo Caballero, the distinguished historical socialist leader, as a prisoner subject to the programme of extermination."

And they added: "These proceedings would permit the Spanish State to confront its responsibility for the support and promotion of the National Socialist regime, and, although delayed for more than 60 years, by means of the judicial process, join in the repudiation and condemnation of the National Socialist crimes in a clear and non-rhetorical way, thereby demonstrating its willingness to comply with European law."

The admission of the lawsuit constitutes clear progress in the legal treatment of serious crimes in ordinary jurisdiction and further represents a sign of hope for all the associations who fight for the application of international law to crimes which have so affected Spanish citizens, whether committed on behalf of National Socialism, Fascism or Francoism.

Madrid and Charleroi, 24 July 2008

Gregorio Dionis
President, Equipo Nizkor

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