AMSTERDAM – The Dutch government said Thursday it has issued a European arrest warrant for one of the most prominent unpunished Nazi war crimes suspects — a Dutch collaborator convicted in the Netherlands but living in freedom in Germany.
The 88-year-old Klaas Carel Faber was convicted in 1947 of complicity in 22 murders and for aiding the enemy in time of war for helping the Netherlands' Nazi occupiers during World War II, Dutch prosecutors said.
He was given a death sentence that was later commuted to life in prison, but he escaped and fled to Germany in 1952, where he was granted citizenship.
He has lived in freedom there ever since, as Germany refused to extradite one of its own nationals, yet attempts by German authorities to prosecute him there foundered on legal technicalities.
Dutch prosecutors said Thursday they have decided to try to get Faber back on Dutch soil to serve his existing sentence using the new European arrest warrant system, adopted in 2002 to allow speedy transfers of suspects or convicts between European Union members.
Spokeswoman Tinneke Zwart said it was not certain the warrant system can be applied in Faber's case.
"There were contacts at the ministers' level, and they decided they would do their utmost to let this person serve his sentence," she said. "The goal is extradition."
Zwart said it was now up to German legal system to react to the warrant.
"This is very good news," said Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi hunter, in a telephone interview from Jerusalem.
"This really puts the onus on Germany — now there's absolutely no reason this guy, who is a person who committed many murders, should be protected by German law."
German Justice Ministry spokesman Ulrich Staudigl said that the request had been received by his office Wednesday and was being "quickly" sent to Munich prosecutors, who are handling the case.
Munich prosecutor Alfons Obermeier said it was hard to say when the extradition request could be decided without the request in hand. But he said several aspects will have to be considered including Faber's German citizenship and the fact that a German court had already rejected Dutch requests for his extradition before the new warrant system was adopted.
"We will examine it speedily, but there are complex legal issues," he told The Associated Press.
Obermeier's office reviewed Faber's case in August at the request of German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, but concluded Faber could not be prosecuted in Munich without new evidence.
Zuroff said Faber volunteered for Hitler's SS, a paramilitary organization loyal to Nazi ideology, during the German occupation of the Netherlands in the 1940s. He worked for the death squad code named "Silbertanne," or "Silver Fir," which carried out killings of resistance members, Nazi opponents, and people who hid Jews.
Zwart said Faber's 1947 conviction cited 22 killings in three different Dutch cities in 1944-1945, including six at the Westerbork transit camp, where thousands of Dutch Jews including Anne Frank were held before being sent to labor camps or death camps in the East.
Faber's "aiding the enemy" conviction was due to his eagerness to turn Dutch citizens over to German authorities, Zwart said.
Dutch newspapers reported Thursday that Faber's father was killed by the Dutch resistance in 1944, and his brother was sentenced for war crimes and executed in 1948.
In the wake of the death of two other Nazi suspects — Adolf Storms and Samuel Kunz — Zuroff said Faber has now been elevated to No. 3 on the Wiesenthal Center's "most wanted" list.
Faber fathered three children and lives in the Bavarian city of Ingolstadt, where he worked for automaker Audi until he retired.
AP reporter David Rising contributed to this story from Berlin.