Operation Last Chance pays off in Hungary

LA Times editorial from Efraim Zuroff, the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter and director of its Israel office, is the author of "Operation Last Chance: One Man's Quest to Bring Nazi Criminals to Justice."

The envelope was postmarked Budapest, Aug. 25, 2004, and it arrived in my Jerusalem office about a week later. It contained more than a dozen yellowing pages detailing a decades-old murder in the Hungarian capital.

According to witness statements included with the letter, Peter Balazs, an 18-year-old Jew, was tortured and beaten to death on Nov. 8, 1944, by Hungarian soldiers for not wearing the yellow star that Jews were required to wear. Two participants in the murder were prosecuted and convicted after the war, but according to the witnesses, a third alleged attacker, Karoly Zentai, was never charged.

It was a Nazi-hunter's dream -- a near-perfect package that clearly named the perpetrator, the victim, the crime and its site. I had all the necessary details to begin an investigation.

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