FBI Hunts War Criminals Long After WW II's End The U.S. government recently deported Elfriede Rinkel for working at a concentration camp during World War II -- even though after the war, she married into a Jewish family and lived in San Francisco for decades without incident.
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FBI Hunts War Criminals Long After WW II's End

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FBI Hunts War Criminals Long After WW II's End

FBI Hunts War Criminals Long After WW II's End

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MIKE PESCA, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Mike Pesca.

This death notice ran in a San Francisco Jewish News Weekly over two years. Rinkel, Fred William, January 21. Husband of Elfriede Lina Rinkel. Longtime member of B'nai B'rith.

What wasn't printed, what wasn't publicly known until earlier this month, was this fact: Elfriede Rinkel was a German concentration camp guard for the SS during World War II. Today Elfriede Rinkel is 83, blind in one eye, and she uses a cane. And she's been deported to Germany.

Two years ago a pair of Justice Department officials knocked on her door with the news that her Nazi secret was out, a secret she owned up to almost immediately. One of the Justice officials was Eli M. Rosenbaum, head of the Office of Special Investigations, which investigates Nazis and war criminals.

I asked him, now that his targets are all quite old, how does that affect his job?

Mr. ELI ROSENBAUM (Director, Office of Special Investigations): Well, even when we started in 1979, all of our suspects were either senior citizens or on the verge of gaining that status. So we've really been accustomed to dealing with an older universe of suspects all along.

PESCA: Will there ever be a time when these people that you're hunting down are so old and so frail that the U.S. government says it's not worth deporting them anymore?

Mr. ROSENBAUM: There have already, and for years now, been cases where individuals become so ill - mental illness and physical illness - that the government decides not to proceed any further.

PESCA: Elfriede Rinkel was quite old, quite frail. Why is she in Germany today?

Mr. ROSENBAUM: Well, she was old. I don't agree that she was frail. She's in Germany today because she violated U.S. immigration laws to come to the United States. She took part in perhaps the most notorious crime ever committed: genocide on behalf of the Nazi regime. Elfriede Rinkel was a guard at the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany.

PESCA: And what went on there?

Mr. ROSENBAUM: At Ravensbrück tens of thousands of women prisoners were deprived of proper nutrition, were experimented on, were murdered outright, sometimes by gassing. An estimated 10,000 women died just during the year that Elfriede Rinkel voluntarily served as an SS female guard at Ravensbrück.

PESCA: You know specifically that Elfriede Rinkel did volunteer for that duty?

Mr. ROSENBAUM: She volunteered for the assignment. She knew that she would be serving at a concentration camp. She never sought any reassignment from the camp. She went home on leaves and came back.

PESCA: I wanted to ask you about one facet of your job, which is that you're steeped, if you will, in degrees of evil. And you, of course, know off the top of your head why being an SS guard was different from being an enlisted soldier in the infantry, for instance.

But could you explain it again and could you also talk about if there were people - of course there are people who are in America who served and fought with Germany during World War II. What makes them different from some of the people that you go after?

Mr. ROSENBAUM: There's of course nothing dishonorable in regular military service. Alas, as long as human beings fight wars there will be young men and women called up to serve and others who will volunteer to serve their countries. But serving as a concentration camp guard is not a military function, though it's armed - in Mrs. Rinkel's case armed with an SS attack dog. When you serve at a concentration camp, one's job on a daily basis is to persecute human beings. That's the entirety of the job.

PESCA: Eli M. Rosenbaum, the director of the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations, thank you very much.

Mr. ROSENBAUM: Thank you.

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