As the white-haired passenger waited to board a 10:45 a.m. bus to Buffalo, N.Y., last week, an RCMP officer stepped forward and arrested him. As a result of that Dec. 9 apprehension in the Hamilton, Ont., bus terminal, 76-year-old Imre Finta became the first person to face prosecution under Canadian law for allegedly committing war crimes during the Second World War. At week’s end, the former restaurant owner left Toronto’s Don Jail after two relatives posted $100,000 bail. But Finta still faces charges that include kidnapping and confining 8,615 Jews who were transported from his native Hungary to Nazi slave-labor and death camps between April 7 and June 30, 1944. Declared Toronto activist and Holocaust survivor Sabina Citron: “It is indeed a historic day for Canada. It restores a sense of justice for all who suffered under the Nazis.”
Still, Citron and spokesmen for such Jewish organizations as the B’nai B’rith said that Canadian authorities had moved slowly since a federal commission under Quebec Superior Court Judge Jules Deschênes reported one year ago that 20 suspected war criminals were living in Canada (the report did not name them). In response, Ottawa amended the Criminal Code in September to allow prosecution of alleged war criminals. But added Citron, a cofounder of the Canadian Holocaust Remembrance Association: “We must
press the government to take further actions. Perseverance is the only thing that really works.”
Finta stands accused of committing manslaughter while serving as a captain in the Hungarian Mounted Police in Szeged. There, police charge that he directed deportations that caused the deaths of an unspecified number of Jews in three train transports from that city to Nazi concentration camps. When Citron made those allegations public in December, 1982, Finta described them as “awful, dirty lies.” But only one month before his arrest, an Ontario Supreme Court judge ruled that in doing so he had libelled Citron—and ordered him to pay her $32,600 in costs and damages. Now he faces renewed accusations about his past—on far more serious charges.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.