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Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Suspected Hungarian Nazi faces extradition from Australia as top Israeli Nazi hunter criticises country’s ‘terrible record’ of convicting Nazi war criminals


Speaking of the ongoing case against 90-year-old Hungarian-born Karoly (Charles) Zentai - which has lasted seven years and was lately referred to Australia’s highest court by the government to support its decision to approve his extradition to Hungary in 2009 – the head of the Israel branch of the (international Jewish human rights and Holocaust education organisation) Simon Wiesenthal Center, Dr Efraim Zuroff, condemned Australia’s belatedness in implementing a Budapest People’s Court appeal for arrest dating back to 1948:
“It’s hard to be optimistic about a case of a Nazi war criminal in Australia given the country’s terrible record to date”, he said. “But in this case, the government has acted in the proper manner and perhaps we will finally see a successful result.”
The Australian government was forced to appeal to the country’s top judicial authority, after their original decision to extradite Zentai in 2009 was overturned on appeal on the basis that a “war crime” is not an extraditable offence.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center was, in fact, responsible for eventually tracking down Zentai to Perth in 2005, where he was arrested. Having always protested his innocence of Nazi war crimes, his son now claims he is too frail and that extradition to Hungary would be “a virtual death sentence”.
Zuroff, however, disputes the legitimacy of such an argument, saying: “The passage of time in no way diminishes the guilt of the killers. Old age should not afford protection for people who committed murder.”
This is an argument that Hungarian-born Australian Holocaust survivor Deborh Weinerger keenly advocates. Weinberger, who lost much of her immediate family in concentration camps, said: “My grandmother was also nearly 90 when she died at Auschwitz. That doesn’t do anything for me when they say he’s an old man. I don’t care; there were lots of old men and women who were taken to the gas chambers.”
Australia has been widely criticised for its record on convicting Nazi war criminals with a special unit set up in 1987 by the federal government investigating 841 suspects without a single successful conviction, before it was dismantled in 1992.
A 2006 US Justice Department report criticised Australia’s attitudes to Nazi “persecutors” as “ambivalent”, describing attempts by the US government to extradite suspected Latvian-born Australian Nazi Konrads Kalejs in 2000 as a “hideous failure”.
Mark Aarons, author of War Criminals Welcome, an exploration of successive Australian governments’ failure to tackle the issue, wrote in 2009: “Future historians may well conclude that some of the world’s last surviving Nazis died peacefully in Melbourne, Sydney or Perth. This would be a deserved judgement – and a pity.”

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