SYDNEY, Australia (May. 16)
New Zealand confirmed Wednesday that it has received a list of eight Nazi war criminals who may have come to the country after World War II.
“If there are war criminals in New Zealand, there will be no hole deep enough for them to hide in,” External Relations Minister Mike Moore told Parliament when the allegations were raised Tuesday.
Moore said he would be meeting with Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer to discuss the best way to deal with the problem.
The list was compiled by the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center and submitted to New Zealand’s ambassador to the United Nations, Dame Ann Hercus.
It includes a former police chief in Lithuania accused of killing several hundred Jews in 1941. Other suspects came from Latvia and Yugoslavia.
In Los Angeles, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said the center was “buoyed” hearing that New Zealand’s external relations minister “announced that an official inquiry into this issue will be set up as early as next Monday.”
A New Zealand magazine, The Listener, augmented the California center’s list with claims that a Yugoslav living in New Zealand committed war crimes in Latvia and that a Latvian now living in a city on New Zealand’s North Island participated in the murder of Jewish civilians.
Reports in New Zealand claim the United States has offered to help bring to trial persons who committed crimes against humanity. In any event, New Zealand has been forced to confront the war criminals issue from which it long thought it was immune.
It is premature to predict what action the government in Wellington will take, but pressure to follow Australia’s example is expected to be great.
Australia is planning the trial of a 73-yea-old resident of Adelaide, Ivan Polyukhovich, alleged to have murdered 24 people and to have been implicated in the murders of 850 others.
He will be the first person tried under Australia’s amended war crimes legislation.
It will be one of the most expensive prosecutions in Australian history, costing the taxpayers an estimated $6 million, it was revealed in the Australian Senate.