SYDNEY, Australia (Oct. 15)
The Israeli office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has submitted another 49 names of suspected Nazi war criminals believed to be living in Australia to the government’s Special Investigations Unit.
But given the government’s record to date, chances are slim that any of the suspected Nazis will be prosecuted.
Since the Special Investigations Unit was established in 1987, it has received the names of nearly 600 suspects from a variety of sources, including a total of 256 from the Wiesenthal Center over the last four years.
Of the 600 suspects named, 576 cases were investigated and dropped, the Special Investigations Unit’s director told Parliament last month.
“I am satisfied the complainants are malicious, or I am satisfied that the person is the wrong person, although the right person, is not here,” the director explained.
The director said that when allegations are received, investigations are conducted to determine if the suspect is living in Australia, and if there is sufficient evidence to warrant the preparation of a brief for the director of public prosecutions.
AUSTRALIAN JEWS ‘SATISFIED’
Leslie Caplan, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the Jewish community was “satisfied the SIU has investigated the material received from all sources.”
Caplan added that the government was correct to make sure that only cases where strong evidence exists come before the courts.
A prerequisite for prosecution is the availability of credible witnesses willing to testify.
Researchers working for the Special Investigations Unit concede that in the absence of witnesses, some Nazi killers evade justice. To date, only one case has come to court.
It is the case of Ukrainian-born Ivan Polyukhovich, whose trial was to have opened in August. It was postponed when the accused challenged the validity of legislation that allows suspects to be tried in Australia for crimes alleged to have been committed elsewhere.
His hearing is scheduled for Nov. 9 in the Australian High Court. According to Justice Mary Gaudron, Polyukhovich’s challenge “has some prospect of success.”
According to the Wiesenthal Center’s announcement in Jerusalem on Oct. 9, the 49 suspects immigrated to Australia after World War II.
The list, consisting mainly of Lithuanians, was compiled from new testimony hitherto unavailable to researchers, which was submitted to the Yad Vashem Archives several months ago.
The testimony by approximately 200 Holocaust survivors was recorded by a fellow survivor, Leib Kunichowsky, between 1945 and 1949 in displaced persons camps in Germany and Austria.
It recounts in great detail the destruction of 171 Jewish communities in Lithuania and the murders of over 200,000 Jews.
“The submission of this list is further proof of the enormous scope of the work still to be done in Australia,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center’s Israel office.