Australia and New Zealand Will Trace Nazi Criminals

Jewish groups here and abroad conditionally welcomed an announcement Monday that Australia and New Zealand would cooperate in tracing alleged Nazi war criminals.

But they insist on more definitive action, including official investigations and legislation to deal with the prosecution, extradition or deportation of war criminals found in either country.

Those demands were raised after New Zealand Attorney General Paul East announced that the Cabinet decided Monday that “New Zealand is to enter negotiations with the Australian government with a view to sharing information held by that government on war criminals who might be living in this part of the world.”

However, East said, “the New Zealand government is not yet convinced of the need to establish a special unit to investigate allegations that there are Nazi war criminals resident in New Zealand.”

But he agreed that “further investigations needs to be undertaken.”

In fact, East said, while he personally would be “reluctant” to see trials in New Zealand for crimes committed nearly 50 years ago “on the other side of the world,” the government recognizes “its responsibility to act on the information supplied by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.”

New Zealand Jewish leaders applauded the decision. But a spokesperson for the community who asked not to be identified told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Tuesday that they were “not sure that the government was now acting in a proper and serious manner.

“We will be watching the government’s actions very closely, and reminding our prime minister that we believe the allegations must be investigated,” the spokesperson said.

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel Office of the Los Angeles-based Wiesenthal Center, urged the New Zealand government to take more steps, such as consultation with the U.S. Justice Department, the Soviet procurator general and special war crimes units in Canada and Germany.

In addition, the Wiesenthal Center and the New Zealand Jewish Council have recommended the establishment of an official government investigation into resident war criminals.

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