SYDNEY, Australia (Dec. 8)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jim Bolger has confirmed that his government will not prosecute any of the 14 current residents of New Zealand alleged to have committed crimes against humanity during the course of World War II.
Bolger said that there was not enough evidence to justify criminal prosecutions against any of the individuals on a list provided in 1990 by the Los Angeles- based Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has written to Bolger that the decision effectively “turns New Zealand into a haven for Nazi murderers” and “eliminates whatever psychological pressure existed on the criminals, pressure which was a punishment of sorts.”
Zuroff added that New Zealand is sending a message that “once again those guilty have succeeded in getting away with their crimes.”
The New Zealand Jewish Council is also angry at the decision. Its president, Wendy Ross, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the council will be making its views known to the prime minister and the New Zealand public.
Ross said the evidence against the 14 is “substantial, even if circumstantial.”
“The government had a moral duty to act, especially at a time when Nazism is again rearing its ugly face in Europe,” she said.
“The older generation is forgetting the Nazi crimes, and the younger generation of New Zealanders is not learning about them,” she said. “The government should have taken a moral stand.”
Government sources admitted that there was strong circumstantial evidence in some cases but that this would not have provided sufficient grounds for lodging a criminal prosecution.
A major difficulty was finding witnesses, despite an extensive investigation conducted by New Zealand investigators in cooperation with their Australian counterparts.
The two-person New Zealand government War Crimes Unit was charged with investigating allegations of “culpable homicide in furtherance of a policy of the extermination of a racial or other defined group of persons carried out in Germany or German-occupied territory between September 1939 and May 1945.”
The investigation, under the supervision of Solicitor-General John McGrath, spent $400,000 (New Zealand) during the 12 months of its operations.