SYDNEY, Aug. 16 (JTA) — Australian Jews are calling on their government to officially respond to claims that the nation recruited 127 scientists from Nazi Germany, including some SS members. They also demanded that a now-defunct unit responsible for investigating Nazi war criminals living in Australia be reopened immediately. A major investigation by two newspapers, the Melbourne Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, revealed Monday that an active campaign to recruit scientists for a number of projects took place, with the government’s full knowledge that some were active Nazis and involved in the Third Reich’s war effort. Nina Bassat, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the program “cannot be rationalized as an accidental entry of Nazis into Australia.” “In some cases, it was easier to get entry into Australia if you were a Nazi than if you were a survivor of the Holocaust,” said Bassat, herself a survivor. Bassat said that the latest revelations, coupled with recent reports that internationally wanted Nazi war criminals were using Australia as a safe haven, presented “a compelling argument” for the re-establishment of the special unit investigating war criminals that was disbanded in 1993 after three failed prosecutions. Australia rejected the charges, also made by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Jerusalem office, that it was a haven for Holocaust perpetrators. “The special investigation unit thoroughly investigated war crimes allegations against individuals living in Australia,” Australian Justice Minister Amanda Vanstone was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, Britain said Tuesday that it is investigating claims that it was involved in the scheme to place Nazi scientists in Australia in an effort to prevent Russia from recruiting them. The Sydney Morning Herald report said that Britain had collaborated with the United States in order to keep the scientists from working with potential enemies.
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