Ex-Aussie senator admits kin’s Nazi past


A former Australian government minister confirmed a family relative was Hitler’s Nazi ambassador to Vichy, France.

Eric Abetz, a German-born Liberal Party senator from Tasmania, told a news conference Saturday that his great-uncle was Otto Abetz, a convicted Nazi war criminal who sent thousands of French Jews to their deaths between 1940 and 1944.

But Eric Abetz, who was forestry and fisheries minister in John Howard’s government until its defeat last year, accused the Labor Party of politically motivated “muckraking” for leaking the information to the media.”

“To link me to his war crimes represents a new political low and [Prime Minister] Kevin Rudd needs to condemn it,” Abetz said.

Neither Rudd nor opposition leader Brendon Nelson commented on the issue.

Abetz said Otto Abetz, his grandfather’s brother, died the year he was born in Stuttgart.

“He was tried for war crimes and did his time,” Abetz said.

Otto Abetz was sentenced by a French court to 20 years in prison for war crimes. He was released early in April 1954 but died in a car accident in 1958, although there is speculation his death may have been to avenge his wartime past.

Abetz migrated with his parents and siblings to Tasmania in 1961.

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