Australia/Israel Review


The Last Word: Crime Without Punishment

Aug 27, 2012 | Jeremy Jones

The Last Word: Crime Without Punishment
news_item/Charles-Zentai-_2310640b.jpg

Jeremy Jones

At the time of writing, Australians are engaged in a vibrant, vigorous debate on what we should do about, to and for the men, women and children who seek asylum and refuge in Australia.

While it is sometimes difficult to disentangle the threads interwoven into the arguments for contending positions, an important issue is what type of person Australians think should be welcome.

In the period of mass post-war immigration, Australian governments also had ideas regarding desirable characteristics for immigrants.

On the matters of race and ethnicity, I feel it is fair to say that modern Australia is not proud of the period of the “White Australia Policy”.

There were also Cold War concerns over supporters of totalitarian communism. To a degree, political/religious extremism has today been substituted for the perhaps simpler matter of support for one single family of ideologies.

One thing which has not changed is abhorrence at the notion that fugitives from justice could come to Australia and live here freely, avoiding any consequence for their crimes.

It is now known that amongst the hundreds of thousands of migrants to Australia who arrived from southern, central and eastern Europe, especially from countries which were under post-war communist control, were hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals who committed crimes against humanity.

They included figures close to the centres of power in the Balkan states, leaders and members of Nazi killing units from the Baltic region and individuals who brutally murdered their Jewish neighbours under the cover and authority of Nazism in the Central European theatre.

Australians learnt there was a problem in the wake of an American case, begun in 1984, in which an alleged Nazi war criminal nominated Australia as the place he wished to be deported to, once it was established that his involvement in the perpetration of the Shoah meant he could no longer live in the US.

The groundbreaking journalism and historic research of Mark Aarons, supplemented by journalists and historians such as Suzanne Rutland, exposed the extent of the issue – which included the turning of blind eyes, abrogation of morality and complicity in a sinister and cynical process which allowed some Nazi war criminals not only to live in this country, but to thrive.

More than 40 years after the defeat of Nazism, the Hawke Government overturned the previously articulated policy that Australia was a place in which you could not merely build a new life but could escape consequences for past misdeeds and crimes.

A specialist unit was established within the Australian Federal Police to compile briefs to allow for the prosecution of those Nazi war criminals who were still alive and against whom persuasive cases could be established.

Anomalies in immigration law were amended, new principles asserted and some prosecutions commenced.

The historical record was rewritten to record the truth – and the sanitised account of what was shameful behaviour is now public and well-known.

Further, some of the criminals who had been sleeping soundly each night in Australian homes, believing that they had escaped (earthly) justice, would have lived their final years forever in fear of being held to account.

Tragically, with a series of trials ending without prosecutions, with Nazi murderers avoiding trials due to infirmity or old age, with each and every tactic used to avoid and delay prosecution or extradition, no person who came to Australia has borne punitive consequences.

With the decision in August by the High Court of Australia to prevent extradition to Hungary of Charles Zentai, the eyes of all concerned with the fate of criminals against humanity were turned towards Australia.

What they would have seen was a country with a political and legal system which was put to the test – and failed.

Let us all hope that the lessons learned from this will, at a minimum, lead to a reform which means that we will never again accept this utterly unacceptable situation.

Tags:

RELATED ARTICLES

In Gaza, “the IDF continues to face one of the most difficult and complex combat environments any armed force has ever had to deal with,” yet has “taken all reasonable measures to achieve its mission while minimising harm to the civilian population” (Image: IDF)

The morality of IDF manoeuvres in Gaza

Jan 25, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
The Houthis are an integral part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, so it makes little sense to try to deter them independently (Image: Maad Ali/ZUMA Wire/Alamy Live News)

Stopping the Houthis requires thinking bigger

Jan 25, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
The proceedings against Israel in the International Court of Justice revealed a surreal disconnection from reality (screenshot)

Europa Europa: Upside down in the Hague

Jan 25, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
Among UNRWA’s other long-standing problems, there are reports of its aid being seized by Hamas during the current war (Image: Anas Mohammed/ Shutterstock)

Eight things to know about UNRWA

Jan 25, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
Israeli soccer player Sagiv Jehezkel: Fired, arrested and deported for calling attention to the Israeli hostages in Gaza (Image: X/ Twitter)

The Last Word: “Footballing while Jewish” and other crimes

Jan 25, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review
Image: Shutterstock

Media Microscope: Courting publicity

Jan 25, 2024 | Australia/Israel Review

SIGN UP FOR AIJAC EMAILS

EDITIONS BY YEAR