Australia’s Record On War Criminals

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Sir, – Efraim Zuroff’s gratuitous attacks on me and leaders of the Australian Jewish community over the winding down of Australia’s Special Investigations Unit, twice in the past two weeks (Letters, July 3 and 14), represent a new height in hutzpa.

The SIU was set up to track down and bring to trial alleged Nazi war criminals living in Australia after a long, bitter struggle waged by these Jewish leaders to get the government to enact the appropriate war-crimes legislation.

Mr. Zuroff was a relatively late arrival on the scene, and his provision of long, poorly researched lists of alleged criminals that sent Australian investigators on exorbitantly expensive and mostly futile wild-goose chases half-way around the world seriously compromised our efforts. Opponents of the legislation were able to exploit the meager results and ballooning cost of the investigation to drum up very broad public support for their ultimately successful campaign to torpedo the SIU. It is to be deeply regretted that, in his bid to grab spectacular newspaper headlines, Efraim Zuroff is undermining the quiet, unpublicized but ultimately far more effective efforts of those sincerely committed to bringing Nazi fugitives to justice.

The Australian Jewish leadership has, for the record, made known its bitter disappointment at the decision to close down the SIU and has made representations to the Australian government to review its position. But unlike Mr. Zuroff, it appreciates the great efforts the Australian government made to pursue the investigation in the face of the mounting and ultimately irresistible public pressure to which he himself contributed in no small measure.

So, for Mr. Zuroff now to describe the Australian government’s action as “scandalous” and to attribute the Australian Jewish leadership’s appreciation of its government’s efforts in this area to “the vicissitudes of Jewish life in the Diaspora,” is quite outrageous.

What other countries can Mr. Zuroff name which have acted as honorably or as vigorously as Australia has, in response to a campaign as sustained or as effective as that conducted by Australia’s small but vociferous Jewish community?

ISI LEIBLER, Co-Chairman, Governing Board, World Jewish Congress, Melbourne, Australia.

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