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WAR CRIMINAL HUNTER LANDS IN AUSTRALIA

The world’s chief Nazi hunter, who uncovered the alleged war crimes of Perth grandfather Charles Zentai, has touched down in WA for less than 48 hours to educate the community over the importance of never forgetting the Holocaust.

While his job title may make some people uneasy, Efraim Zuroff – the Jerusalem-based head of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre – said having such an outrageous term associated with his name only made his work easier.

He has tracked down and prosecuted dozens of war criminals in his quest to bring closure to victims of the Holocaust.

Accused war criminal Charles Zentai.Accused war criminal Charles Zentai. 

Dr Zuroff arrived in Perth yesterday as part of a whirlwind tour of the country promoting his latest book, Operation Last Chance: One Man’s Quest to bring Nazi Criminals to Justice.

He is the man responsible for tracking down Mr Zentai, a Hungarian-born man now residing in Perth, and overseeing charges against him over the alleged murder of a Jewish man in Hungary in 1944.

Zentai allegedly spotted the man, Peter Balazs on a train in Hungary, not wearing his identifiable yellow star, a crime punishable by death. He allegedly then took the 18-year-old to his army barracks where he beat him to death before dumping his body in the Danube River.

Dr Zuroff said Zentai’s identity was revealed in a Hungarian war crimes trial in 1947, however he had already fled to an American-occupied zone in Germany.

Zentai was arrested by the Australian Federal Police in July 2005, and at the age of 89 is continuing to fight the extradition case through Australia’s legal system.

Dr Zuroff said the large amount of publicity this case had been given in Perth, especially given Zentai’s age and poor health, only further justified his cause.

“There are some people that are sceptical about its validity, because the people are 89, or 92, or 94,” he said. “This is the reality of the world we live in.

“We’re trying to pick up the pieces and bring closure, and send the message that these crimes cannot be ignored, they should not be ignored.

“This is nothing personal against Mr Zentai himself or his family. I’m an advocate for the victims.”

He said it would be impossible to ignore the fact that crimes had been committed, and those responsible had to be held accountable.

“It’s a tragedy in the sense that all of a sudden the family finds itself facing accusations they had no idea about,” he said.

“In that respect, I certainly have a degree of empathy for the family. Having said that, this is not an uncommon occurrence.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the people who committed the crimes of Holocaust are normative people. They did not commit murder before the Holocaust, before World War II, they didn’t commit murder after WWII.

“But during the geopolitical circumstances created by the Third Reich, they did some pretty horrible things.

“We can’t ignore that just because they’re not psychopaths. If someone reaches the age of 90, it doesn’t turn the mass murderer into a righteous gentile.”

Dr Zuroff last night addressed a crowd at the Jewish Community Centre in Dianella, updating the Jewish community and other interested people about the current state of “Nazi hunting” around the world.

“What I will be doing [while in Perth] is meeting with members of the Jewish community to explain what is going on, meeting with the media to talk about the [Zentai] case, and quite frankly I think it is a really outrageous that this thing has lasted so long without justice being achieved,” he said.

“If anything, I think Mr Zentai’s behaviour and the behaviour of the people that are helping him increases our suspicions of his role during the war, and only increases our motivation to see to it that he is finally held accountable.


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