December 7, 2023

4 thoughts on “Melbourne protest goes ahead, seven arrested

  1. Mark Aarons’ book, Sanctuary! Nazi Fugitives in Australia (William Heinemann, Melbourne, 1989)

    In fact, the only probe into Kalejs and other Nazi war criminals living in Australia, conducted by the federal government’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), was controversially shut down by the previous Keating Labor government in 1992, with the support of Howard’s Liberal-National Party. At the time it had 57 cases unresolved and had just applied to send investigators to Latvia to obtain the testimony needed to prosecute another Nazi, Karlis Ozols, one of Kalejs’ associates. “The government pulled the pin,” commented Robert Greenwood QC, who headed the SIU. According to the SIU’s official historian, Professor Konrad Kwiet, the SIU had gathered “five or six volumes” of material against Kalejs.

    The SIU had been established in 1987, largely in response to the public outcry generated by Nazis in Australia, an Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio program. The program revealed that Australian authorities had allowed between 150 and 200 Nazi collaborators into the country in the late 1940s and 1950s and that a number, including Kalejs, had occupied influential posts in displaced persons camps and migrant centres.

    In these positions, Kalejs and others were able to facilitate the entry of other fascists into the country. In his thoroughly-documented 1989 book Sanctuary! Nazi Fugitives in Australia, one of the producers of the ABC series, Mark Aarons, revealed that Kalejs was recruited by the immigration authorities at the largest Australian migrant barracks, the Bonegilla Immigration and Reception Centre near Albury.

    “For three years after his arrival in Australia, Kalejs occupied the important position of documentation and processing clerk at the Bonegilla camp. In this position he was well placed to help other ex-Nazis, handling many sensitive documents, especially the issuing of identity cards to other migrants who had no papers.”

    In 1987 the Hawke Labor government refused to hold a Royal Commission or any other sort of public inquiry into the material unearthed by Aarons and the ABC. Instead it asked Andrew Menzies QC, a former senior official of the federal Attorney-General’s Department, to conduct a behind-closed-doors review of official files. Six months later, Menzies’ report concluded that between July 1947 and December 1951: “It is more likely than not that a significant number of persons who committed serious war crimes in World War II have entered Australia”. Menzies gave the government the names of 70 suspects.

    By the end of 1988 the SIU, set up on Menzies’ recommendation, had extended the list to 500. Yet when the SIU was shut down, just four years later, it had only initiated prosecutions in three cases. A combination of severe financial restrictions, weak legislation and the deaths of elderly eye-witnesses meant that of the three cases, one was dismissed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, one was abandoned because of the accused’s ill-health, and one resulted in an acquittal.

    Parallel processes occurred in the US, Britain and Canada. They were, with Australia, among the main destinations of Nazi collaborators from Eastern Europe after World War II. In the US, Congressional hearings in the 1970s led to the establishment of the Office of Special Investigations in 1979. It examined hundreds of cases, leading to some deportations of alleged Nazis. Public pressure in Canada led to a 1987 Commission of Enquiry report that reached similar conclusions to the Australian Menzies report. The British Labour government headed off agitation for a public inquiry by setting up an investigation headed by a former Director of Public Prosecutions who “uncovered some 250 possible cases of war criminals living in Britain”.

    Yet in all these jurisdictions, few Nazis were prosecuted. Some, like Kalejs, were deported, but without trials that could have provided public forums for witnesses and documents to come forward or be subpoenaed. By then, some 40 years after the mass executions, massacres and torture, the authorities were able to argue that few witnesses would have survived.

    The real reasons for this official reticence were, however, hinted at when the British All-Party Parliamentary War Crimes Group reported in 1988. It found evidence in official records showing that “the British government opened its doors and closed its eyes to the immigration of thousands of alleged war criminals” because it wanted to “recruit scientists, sources of intelligence and labourers for its mines and farms”.
    A wider pattern

    A closer examination of the Kalejs case shows that his escape to Australia in 1950 and subsequent employment by the immigration service was part of a wider political pattern. Particularly after the onset of the Cold War in 1947, and facing rising working class militancy at home, the Western powers provided safe haven for Eastern European fascists via the International Refugee Organisation. In return, these ex-Nazis worked as anti-communist intelligence and immigration agents, specialising in the location, official harassment and deportation of migrant socialists and working class militants.

    Among Kalejs’ colleagues at Bonegilla was Brana Ivanovic, employed as a Block Supervisor. When in 1950 the Yugoslav government requested his extradition as a war criminal, the Australian government refused to hand him over. The Australian intelligence agency, then called the Commonwealth Investigation Service (CIS), informed the government that Ivanovic had admitted being the Understate Secretary for Transport and Communication in the Nazi-controlled Serbian administration of Milan Nedic from May 1942 to the end of 1944. The CIS report emphasised that Ivanovic “is very anti-communist” and “claims to have worked with the Intelligence Services of England and America while domiciled in Austria”.

    Another blocked Yugoslav extradition request, in 1951, provided documentary evidence that the ex-Nazis were of invaluable assistance to the CIS’s successor, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO). On July 11, 1951 ASIO’s Director General, Brigadier Charles Spry advised the federal government not to hand over two well-known Yugoslav fascists, Milorad Lukic and Mihailo Rajkovic, because of their work against left-wing Yugoslav migrants. “They are unceasing in their campaign against Communism and can and do assist ASIO to the limit of their ability,” Spry wrote. An internal ASIO report praised the pair as representing “a body of Yugoslavs who cause infinitely less trouble to this organisation than the great body of their fellow immigrants. They are unceasing in their campaign against Communism”.

    Last week Greenwood, the former head of SUI, stated that many alleged ex-Nazis were used by ASIO to spy on immigrant communities. “Quite a few of these people worked for ASIO—we know that,” he said. “ASIO had activity files on a significant number of the people I investigated.”

    Former fascist leaders also helped supervise mass labour forces on construction projects such as the Australian Snowy Mountains hydro-electricity and irrigation project. In some cases, they later became prominent scientists, business figures and politicians. For example, Ljenko Urbancic, a Slovenian Nazi collaborator, was protected by the British authorities from Yugoslav government requests for his extradition in 1946. Released from British custody in May 1948, he was accepted for migration under Australia’s Displaced Persons scheme just 18 months later. By the mid-1970s, he was a major force in the ruling Liberal Party, heading the Liberal Ethnic Council in New South Wales and controlling one-third of the votes in the party’s state council.

    Although Urbancic made his way up through the Liberal Party, it was the post-war Labor Party government that originally established the Australian safe haven for Nazi fugitives. Immigration Minister, Arthur Calwell, received bitter complaints from working class refugees—who included liberated slave labourers—that they had discovered Nazis on their refugee ships and in their migrant camps. When the CIS reported to him that some Displaced Persons were indeed former SS men, he described it as “a farrago of nonsense”. His Head of Department wrote to the CIS instructing it that SS tattoos, or the existence of scars where they had been erased, were not grounds for rejecting asylum-seekers. Moreover, “hasty conclusions as to the security risk of certain classes of migrants … do much harm not only to worthy people but to our immigration plans”.

    Calwell was an ardent champion of Labor’s “White Australia” immigration policy. Labor’s leaders were determined to populate the continent with European stock, particularly those who would undertake or supervise arduous labour in remote locations. Calwell’s slogan was “populate or perish”—deliberately invoking fears of an Asian invasion. He was also a hardened anti-communist who simultaneously refused entry to mainly left-wing refugees from the Franco fascist dictatorship in Spain.

    The Labor government’s national requirements dovetailed with a sharp shift in post-war policy in Britain and the US with the advent of the Cold War. After initially placing prominent Nazis and their leading collaborators on trial for their crimes, the victorious Allies changed course from 1947. Anti-communists and anti-Semites who had experience in Nazi-backed regimes became crucial agents in the struggle against both the Soviet bloc and the resurgent working class.

    On July 13, 1948 the British Labour government wrote to all member states of the British Commonwealth proposing to cease most trials of alleged war criminals in its zone of Germany by August 31, after which no new trials would commence. It stated that “future political developments in Germany” made it “necessary to dispose of the past as soon as possible”.

    This, in essence, has remained the policy of Western governments and their intelligence services since. Whatever lip service is paid to hunting down war criminals, their record of service became too valuable—and incriminating—to be laid bare in criminal prosecutions.

    In providing sanctuary to Kalejs, the Australian government has enjoyed the support of the media owners. While some prominence has been given to the furore surrounding his return, the newspaper editorials have been unwavering. Thus, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Justice Minister Vanstone “hit all the right buttons” in insisting that Kalejs had the right to remain free in Australia. “Unless and until it can be proved otherwise, he is entitled to be treated as an innocent man.” Not to do so, would be to subject Kalejs to “the same contempt for the rule of law that he himself is accused of demonstrating in the past”.

    This “rule of law” is a euphemism for a political and legal system that formally abhors the methods of fascist dictatorship but secretly employs the services of ex-Nazis, grants them citizenship, enacts legislation that effectively protects them and waits for the surviving witnesses to their crimes to die off.

    In an effort to defuse the issue, Senator Vanstone has suggested that recent amendments to the War Crimes Act make it easier for Latvia to request Kalejs’ extradition. But the leaders of the current Latvian government have taken a similar stance to their Australian counterparts, saying that eye-witnesses no longer exist to sustain a prosecution.

  2. This does not look like free Australia, it is so heart breaking to see what a mess the evil ones have made of it.

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