A SPECIAL report commissioned by the US Justice Department
- kept secret since 2006 - portrays Australian efforts
to prosecute suspected Nazi war criminals as lacklustre
It also describes Australian attitudes to Nazi ''persecutors'' as ''ambivalent''
and quotes observations by the Simon Wiesenthal
Centre that Australia's poor record in pursuing
Nazis was explained by ''a lack of the requisite
a history of the US government's Nazi-hunting
efforts, the report also reveals the extent
to which US authorities sought to pressure
Latvia over the prosecution a decade ago
of Australian citizen Konrads Kalejs.
Story continues below At one point, the chief
of investigative research for the Justice
Department's Office of Special Investigations
(OSI) described a key meeting in Latvia in
2000, which involved Australian authorities,
as a ''hideous failure''.
whom Australia agreed to extradite to Latvia
the same year, died in November 2001 while
the order was being appealed.
600-page report, which was obtained by The
New York Times after an abridged version
was released to a private research group,
reveals behind-the-scenes wrangling with
other nations over the hunt for war criminals
while shedding light on how the US had given
haven to some experts who had Nazi links.
among these was Arthur Rudolph, a scientist
who went on to play a central role in the
development of NASA's Saturn V rocket, which
propelled astronauts to the moon.
the history, commissioned with the support
of former justice secretary Janet Reno and
composed over several years by an experienced
prosecutor, was never formally completed.
interest in Kalejs had first arisen because
after obtaining Australian citizenship, he
had settled in the US in 1959.
authorities had discovered his former involvement
with the notorious Latvian death squad the
Arajs Kommando, which worked with German
forces to execute thousands of Jews, Gypsies
and other ''racially undesirable'' people.
had also led a guard detail in 1941 and 1942
at the notorious Salaspils concentration
camp south of Riga, the Latvian capital,
where more than 100,000 people, mainly Jews,
US deported Kalejs to Australia in 1984.
After several unsuccessful attempts to re-enter
the US, he disappeared, before being tracked
down to Rugby, England, where he was living
in a Latvian old age home under an assumed
name. He returned to Australia at the end
early 2000, meetings involving prosecutors
from Australia, Canada, Germany, Britain,
the US and Israel were unsuccessful in securing
a commitment to act.
further international conference agreed on
a structure for proceeding but in May, Latvia's
acting prosecutor-general announced that
a trial was unlikely because no strong evidence
had been found.
that point, the Americans increased the pressure.
June 2000, Latvia asked Australia to extradite
Kalejs to stand trial for war crimes and
genocide. According to the report, ''the
Latvians credited the Americans with having
played a crucial role in the decision to