Shooting of war crimes suspect
raises ire, questions in Australia
MELBOURNE, Australia — An alleged Nazi war criminal, Ivan Timofeyevich Polyukhovich, was found critically wounded near his home in Adelaide on July 29 .
Mr. Polyukhovich, 74, was shot in the chest only hours before he was to have been placed under South Australian police custody coinciding with the start of his committal hearing on July 30, reported The Australian.
The shooting is being treated as an attempted murder, reported the daily newspaper in a front page story on July 31.
The case of Mr. Polyukhovich, who was arrested on January 25, has now sparked controversy over police security for the alleged war criminal, with federal and state officials each denying that Mr. Polyukhovich's security was their responsibility.
Mr. Polyukhovich is charged with the murder of 24 people and involvement in the killing of 850 others during World War II.
Ukrainian community spokesmen say that the community is upset by the biased media reports on the war crimes case against Mr. Polyukhovich.
"Mr. Polyukhovich is not a Ukrainian and has never had any involvement with the Ukrainian community," said Michael Moravsky, president of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations.
"In media reports Mr. Polyukhovich is described as a Ukrainian accused of murdering Jews during World War II. The fact that some 5 million Ukrainians lost their lives during the war at the hands of the Nazis and the Communist NKVD is never mentioned," Mr. Moravsky continued.
"The war crimes hysteria and biased media reporting of it has no doubt been responsible for the disgraceful vandalism of several Ukrainian churches in Adelaide earlier this year. This is an absurd paradox when it is considered that Ukraine suffered more than any other country which was occupied by the Nazis.
"If it can be established that the shooting of Mr. Polyukhovich was instigated by a vigilante mentality it will have borne out the predictions of those who questioned the wisdom of war crimes trials in Australia several years ago. There have been two instances in the U.S. where people acquitted of alleged crimes were bombed. In one case the target was killed, while in the other an innocent bystander was maimed," Mr. Moravsky noted.
Controversy has also re-emerged over whether Australia should have even undertaken the prosecution of suspected Nazi war criminals so many years after the fact. In a July 31 interview in The Australian, Dr. Frank Knopfelmacher, identified as a Jewish commentator, blamed the Australian government headed by Prime Minister Bob Hawke for allowing "friction, disaffection and turbulence" to be caused among ethnic groups.
Dr. Knopfelmacher told reporter Peter Coster that the government should have banned the members of the Simon Wiesenthal Center from entering Australia and should have deported those who were in the country.
The former Melbourne University academic said he believes war crimes trials 50 years later are "a contrivance to use guilt for support for Israel" — this despite the fact that members of his family had been victims of the Holocaust. Dr. Knopfelmacher also expressed his opinion that some Jewish organizations, in return for increased Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union, "offered to hound former residents of the Soviet Union who had refused to return after the war."
The next day, Padraic P. McGuiness, also writing in The Australian, commented that there are very real issues involved in the Nazi war crimes prosecution issue. "They fall into two main groups: on the one hand, the question of whether there is any chance of those charged getting a fair trial at this date and place, and the justification for pursuing such charges at huge expense; and on the other hand, the motives of those who are determined to pursue the prosecutions," he wrote.
He went on to state that Dr. Knopfelmacher and others have alleged that the war crimes issue "has become part of the propaganda campaign being conducted by the Israeli government to bind Jewish communities and their sympathizers more closely to Israeli policy by playing on their grief about those of their people who died in the Holocaust, and the guilt felt by those who were lucky enough to escape."
The commentator concluded his article by stating, "I, too, distrust the motives of those who wish to stir up old hatreds and old fears." (Ukrainian Weekly, August 19, 1990)