April 27, 2005
  'Nazi war criminal' faces murder charge
By Paige Taylor


THE Hungarian Government has asked Australia to return alleged Nazi war criminal Charles Zentai to Budapest to face a murder charge.

The 83-year-old retired nurse last month became the subject of an international arrest warrant for the alleged murder of a Jewish teenager in November 1944, while serving in the army of Hitler's war-time ally.
The Australian has learned Hungarian Justice Minister Jozsef Petretei has lodged a formal extradition request with the Australian Attorney-General's Department.

The department is preparing a submission to be considered by Justice Minister Chris Ellison, who will have the final say on whether the Perth widower must face court in his native Hungary.

There has never been a successful extradition of an alleged Nazi war criminal from Australia.

News that Australia had been asked to send Mr Zentai back to Hungary was greeted with delight by Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, who began mounting a case against Mr Zentai last September.

"We very much hope that justice will finally be achieved. This sends a really important message - after the passing of so much time, a person might think that they got away with murder, but in certain cases that's not true," he said.

"There are many people like Mr Zentai out there. Unfortunately, very few of them will be held accountable.

"But the fact that he is looking at extradition is proof that, even in 2005, these Nazi war criminals can be tracked down and they can be brought to trial."

Jerusalem-based Dr Zuroff said Mr Zentai and two accomplices were alleged to have taken a Jewish man, Peter Balazs, to an army barracks in Budapest and beaten, tortured and killed him, before throwing his body in the River Danube.

It is alleged Mr Balazs was killed because he was not wearing the yellow Star of David, in defiance of a Nazi edict.

Mr Zentai is said to have fled to Australia after the war, while his accomplices were caught and jailed.

He could not be contacted for comment yesterday but has previously denied any involvement in Mr Balazs's death, claiming he was not in Hungary at the time.

Mr Zentai, a devout Catholic who lives in a modest unit in Perth's southern suburbs, has also previously declared that he would be prepared to return to Hungary to defend himself.

The widower worked as a mental health nurse for many years in Perth and has been described by supporters as a gentle and kind man.

Witness statements from post-war trials are believed to form much of the case against Mr Zentai, but Dr Zuroff refused to comment on whether any of the witnesses were still alive.

A spokesman for Senator Ellison yesterday refused to comment on the case. The last time Australian authorities considered an extradition request for an alleged Nazi war criminal was in 2000.

But the Latvian-born accused, Konrad Kalejs, died in 2001, aged 88, in a Melbourne nursing home before he could be extradited. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

Latvian prosecutors claimed Kalejs was an officer in the Arajs Kommando, a notorious death squad that, along with the German SS, was responsible for killing tens of thousands of Jews.

URL: NEWS.COM.AU, April 27, 2005