A documentary that aired in New Zealand on
Friday featured a first look at an investigation that tracked Nazi war criminals who fled to New Zealand after World War II and evaded prosecution. Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi
hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, told Ynet he became involved with the film after the director, John Keir, a non-Jewish New Zealander contacted him a few years ago.
One of the Nazis interviewed in the film is Jonas Pukas, a Lithuanian residing in Auckland since 1950. During his interrogation by the New Zealand police in 1992, when he was 78, he recalled the slaughtering of Jews.
"They screamed like geese, you understand. They made bird noises, cries or shrieks," he said with a smile on his face. "After being shot they flew up in the air."
Pukas was a member of the infamous 12th Lithuanian Police Battalion known for slaughtering thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.
Despite of his gruesome testimony, Pukas denies partaking in the execution of Jews. "I only heard them die, I didn't see it happen," he claimed. Pukas died in 1994, aged 80.
Pukas' investigation was conducted by detective Wayne Stringer from the New Zealand police. Stringer looked into a list of 47 potential suspects who may have committed war crimes and immigrated to New Zealand after the war. The list was given to the New Zealand government by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an institution that set out to protect the Jews.
According to Stringer, a large number of Nazi war criminals
have lived in New Zealand without standing trial for their crimes.
Zuroff aid New Zealand failed to take legal action against residents who were suspected of being Nazi criminals. Unlike Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the US, which faced the same problem, New Zealand didn't create laws to deal with war criminals who fled there after the fall of the Communist Bloc.
"This sends out the worst possible message: 'No matter what you once did. You came here, you've been law abiding citizens, so you don't have to stand trial,'" Zuroff said.
Zuroff added that John Keir, a non Jewish producer-director from New Zeland began to investigate the subject a few years back. "He filmed me about a year and a half ago," Zurof said. "But the matter is history since all the suspects have died or weren't found in New Zealand. Currently there are no suspects living in New Zealand, but the government's stance on the issue was outrageous. That's why the movie is still important today."
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