COLD WAR AUSTRALIA - NAZIS AND ASIO
war criminals finding refuge in Australia is not new, but Konrad Kalejs
still makes news because successive governments have never cleansed
Kalejs’s arrest in the US in April 1985 sparked Mark Aarons to research
his ABC radio series, followed by the 1988 War Crimes Amendments, and
Aarons’s book, Sanctuary, Nazi Fugitives in Australia.
Kalejs is not welcome now, but he was embraced in the 1950s. With
numerous other fascists, he did not slip into Australia, but was slipped
Evidence of Nazi activities here was met with lies and obfuscation.
Immigration Minister Holt claimed in 1951 that a bust of Hitler was a
‘souvenir’ and whips were ‘carpet beaters’; he also alleged that
concentration camp survivors were confusing the SS tattoo under the
armpit with the tattoos on their own wrists.
When Kalejs arrived in Australia, Australian authorities accepted the
reports of International Refugee Organisation without further
Contrast this laxity with the treatment of Italians. External Affairs
Minister Richard Casey noted in his diary for 2 November 1951 that, of
the 1918 potential emigrants who passed the medical, only 62 remained
“after ‘political’ examination” to remove anyone who had ever
voted Communist. Not content with reports from the Italian Ministry of
the Interior, the Australian government spent ‘a great deal of time in
delving into the local records’.
The IRO chief in Australia, Major General C. E. M. Lloyd, was linked to the right-wing secret Army, ‘The Association’, headed by Field-Marshall Blamey in the late 1940s.
How Kalejs got IRO support, how he became a camp official here and was
accepted for naturalisation merit investigation, as does the War Crimes
Prosecutor Bob Greenwood’s belief that Kalejs had been recruited by
ASIO, which cleared him for naturalisation in 1957.
ASIO chief Brigadier Charles Spry praised other alleged war criminals
because they ‘can and do assist ASIO to the limit of their ability’.
The Coalition’s 1988 concern that probing Security agencies would
assist the Soviets no longer applies. The British Home Secretary could
open all the files.
Support came from diverse sources. When employers needed skilled Germans,
the businessman head of Commonwealth Immigration Planning Council
defended the bringing out of ‘the hundreds of thousands [who] were
The difficulty of prosecuting Kalejs makes it all the more pressing for
an inquiry with wider terms of reference than in 1986 and conducted by
someone less trusting of incompetence as an excuse.