Anger as WWII ‘killer’ dies in Austria

Austria has been branded as a “paradise for Nazis” after it emerged that an alleged war criminal deceased in a care home in Carinthia.

A spokesman for a Caritas retirement centre in Klagenfurt confirmed newspaper reports claiming that Milivoj Asner passed away today (Mon). He said the Croat perished aged 98 in the institution last week.

Asner is suspected of being behind the deportation of hundreds of Serbs, Roma and members of the Jewish community in Croatia’s Ustasa movement during World War Two (WWII). Asner changed his name to Georg Aschner after fleeing to Austria when the Communists took over his homeland in 1945. He received the Austrian citizenship the next year.

Asner lived in Carinthian capital Klagenfurt to his death. Austrian prosecutors opened a case against him due to occurrences in WWII in 2004 before Croatia demanded his extradition one year later. However, Asner was spared a trial due to his mental condition.

Juridical decision-makers in Austria asked a German expert to examine the suspected war criminal in 2009 after they were accused of having acted biased as several expert opinions established by Austrian doctors suggested Asner was not fit for legal procedures.

The debate over how to handle the issue intensified in 2008 when British journalists claimed Asner – who allegedly suffered from dementia – must be strong enough to go to court after spotting him at a fan zone in Klagenfurt during the European Football Championship.

Now Efraim Zuroff, the director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s office in Jerusalem, Israel, has claimed Austria was a “paradise for Nazis.”

“His decisive role in the killing of hundreds of Jewish people, Serbians and Roma in the Slavonian city of Prozega is evident,” the historian said today (Mon) after being informed that Asner has died.

Zuroff criticised juridical authorities in Austria for “assigning benevolent doctors” to judge Asner’s condition. The co-founder of “Operation: Last Chance” said their decisions helped the Croat-born ex-police chief to evade an extradition and a court case.

The historian – who has often been described as the world’s “Last Nazi Hunter” – called on all countries in the world to show “final urgent efforts” to bring WWII era criminals to justice. Asner was on number three of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of the 10 most wanted WWII crime suspects. Zuroff stressed Asner’s spot will be occupied by someone else “soon,” explaining that “many people are in waiting.”

Austria – which became part of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich in 1938 – has been widely criticised for allegedly failing to make a clean sweep considering residents’ involvements in wartime crimes in contrast to Germany and other countries. Many former army generals and diplomats suspected of supporting Nazi Germany’s genocide kept their high-ranking positions after 1945 or were reassigned by public institutions.