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Barry Everingham: Wiesenthal's Nazi Tracking In Australia

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Writing an unofficial biography of Sydney-raised and educated Princess Michael of Kent was never going to be easy. The girl, who in 1978 and against all odds married the Queen's first cousin, was adept at reinventing herself at every turn.

As Marie Christine von Reibnitz, she even denied the existence of her childhood home behind the old Waverley tram depot near Bondi Junction and claimed a Double Bay address.

But early in her marriage into the heart of the world's most famous family, she didn't count on the long tentacles of the incredible Simon Wiesenthal or the contents of the remarkable thoroughness of the records he accumulated at the Jewish Documentation Centre in Vienna.

In 1984, Phillip Hall, a left-wing university lecturer, unearthed a little known fact -- the princess's father Baron Gunther von Reibnitz, alive and well and living in Mozambique with his third wife, was a paid-up member of the infamous Nazi Party. I was in Vienna interviewing relatives of the princess when the story broke. Through a contact at the Australian embassy, Wiesenthal agreed to receive me.

His records were explicit: the father of the cousin-by-marriage of the Australian head of state (Queen Elizabeth II) joined the Nazi Party in 1931. Von Reibnitz's friend, and later convicted war criminal Herman Goering, had drafted him and he was given the SS number of 66 010.

Wiesenthal's records confirmed the baron was part of the Lebensborn (Source of Life) program where Aryan men impregnated Aryan women to produce Aryan babies for the future Nazi empire.

Then some confusion crept in -- historians at the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem claimed that the baron was planted in the SS to act as Goering's spy.

Wiesenthal didn't deny this -- he shrugged his shoulders, admitting it could be true. "So what?" he said, "the man was a Nazi and never forget that."

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