Austria stalls on extradition after Nazi-hunter highlights actions of 92-year-old in wartime Croatia: Milivoj Asner sent Jews and Serbs to the camps.





On Christmas Day 64 years ago around 150 of Croatia's Jews in the town of Pozega were rounded up, penned here, robbed of their valuables, and put on cattle wagons bound for the concentration camps of fascist Croatia's Ustasha state. They all perished, along with hundreds of other local Jews and Serbs. By 1942 the town's entire Jewish community, the oldest in the central and eastern part of Croatia called Slavonia, were wiped out.

The police chief in what was then a small town of 7,000 was a young Zagreb-trained lawyer called Milivoj Asner. Now 92 and living in the southern Austrian city of Klagenfurt, Mr Asner both denies and indirectly confirms his role in the pogroms. "I was just the town police chief, dealing with traffic offences, petty crime, thievery," he told the Guardian. "I did not hate Jews as such. I have many Jewish friends."

But for Efraim Zuroff, the Israeli-American Nazi-hunter who has inherited the mission of the late Simon Wiesenthal, the Asner case is at the centre of his Operation Last Chance - his campaign, mainly in eastern and southern post-communist Europe, to bring ageing war crimes suspects to justice before they die. "As Simon would say," said Mr Zuroff, "he who ignores the murderers of the past paves the way for the murderers of the future. But it's very difficult in eastern Europe for these post-communist societies to face up to their complicity in genocide."



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