Suspected Australian Nazi war criminal faces extradition to Hungary

Charles Zentai wanted for participation in manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944.

Zentai nazi criminal 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Zentai nazi criminal 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
An 86-year-old man accused of killing a Jewish teenager in Hungary during World War II spent hours assaulting the young man before he died, a prosecutor alleged Monday. Former Hungarian soldier Charles Zentai, an Australian citizen, is attending a hearing that will determine whether he should be extradited to Hungary to face war crimes charges. He is listed by the US-based Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center among its top 10 most wanted Nazis as having "participated in manhunts, persecution, and murder of Jews in Budapest in 1944." Hungary accuses Zentai of torturing and killing 18-year-old Peter Balazs in a Budapest army barracks on Nov. 8, 1944, for failing to wear a star that would identify him as a Jew. Zentai, who immigrated to Australia in 1950, has denied the allegations. Prosecutor Michael Corboy told the Perth Magistrate's court in Western Australia that Zentai and two accomplices assaulted the teenager for hours. Outside court, Zentai's son, Ernie Steiner, issued a statement saying his father was innocent and was not in Budapest on the day of Balazs' death. Steiner also said his father was never a Nazi, detested the German occupation of Hungary and had many Jewish friends. The hearing, which began Monday, is expected to last three days. The court must decide whether the case complies with the provisions of the Extradition Act. Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland will then decide whether to surrender him to Hungary. Hungary applied for Zentai's extradition in 2005.