Lajos Polgar

23.04.2016 ( Last modified: 08.06.2016 )
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facts

Lajos Polgar was born in Hungary in 1916. He was a former member of the Arrow Cross Party, a fascist, pro-German and anti-Semitic political party. The Arrow Cross was established by Ferenc Szalasi, who became Prime Minister in replacement of admiral Horthy after the German army invasion of Hungary on 19 March 1944.

The Arrow Cross played an active role in the deportation of millions of Jews. The party’s headquarters known as the “House of Loyalty” were allegedly used for the torture and killing of Jews, which mainly took place in the basement.

Judiciary files from 1940 showed that Lajos Polgar took numerous decisions that led to the massacre and persecution of Hungarian Jews.

After the war, many members of the Arrow Cross were tried, as were Nazi criminals. However, some of them, such as Polgar, were able to flee. Lajos Polgar arrived in Australia in 1949. He changed his identity, naming himself Jozsef Kardos, and never mentioned his past. He subsequently befriended the family of the former Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. In 1957, he again used his real name before acquiring the Australian citizenship in 1958.

Suspecting Polgar of genocide and war crimes, the Hungarian authorities opened an investigation, which was entrusted to the National Office of Investigations of Budapest.

legal procedure

Suspecting Polgar of genocide and war crimes, the Hungarian authorities opened an investigation, which was entrusted to the National Office of Investigations of Budapest.

After first denying it, Lajos Polgar admitted that he had been an official within the Arrow Cross Party. Documents revealed that he had played a central role within the party. Polgar declared he had supported Szalasi’s plan to deport the Hungarian Jews to Madagascar, but that he was not an anti-Semite. He conceded that the Arrow Cross arrested and killed Jews in Budapest in 1944 and 1945, but he claimed to be “innocent, absolutely innocent”.

However, several testimonies seemed to involve Polgar in the perpetration of war crimes. Indeed, his wife Elisabeth claimed that she had met Polgar at the Arrow Cross headquarters in Budapest, that “he was the leader” and that she “had been his secretary”. Suzanne Nozick, now 82 years old, described Polgar as the leader of the “House of Loyalty”. As an 18-year old girl, Nozick was raped and tortured at the “House of Loyalty”, along with other Hungarian Jews. Jozsef Gera, who was in charge of the party’s organisation, had stated that Polgar was the “Commander of the House of Loyalty”.

Lajos Polgar’s extradition was requested from Australia in 2005, as Polgar had been living in Melbourne for more than half a century. The Australian Federal Police had to drop the case because of insufficient evidence. However, Australia is mainly criticized for its lack of political will and for being a refuge to “at least several hundred” Nazi war criminals and their collaborators.

Lajos Polgar finally died on 13 July 2006, without ever having been extradited nor tried, leaving the controversy on his dark past open.

context

After the Second World War numerous trials against war criminals and those responsible for Nazi crimes took place in Germany and other countries. It is not possible here to give an overview of all the trials. Below are the main facts concerning the major trials of war criminals at Nuremberg.

BASIS UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

The German armed forces surrendered unconditionally on 7-8 May 1945. The Allies (USA, Soviet Union, Great Britain and France) took over all governmental functions in Germany, instituted the Allied Control Council and divided Germany into four zones of occupation.

After the adoption of the London Charter of 8 August 1945, the Allies set up the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in order to judge the major German war criminals. Annex III of the Agreement contains the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (IMT Statute [2]).

NUREMBERG TRIAL OF MAJOR WAR CRIMINALS

According to Articles 1-3 of the London Charter, war criminals with offenses having no particular geographical location were to be judged by the IMT. However in accordance with Articles 4 and 6 of the Convention, the principle of territoriality was to apply to the other German war criminals, with the courts of those states where crimes had been committed having the competence to try these criminals on the basis on their national laws.

Crimes within the jurisdiction of IMT:

– Crimes against peace;

– War crimes and

– Crimes against humanity (Article 6 of IMT Statute).

The IMT was composed of four judges and four substitutes who were appointed by the four Allied powers (Article 2 IMT Statute). In application of Article 13 of the IMT Statute, the Tribunal drew up its own Rules of Procedure

The IMT indicted 24 people in total. The trials took place from 14 November 1945 until 1 October 1946. Twelve defendants were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and seven others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment. In one case, the procedure was suspended for health reasons and in another the defendant committed suicide before his trial.

Fact Sheet
Name: Lajos Polgar
Nationality: Australia
Context: Nazi Germany
Status: Died before end of trial
Judgement Place: Hungary
Particulars: Suspected of genocide and war crimes – Extradition requested from Australia – Died on 13 July 2006