The Jewish Holocaust Centre unpacks Australia’s only Holocaust war crimes trial

October 13, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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On Trial Series: The Ivan Polyukhovich Trial will see the case’s key players come together and explore the landmark trial through an online panel discussion presented by Melbourne’s Jewish Holocaust Centre.

Ivan Polyukhovich

In the early 1990s, the Supreme Court of South Australia tried alleged Nazi war criminal Ivan Polyukhovich. The seventy-three-year-old man was charged with murdering Jewish people in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. Almost thirty years later, the Jewish Holocaust Centre will examine the issues surrounding this unique and complex case.

At the event, ABC Radio presenter David Bevan, the trial’s court reporter and author of its account A Case to Answer, will moderate a discussion with others involved in the case:

  • Gregory James QC: retired Supreme Court Judge; prosecutor in the Polyukhovich trial.
  • Michael David QC: retired Supreme Court Judge; defence in the Polyukhovich trial.
  • Emeritus Professor Dr Konrad Kwiet: Chief Historian of the Special Investigations Unit (1987 – 1996); expert witness in the Polyukhovich trial. Currently, Resident Historian at the Sydney Jewish Museum.


Expect a robust conversation as the panel delve into their mutual history and passion for the case. Discussion points will include the trial’s success or failure, as well as the government’s responsibility and the courts’ capacity to deal with war crimes in Australia.

Although Australia has investigated over 800 potential war criminals, Ivan Polyukhovich is the only one to have proceeded to trial. Surviving witnesses from around the world gathered to testify against him in Adelaide, and the Australian legal system grappled with their memories, now half a century old. In May 1993, the jury acquitted Polyukhovich of all charges.

Gregory James QC describes the trial as revealing, “a tension between law and history.”

Following the informative panel presentation, the audience can participate in a Q & A. Tickets cost $5-10, and can be booked at:

The On Trial Series is a collection of 2021 Jewish Holocaust Centre events exploring post-Holocaust justice and judgement.

“We’re looking at all aspects of post-war justice this year,” says Museum Director & CEO Jayne Josem. “We are here to educate and enlighten.”

DATE/TIME: Thursday 21 October, 8pm

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