Lyenko Urbanchich, leader of the notorious ``Uglies'' faction of the 1970s (now known as the Taliban) has re-emerged as an activist of the Liberal Party far right.
In 1986, NSW Labor minister Frank Walker informed parliament that Urbanchich was a senior propagandist for the quisling government of Slovenia, during Nazi occupation in World War II. Walker added that Urbanchich was listed by the Yugoslav government as a war criminal.
In his book Sanctuary, journalist Mark Aarons reveals the extent of Urbanchich's far-right leanings. In 1943, 20-year-old Urbanchich was a loyal follower of Leon Rupnick, ``president'' of Nazi-occupied Slovenia.
A Slovenian militia, the Domobrans, worked hand-in-glove with the German occupiers. Urbanchich organised its first public procession on October 10. The Domobrans were directly under the command of an SS general and on Hitler's birthday, April 20, 1944, pledged allegiance to the ``Fhrer''.
The Domobrans' secret intelligence, Crna Roka (Black Hand), committed cruel atrocities in the dead of night, leaving a black palm print at the scene.
Arrons states that "Urbanchich was a regular contributor to collaborationist newspapers and magazines until the last days of the war. The tone of the articles was virulently anti-Semitic and supportive of the Axis war effort. Urbanchich delivered fiery speeches that followed closely the propaganda of Joseph Goebbels, earning him the nickname ``Little Goebbels''"
According to Aarons, Urbanchich was a senior member of the Domobran Information Department, which was responsible for propaganda and intelligence gathering. The Yugoslav War Crimes Commission charge that this department controlled the Secret Intelligence Service, which passed information to the Gestapo, which then arrested, tortured and murdered or interned anti-fascists and partisans.
After the Nazis were defeated, Urbanchich escaped to Austria, then to British-controlled Trieste in Italy. In 1946, the Yugoslav ambassador to Britain requested that nine ``traitors'' be handed over for trial. The second name on the list was Lyenko Urbanchich.
A joint US-British mission in 1947 determined that Urbanchich was one of 44 suspected war criminals. After interrogating him, a Major Stephen Clissold concluded that Urbanchich was, as an ``intellectual and moral advocate of the policy of collaboration with the Germans'', ``a possible candidate for hand-over'' to the Yugoslav government.
But the Cold War had begun, and the west now rated former collaborators on their anticommunism, not their support for fascism. In 1948, the British dropped all investigations of suspected war criminals.
After his arrival in Australia in 1950 as a ``displaced person'', Urbanchich was soon active in right-wing politics. In the mid-'60s, as part of an extreme-right group known as the 50 Club, Urbanchich tried to dump Liberal MHR for Warringah, Ed St John, because of his opposition to the
South African apartheid regime. The 50 Club was an alliance of the League of Rights, extreme-right emigres from eastern Europe and the Baltics and supporters of the racist South African and Rhodesian regimes.
By the late 1970s, Urbanchich was a major force in the NSW Liberal Party, controlling up to 30% of the votes at the 800-member state council. As president of Liberal Ethnic Council -- an autonomous division of the party dominated by far right emigres, several leaders of which were known or suspected to have been wartime Nazi collaborators -- Urbanchich was a powerful member of the state council.
Urbanchich's power was checked when ABC radio broadcast a documentary in 1979 that revealed his past. He was suspended from the state council and the Liberal Ethnic Council was abolished.
An internal party investigation found that Urbanchich's wartime articles and speeches were anti-Semitic and wholly inimical to Liberal philosophy. The state executive recommended his expulsion.
Remarkably, the state council in March 1980 rejected the recommendation. Today, Urbanchich is still secretary of the Homebush North Olympic branch.