NEW YORK (Dec. 1)
The Supreme Court refused Monday to hear an appeal by Nazi war criminal Karl Linnas against deportation to the Soviet Union where he was convicted and sentenced to death in absentia for participating in the mass murders of Jews and others at a concentration camp in Tartu, Estonia, during World War II.
Linnas, 66, was charged by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) with lying about his wartime activities when he came here in 1951 from Germany under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948. He became a U.S. citizen in 1960. The Justice Department said he will be deported to the USSR, the only country that will accept him.
According to the charges, Linnas joined a Nazi execution squad in 1941 when Germany occupied Estonia, the purpose of which was to exterminate “undesirables,” mostly Jews. He is accused of commanding firing squads that killed men, women and children forced to kneel before mass graves and of personally shooting several inmates at the Tartu camp.
TRIBUTES TO THE WORK OF OSI
The Supreme Court decision was hailed by Jewish organizations, Holocaust survivor groups and political figures.
Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, who as a New York Congresswoman sponsored legislation that allows deportation of Nazi war criminals, congratulated the OSI “for its untiring efforts to bring Linnas to Justice. Our country should no longer be a sanctuary for this brutal killer. The second Circuit called Linnas a man who ordered the extermination of innocent men, women and children Kneeling at the edge of a mass grave.
“I am particularly pleased by the Supreme Court’s action because Linnas claimed that the law I wrote to prevent the United States from providing haven for Nazi killers, the so-called Holtzman Amendment, was unconstitutional. Linnas mocked U.S. justice by arguing that he should be deported to the Estonian Consulate, the New York City headquarters of the former government of Estonia. I urge the Department of Justice to take swift action to deport Linnas.”
Eli Rosenbaum, World Jewish Congress general counsel and former OSI prosecutor, said: “It’s really a tribute to the work of OSI and the work of Elizabeth Holtzman, without whom this would never have been possible, and also to the fine work of U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who personally argued the appeal in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Rosenbaum said that “there was an unconscionable delay for 19 years in commencing legal proceedings” and that “at long last, the day for which we have waited 25 years has arrived. Karl Linnas’s final appeal has been heard and he will be deported at last.”
Abraham Foxman, associate national director and head of the International Affairs Division of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, called the deportation of Linnas “more than an act of justice. It is a warning to present and future generations against the horrors of genocide and a reminder that apathy and indifference helped make possible the Holocaust.”
NO REMORSE FOR WARTIME ACTIVITIES
Charles Allen, Jr., who began investigations of Linnas in 1962 and interviewed him several times, both by phone and in person at his Greenlawn, NY, suburban home, said that Linnas had even then “expressed no remorse” for his wartime activities. Allen said that Linnas had then threatened him and his family with “liquidation” for being “a Jew Communist Bolshevik” while screaming hysterically.
Allen said that Linnas had shown anger and anxiety that the charges had surfaced in the media. However, Allen told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Linnas “talked fully, very volubly, admitting he was a member of the guard unit” at the Tartu concentration camp, as well as a member of the Estonian National Army, a collaborator group.
Allen wrote about Linnas in his 1963 book, “Nazi War Criminals Among Us,” and in “The Basic Handbook of Nazi War Criminals in America,” published in 1985. Allen said that Linnas had been living quietly in Long Island since 1959.
LEGAL MOVES AGAINST LINNAS
Linnas was found guilty by the U.S. District Court, Eastern District, in July 1981, a decision he appealed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the second Circuit in January 1982. That court unanimously affirmed the appeal for denaturalization. He then tried to have the Supreme Court strike down the second court’s ruling.
In June 1982, the OSI filed charges against Linnas, and hearings were heard on these charges in December 1982 and January 1983 before the New York Immigration Court in New York City He was ordered deported on May 29, 1983. Linnas appealed the deportation decision to the Board of Immigration Appeal (BIA) in July 1983.
On July 31, 1984, he was found deportable by the BIA, which remanded his case to the immigration judge over the question of U.S. refusal to recognize Estonia’s incorporation into the Soviet Union. “Notwithstanding this move, both the BIA and the State Department ruled that such consideration did not debar his deportation,” said Allen.
Linnas has been held since April at the Metropolitan correctional Center in New York, a detention facility for those awaiting sentencing.
The Supreme Court decision was hailed by the World Jewish Congress, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, American Jewish Committee, Simon Wiesenthal Center, International Network of Children of Holocaust Survivors, Holocaust Survivors USA, The Generation After, The American Gathering and Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.