Nazi Linnas Dies in USSR
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Nazi Linnas Dies in USSR

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Accused Nazi war criminal Karl Linnas died Thursday of heart failure following surgery in a Leningrad hospital, according to the Soviet news agency TASS. The 67-year-old Linnas, a native of Estonia who had lived in Greenlawn, NY, for 30 years, was deported April 20 to the USSR, where he was sentenced to death in absentia in 1962 for war crimes.

Linnas reportedly underwent two operations for an unspecified illness at a Leningrad Interior Ministry hospital, where he had been transferred last month from his prison cell in Tallinn, Estonia. Last Sunday, his daughter, Anu Linnas, and his American lawyer, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, left to visit him. It was reported then that he was ailing.

Linnas’ deportation came after several years of appeals following his denaturalization in 1981 for having lied about his wartime activities upon entering the U.S. in 1951 as a displaced person. The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) opened investigations of Linnas, who was a commandant of a concentration camp in Tartu, Estonia, during World War II, where 12,000 people were killed in mass executions. Linnas himself allegedly shot prisoners.

Efforts to deport Linnas were spearheaded by the OSI; Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman, who as a member of Congress had authored legislation to deport Nazi war criminals from the U.S.; and the World Jewish Congress (WJC). Rightwingers and Baltic emigres had opposed his deportation, claiming evidence from the USSR could not be trusted.

Menachem Rosensaft, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights of the WJC, as well as founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, said Thursday he felt “proud that we were able to bring Karl Linnas to justice. That was our responsibility to ourselves and to the dead. To the extent that we could bring Linnas to justice, we did.”

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