BONN (Jan. 23)
Accused Nazi war criminal Boleslavs Maikovskis defended himself in court Monday against charges of mass killings by claiming he cannot stand the sight of blood.
He told a court in the northwestern city of Munster that he refused to carry out orders to oversee the shooting of 171 residents of the Latvian village of Audrini in January 1942. The indictment charges he gave such orders.
“1 was not involved in this matter. It happened without my participation,” the 86-ycar-old defendant pleaded.
Maikovskis is also charged with the separate killings of Jews in the area. He told the court that for physical and psychological reasons, he cannot watch blood spilling from living creatures.
According to Maikovskis, who was the Nazi-appointed police chief in the nearby town of Rezekne, the mass shootings were ordered by his superior, Albert Eichelis, in retaliation for help the villagers supposedly gave to partisans fighting the Nazis.
Observers at the Munster court say the role of the Latvian police as a whole during the Nazi occupation from 1941 to 1944 will play an important part in the trial.
Experts are expected to testify that the police approved of what the Nazis did and helped them in many ways, including organizing the deportations and killings of Jews.
Eichelis, who died several years ago, was tried for war crimes in 1984 and drew a long prison sentence.
His testimony implicated Maikovskis, who was living at the time in Mineola, N.Y., and prompted the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to investigate him.
The INS began deportation proceedings against Maikovskis in 1976, on grounds that he lied about his past when he applied for a U.S. entry visa in 1951.
The intention was to deport him to the Soviet Union, where he was tried in absentia in 1965 and sentenced to death for war crimes, including complicity in the killings of 20,000 Jews in Riga.
But Maikovskis slipped out of the United States in 1987 and went to West Germany as a tourist. He was arrested in Munster in October 1988.
If convicted, he faces a life sentence.