Menu JTA Search

Accused war criminal dies on first day of proceedings

TORONTO, Jan. 26 (JTA) — A 90-year-old British Columbia resident accused of rounding up Jews for mass extermination in his native Lithuania during World War II has died. He passed away of natural causes on the first day of legal proceedings related to the government’s attempt to deport him. The federal Immigration Department had accused Antanas Kenstavicius of entering Canada illegally after World War II and of telling lies about his past to gain permanent-residency status. As chief of police in Lithuania during the war, he was alleged to have collaborated with the Nazis in rounding up more than 5,000 Lithuanian Jews and marching them to a cemetery where German soldiers shot them. Later, he allegedly fled Lithuania for Germany and joined the German army. In 1949, a year after he arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, the Canadian Jewish Congress informed the authorities of the allegations against him. “It took 47 years to bring him into a courtroom,” said Bernie Farber, the CJC’s national director of community relations. “This proves what we’ve been saying all along — that all of the alleged Nazi war criminals in Canada will die peacefully in their beds before seeing justice, if this slow pace of justice continues.” Farber and other community officials have made renewed requests to the federal Justice Department to name four other alleged war criminals on the department’s short list for deportation actions. “If the government names them, at least the potential for them facing some justice remains,” Farber said. Canadian authorities have come under criticism in recent weeks for what Jewish leaders here say is a lack of aggressiveness in investigating and prosecuting suspected war criminals. Earlier this month, Canadian Jewish leaders reacted with indignation to reports that some 300 German veterans of World War II who now reside in Canada are receiving pensions from the German government. Kenstavicius, who was not a Canadian citizen, died in a hospital in Hope, a town east of Vancouver where he and his wife had lived for more than 40 years. In related news, the Justice Department has finished arguments in a Toronto courtroom in its bid to expel Konrad Kalejs, an 83-year-old Latvian who allegedly participated in the mass killings of Jews, Communists and Red Army personnel in a Latvian forest in 1941. The defense is scheduled to begin its response this week. The hearing, which has been beset with delays, has gone on for almost a year. Kalejs lived in Australia after the war and then moved to the United States, from which he was deported in 1988. He is suffering from cancer and a heart condition, and was under heavy medication during the proceedings.