Deportation and denaturalization proceedings have been brought in several U.S. courts against four alleged former Nazis who served together in a Nazi killing unit in Latvia.
On Nov. 1, the U.S. Immigration Court in Chicago gave the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations an order of deportation against Konrad Kalejs, who allegedly served in the Arajs Kommando, a Latvian execution squad.
Judge Anthony Petrone issued a lengthy decision adjudging Kalejs deportable, based on proof submitted by OSI that he was an officer and a company commander of the Arajs Kommando in Riga.
Kalejs was reportedly also a commander of the guards at Salaspils, the largest concentration camp in all of Latvia, as well as the camp at Porkhov, in Russia.
OSI also has cases pending against three others who it says served with Kalejs in the Arajs Kommando. They are Edgars Inde of Minneapolis; Mikelis Kirsteins, a resident of Syracuse; and Valdis Disrichsons, who lives in Seattle.
Court papers filed in federal district court in Minneapolis last Wednesday say Inde, 79, a long-time resident of Minneapolis, was hired by the U.S. Army’s Military Labor Service in West Germany as a civilian guard in 1947 and worked for the American Army until 1949, when he immigrated to this country.
The denaturalization suit filed by OSI August 22 is the department’s first step in trying to strip Inde of his citizenship. If successful, proceedings would begin to deport Inde from this country.
The OSI considers the Kalejs case one of its major victories. This is reportedly the first time a Latvian war crimes suspect has been defeated in a denaturalization or deportation trial, which could have profound implications for all other Arajs Kommando cases, a Justice Department source said.
Kalejs, who is 75 years old, lives in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka. He also has a residence in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Kalejs entered this country in 1959 from Australia, where he had become a citizen. He concealed from U.S. immigration officials his wartime activities.
Initial papers were filed against Kalejs on Nov. 30, 1984. His trial was held in Chicago this past summer.
Kalejs, who has until Nov. 14 to appeal the decision, has asked that if found deportable he be sent to Australia, where he remains a citizen.
The Arajs Kommando execution unit was headed by Viktors Arajs, who was found living in West Germany in the 1970s under an assumed name. In 1980, Arajs was convicted of mass murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Arajs, who died in prison last January, executed a sworn affidavit for Kalejs’ use in which he insisted that Kalejs had not been in the Arajs Kommando.
However an OSI source said that several years earlier, when questioned by an OSI investigator in his West German jail cell, Arajs stated “without reservation” that Kalejs had indeed served in his unit.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.