Kondrat Kaleys

Kondrat Kaleys

Country: Latvia

  1. His Crimes
  2. In the verdict, Judge Petrone stated:
  3. However, unlike in

Biography of Konrad Kalejs

Konrad Alfred Kalejs was a Latvian military criminal and participant in mass killings of Soviet citizens in the temporarily occupied territories during World War II. Latvia was a country where, in terms of percentage, more local Jews were killed during the war than anywhere else in the world. According to the testimonies of numerous Holocaust books by Leonid Kovalev, "after the liberation of Riga in 1944, out of 80,000 Latvian Jews, only 162 people remained alive." Not only the Nazis, but also Latvians, were responsible for killing Jews. Local fascists and nationalists were primarily involved in the genocide of Jews in Latvia. A book by human rights activists Karl Berezina and Axel Saar, titled "Operation Kotbus" (or "cleansing" of the Baltic states from Jews), is set to be released soon. This story began a long time ago, during the years of World War II. In recent times, it has stirred up small Latvia, faraway Australia, resonated in Israel, the United States, and Canada. In August 1999, Latvian newspapers published photos of an elderly man who looked younger than his 86 years. This man was Konrad Alfred Kalejs, an Australian citizen living in "Kettorp Manor," a home for elderly Latvian immigrants funded by a private charitable organization. This seemingly benevolent old man was being hunted by the authorities of four countries. And it's no wonder!

His Crimes

He is accused of cold-bloodedly exterminating more than 30,000 lives from 1941 to 1944. Primarily, they were Jewish lives. Latvia was occupied by the Germans during several summer days in 1941. Many Latvians welcomed the Reich troops as liberators from the repression of the Soviet regime. Conrad Alfred Kalejs, a cadet of the Military School, belonged to those who had spent the last year "partisanizing and killing communists." He even prudently obtained the appropriate clearance. With this document in his pocket, he joined Viktor Arajs' "shooting squad." Its main task in 1941 and 1942 was the "final solution" of the Jewish question in Latvia.

For 290 Reichsmarks per month, Senior Lieutenant Kalejs worked for the Germans "on demand." For example, he hanged prisoners in the Salaspils concentration camp and burned entire "pro-Soviet" villages along with their inhabitants. Often, Konrad Alfred was sent on "business trips" - punitive operations in Russia and Belarus. The Sydney newspaper "Daily Telegraph" published photos of Kalejs from the Riga archives, where he is depicted in an SS uniform, and a 1942 combat leaflet in which he personally describes the raids of the special Latvian punitive squad.

"We advance because we know what needs to be done. We must be the first to enter the village and see how the Communists run, scrambling through the snow, and then our job is very simple. The same scene in another village. Gradually, the shooting subsides. Some houses where weapons were hidden explode and burn."

The disclosure of this information radically changed the tactics of the Nazi. In an interview with Australian radio SBS, he first admitted that he served as the commander of one of Arajs' units. However, as before, he called all accusations of involvement in the mass extermination of people absurd.

According to him, serving in officer positions in this special unit was a "forced measure." He claims that he never visited Salaspils after it was turned into a concentration camp, and he allegedly saw Victor Arajs, the commander of the Nazi unit, only in Germany when they were already retreating under pressure from Soviet forces.

Survivors of Salaspils remember that Kalejs and others like him were guarding when the execution of thirty Gypsies took place. To save time on carrying people to a mass grave, they first pushed them to the bottom of the pit. Then they rationally shot them from above... In 1944, Conrad Alfred moved to Germany with the retreating Germans. Soon after the victory over the fascists, he emigrated to Australia. There, he worked in government service, then started his own business and became a multimillionaire. In 1959, he moved to the USA.

He lived there peacefully until 1984 when, upon a tip from the Simon Wiesenthal Center (a hunter of Nazi criminals), US authorities began investigating his activities in Arajs' Unit. In the end, the American court recognized him as a "member of a criminal organization."

However, according to US law, they could not imprison Kalejs because he had not committed anything on US soil, had not harmed any American citizens, and was not a US citizen himself. Therefore, the former executioner was expelled from America on a formal reason - he did not mention in the application forms that he served as a policeman.

In 1994, Kalejs returned to Australia with $350,000. And he found himself in the midst of a police investigation regarding his person. This annoyed him, and he moved to Canada. However, he was also expelled from there two years later.

Soon, Kalejs moved to the United Kingdom. He settled in a charity home for elderly Latvians in Leicestershire. There, he registered as Victor Kalnyns.

However, even there, he did not find a peaceful old age. Kalejs did not consider one thing: the United Kingdom is the only country in the former anti-Hitler coalition where war criminals are tried regardless of where their crimes were committed...

On December 28, 1999, after allowing Lutheran Kalejs to celebrate Christmas, he was arrested and questioned by the British police.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center promptly sent 20 witness statements against Kalejs to the British police. The Prosecutor's Office for the Investigation of Crimes of Totalitarian Regimes initiated a criminal case against Kalejs for "war crimes" and "genocide."

However, on January 8, 1999, Kalejs moved from Leicestershire County to the British capital under cover of darkness, accompanied by police and immigration officials. He then flew from Heathrow Airport via Singapore Airlines to Singapore, and from there to Melbourne. The Australian government stated that it had no evidence of Kalejs' guilt and therefore could not prohibit his entry into the country.

A few days later, the Latvian Russian-language newspaper "Chas" published a translation of the US Immigration Court's decision dated January 1, 1988. The judge found it "clear, compelling, and irrefutable" that:

- Konrad Kalejs was a member of the units of Viktor Arajs' command that operated on the Eastern Front for most of 1942. The anti-partisan operations of the Arajs unit were accompanied by the killing of civilians and the burning of villages.
- Konrad Kalejs commanded the guard in the concentration camp in Porkhov, where his immediate subordinates in early 1943 participated in the killing of Gypsies.
- Konrad Kalejs was the commander of the external guard unit in the forced labor camps Salaspils and Sauyrieshi from late 1943 to May 1945.

In the verdict, Judge Petrone stated:

"The detention (in the camps), forced labor, and brutal treatment of Jews and political prisoners, the killing of civilians on the front lines, and the execution of Gypsies in Porkhov were acts of persecution based on racial, religious, or national affiliation or political beliefs. The defendant assisted in the executions and participated in them."

The judge also found it proven that Kalejs joined the "Arajs unit" in mid-1941 but considered the facts of his personal involvement in the shootings until 1942 not proven. The judge rejected Kalejs' claims that the certificates of his membership in the "Arajs unit" (including the signature of Arajs himself) were forgeries.

The court heard the testimonies of three survivors from Salaspils - Alfreds Vinters, Kurt Servos, and Ernest Ilbergs. In addition, the prosecution presented testimonies from 13 witnesses - residents of Latvia, including former members of the Arajs unit.

One of them, Rudolf Soms, testified that Kalejs' platoon on the Eastern Front destroyed the village of Sanniki and exterminated all its inhabitants. Another witness, Karlis Strazds, testified that Kalejs commanded three platoons, totaling between 100 and 120 people, that conducted anti-partisan "cleansing" operations. The third witness, Viktors Enitis, admitted to being a guard in the camp in Sauyrieshi under Kalejs' command and had orders to shoot to kill if any prisoner tried to escape. He also testified that Kalejs was present during the hanging of two Jews.

The influential Australian newspaper "Sydney Morning Herald" called for Kalejs to be sent to Latvia.

"...The laws of all countries have always been written to fulfill three tasks: to give retribution to the victims, to punish the criminal, and to show what awaits those who intend to repeat the criminal's actions. In the case of Kalejs, the victims who need retribution are very few. They are dead. As for punishment, Kalejs did not break Australian laws. And what is the point of intimidating Australians, who never conceived the extermination of Jews? Kalejs should be brought to trial in Latvia. Latvians, Germans, and other Europeans - that's who needs to be reminded. They must know how their fathers, mothers, and uncles applauded the skill of people who tossed Jewish children into the air and shot them on the fly. It is sad that Jews are once again forced to play the role of the world's conscience. Where have Latvian authorities been all this time? Cleansing the consciousness of a nation cannot be imposed from outside. It must come with a new generation that will stop, doubt, and reflect on the orders found in their fathers' attics. Citizen Kalejs is needed there, in Latvia. To remember. To remember."

The first attempt to find evidence "collectively" in all countries involved in the Nazi cases was undertaken in February 2000 in Riga. Lawyers and diplomats from six countries participated.

As Ephraim Zuroff, the director of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, this prosecutor's summit is the "last hope for justice in the cases of Latvian Nazi war criminals Konrad Kalejs and Karlis Ozols."

Meanwhile, Kalejs continued to live in the same middle-class suburb of Melbourne. Contrary to rumors that his health was deteriorating rapidly, the elderly Arajs man went for an hour-long walk at least twice a day and occasionally spent the entire day out of town with friends from the local Latvian community. Regardless of the weather, he wore a cap, dark sunglasses, and gloves - perhaps to avoid contact with the press.

On October 23, 2000, the Riga District Court issued an arrest warrant for Kalejs. However, it is unlikely that the 87-year-old former senior lieutenant of the Arajs "shooting squad" will return to Latvia. The arrest warrant is not mandatory for Australian authorities until Riga submits a formal request to arrest and extradite Kalejs for trial.

Opposition members of the Australian Democratic Party have already called on the authorities to at least monitor Kalejs, who lives in a quiet suburb of Melbourne. However, the press service of the Australian Minister of Justice, Amanda Vanstone, announced that the Australian police currently have no legal grounds for any actions against Latvia: "The situation has not changed yet. If Latvia intends to submit a request for the extradition of Kalejs, the timing is up to them."

The same view is held by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In a released statement, the Center said, "The issuance of an arrest warrant for Kalejs is evidence of Latvia's growing readiness to honestly and openly address the involvement of many Latvians in the mass murder of Jews. We call on the Latvian authorities to take all possible steps to expedite the request for the extradition of Kalejs."

However, honorary consul of the Republic of Latvia in Australia, Emil Delins, said he was not entirely sure that the Australian citizen Kalejs would ever appear before a Latvian court: there are currently no extradition agreements between the two countries. Nevertheless, justice has finally prevailed. More precisely, it has almost prevailed. The Australian police arrested Konrad Kalejs. Less than an hour later, Kalejs was brought to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court in a police car. After a five-minute hearing, the judge ruled that Latvia's demand for the arrest of Kalejs be granted and imposed the measure of restraint for the accused in war crimes - arrest. A few minutes later, the arrest was replaced by police surveillance and bail.

The former lieutenant of the Independent Latvian Army, former junior lieutenant of the Red Army, former senior lieutenant of the execution "command squad," former agent of the secret services, former businessman, has reached his final limit. The justice of his disgraced homeland intends to hold him accountable - nearly 60 years later.

Latvia's request for the extradition of Kalejs will be considered in court on January 25. According to the Minister of Justice of Australia, Amanda Vanstone, Kalejs will have the right to appeal.

Theoretically, the appeals process in Australia (which consists of four instances) can drag on for years. However, it seems that in Kalejs' case, it will proceed much faster. Australians have already demonstrated their incredible agility. Less than two hours passed between the delivery of the official request from the Australian Ambassador to Latvia to arrest Kalejs and the actual arrest. This promptness was noted by Jewish organizations (including the Wiesenthal Center) and the international press.

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