Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Konrāds Kalējs

Born on June 26, 1913, in Riga, Latvia, Konrāds Kalējs joined the Latvian army in 1935 and got a rank of lieutenant. When Stalin takes over Latvia in 1940, Kalējs was conscripted into the Red Army. He later deserted when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in summer 1941 and joined a Nazi-controlled Latvian security police known as the Arajs Kommando after its leader Viktors Arajs. The Arajs Kommando, working with the Einsatzgruppen, was responsible for many executions against Jews and other "undesirables" elements.

Kalējs served as a company commander and first lieutenant in the murderous unit. Besides killing Jews in the Riga ghetto, Kalējs and his men also served as guards at the Salaspils concentration camp, located 18 km southeast of Riga. The conditions there were brutal. Many inmates died, primarily from inhumane conditions or being shot while trying to escape. The Arajs Kommando was charged with guarding work details and preventing escapes at Salaspils.

Kalējs was one of the very few officers of the Arajs Kommando with military background. Probably, he was recruited for the purpose of helping to convert the Kommando from a purely police formation into a militarised one that could take part in anti-partisan operations. Outside of Latvia (usually in Russia) the Arajs Kommando joined the German SS in so-called anti-partisan activity, which was little more than a cover for arresting and murdering civilians. Thus, early in 1942, Kalējs led units of the Arajs Kommando in attacks on partisan villages in the Leningrad area. He later appointed as the commander of the perimeter security guard at a camp at Porkhov, a town east of Pskov.

In 1945, suspected of being a "Nazi death squad officer responsible for the murder of up to 30,000 Jews, Communists and Gypsies in Latvia", Kalējs moved to Denmark and five years later went to Australia as a refugee. He worked for the Australian Immigration Service, gaining citizenship in 1957. In 1959, he emigrated to the United States and built up a successful property business. However, in late 1984 the US Justice Department set its sights on him after being alerted to the allegations against him. He return to Australia, but forced to leave it after a local court revoked his visa, finding that he had "committed war crimes" as a collaborator. He was lived for some time in Britain before his identity known in public and, again, deported to Australia.

In September 2000, Latvian authorities finally charged Kalējs with war crimes offences, relating to his participation at the Salaspils labor camp. An Australia court later ordered his extradition to Latvia. But he never his foot again and face a trial in his homeland. The most unwanted wanted man in the world died in an Australia prison on November 8, 2001.

Copyright©2010 by Nino Oktorino

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