Tuesday, 31 May 2011

KONRAD KALEJS

THE PICTURE THAT FINALLY PROVES KONRAD KALEJS WAS A NAZI KILLER
By JASON LEWIS

9 January 2000
The Mail on Sunday


Revealed: The photo which once could have hanged the former SS murderer who Jack Straw allowed to escape from Britain THIS damning photograph, uncovered by The Mail on Sunday this week, proves that Konrad Kalejs was a menacing member of Hilter's elite killing machine and that he is now a liar.

Taken in 1942, it shows a steely-eyed 29-year-old wearing the dreaded uniform of Hitler's SS, complete with distinctive collar flashes.

The photograph, discovered in a wartime Nazi propaganda sheet held in an archive in the Baltic state of Latvia, destroys Kalejs's claim that he was too sick to fight for Hitler in the Second World War. We also found firsthand testimonies

from Kalejs's comrades in the Latvian SS, which could have been used by Mr Straw to bring a war crimes prosecution in this country for Kalejs's alleged part in the murder of thousands of his Jewish countrymen on behalf of the Nazis.

In particular, there is evidence of his role as commander of guards at a Nazi slave labour camp where many Russian Jews and Soviet soldiers died. If he had gone on trial for these crimes soon after the War he could have been sent to the gallows. Despite this evidence, Kalejs, who slipped into Britain using an assumed name three months ago, was allowed to leave for Australia on Thursday a free man.

The photograph of the handsome young man with stern face and angular jaw was published in the Nazi newsletter Laikmets in June 1942 and is clearly identified as Virsleitnants (First Lieutenant) Konrad Kalejs of the SS.

It accompanied an article, in Kalejs's own words, entitled 'Latvian SS troops attack'. In it, Kalejs gives a firsthand account of a bloody raid on a Russian partisan village on the Eastern Front which he boasts was left with 'smoking ruins and many dead enemy soldiers'.

It proves Kalejs was lying last week when, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday at a rest home for Latvian nationals in Leicestershire, he claimed that in 1942 he was farming or studying at Riga University.

Instead, he was bragging in the Nazi newsletter: 'SS troops attack this is the thought that Latvian troops always keep in our minds.

'Maybe that is the thought that helps us to victory in battle. Of course, we paid for that with our comrades' blood, but that is what war is like. But we have

paid that back 100 times over.' Kalejs has spent 50 years lying to the authorities about his Nazi past.

He was kicked out of the US, where he made a multimillion-dollar fortune as a property developer in the Chicago area, when his real past was revealed.

He was exposed as a fraud and a Nazi collaborator by Australian investigators, but was allowed to retain citizenship because his lies on immigration forms were perpetrated too long ago.

He was investigated by Canadian officials when he arrived to meet his common-law wife, Austra Kalnins, the widow of another Latvian SS officer and alleged war criminal, Albert Kalnins.

The Mail on Sunday went to the Latvian capital, Riga, to do what Jack Straw decided it was not worth doing search for Kalejs's war record and to try to uncover evidence that he is a murderer and war criminal.

Deep in the Riga archives, now being re-examined by Latvian prosecutors, are the testimonies of Latvian soldiers who served alongside Kalejs in the infamous Arajs Kommandos, volunteer members of the Latvian Auxiliary Security Force the Latvian SS.

The unit was responsible for the rounding up of thousands of Latvian Jews who were systematically tortured and murdered by men who had once been their neighbours.

At the beginning of the war, there were about 43,000 Jews in Riga. In October 1941, shortly after the Germans drove the Russians out of Latvia, they were forced from their homes to live in the Riga ghetto. A year later, that after firing on the village from an armoured train, Kalejs's unit went into the village. Soms said: 'The inhabitants of the village were exterminated and the village burned.' In another battle at a village called Sanniki, Kalejs's commander was mortally wounded. In revenge, said Soms, 'Kalejs's company broke into the village, burned it down and annihilated the inhabitants'.

Another witness, Karlis Rozkalns, who gave a statement in 1987 and died in 1995, said Kalejs used the armoured train he commanded to fire on a church.

He said 'all the inhabitants [of Sanniki] had been driven into one building and the building had been burned down'.

But perhaps the most damning testimony concerns Kalejs's role as commander of the guards at the Nazi slave-labour camp at Salaspils, south-east of Riga.

Russian Jews and Soviet soldiers held there were starved and beaten, and died of disease due to the terrible conditions.

Today, all trace of the camp has gone. In its place is a bleak memorial whose 'eternal' flame has gone out.

Kalejs says he was never at Salaspils after it became a concentration camp. But The Mail on Sunday has found the testimonies of at least three former comrades who claim he had a key role there.

In 1987, Karlis Strazds, who died in 1998, said he was a guard at Salaspils from 1942 to 1943, 'with the guard company commanded by Senior Lieutenant Kalejs'. Later, he

said, he served under Kalejs in the Latvia Legion also the Latvian SS on the Eastern Front.

A second guard, Viktors Ennitis, who has since died, also said Kalejs was commander of the Salaspils guard company.

Another Latvian SS man, Georgijs Pimanis, testified three times that Kalejs was at Salaspils in 1942. He also knew him as a commander of a combat company.

But at his Riga apartment last week, Pimanis, 83, told a different story.

He said he never met Kalejs.

Reminded of his three statements, he agreed he had made them and had been at Salaspils for two weeks.

But he added: 'The statements are lies. They made them up or mistranslated.

. . I never, never met Kalejs.' However, Pimanis recalled every other detail of his testimonies and as I left, he said: 'Kalejs is a good man.' It was a strange thing to say about someone he never met.

The only other man alive in Riga who has testified that Kalejs was at Salaspils is his former brother-in-law, Alfreds Putnins. He said his wife told him her brother worked there. Yesterday, at his flat in Riga, he said: 'I will not talk about Kalejs. . . He was always good to me.

What I have said in the past, it is all there and I will say no more.' In a summary of the case two years ago when Kalejs was deported from Canada, the immigration department adjudicator wrote: 'Kalejs. . . was assisting in the operation of a slave labour camp, where brutality was intrinsic to its purpose.

Konrad Kalejs is accountable for what happened at Salaspils.' But by letting Kalejs slip out of Britain without any real investigation, perhaps this weekend Home Secretary Jack Straw will reflect that this country has ensured that Kalejs is unlikely ever be held to account for his crimes.

Machine guns roar and our comrades die in the snow ...

EVEN the Nazi propaganda machine offers evidence to counter Kalejs's claim that he never fought for Hitler.

In June 1942, a Latvian Nazi newsletter, Laikmets, ran an article, entitled 'Latvian SS troops attack', based on an interview with 'Virsleitnants Konrad Kalejs' about a battle behind Soviet lines. These are some of Kalejs's comments used in the article: 'SS troops attack this is the thought Latvian troops always keep in mind. Maybe it is that thought that helped us to victory.

Of course, we paid for that with our comrades' blood. . . But we have paid that back 100 times over. It was a cold, cruel, late evening. But we were not afraid.

It is warm sitting in a hut, but the troops know that tonight they will not be there. It is written on their faces as they prepare their equipment, arms and skis.

'Soon it will be midnight. On the road there is a long queue of sledges and troops. The General ['SS Brigadefuhrer Dr Stahlecker'] arrives. He gives the order to move out. It is a long way, and all the time it snows. We have to move with care. . . we are far behind Communist lines. We move to the edge of the forest. In a glade is our objective a group of Russian villages.

'As the sun rises...we can see three villages. Yes, the battle will be difficult. But "Go ahead" orders the General, and we all follow him gladly, happy to fight.

'From three sides, skiers attack with only one thought: the Communist positions.

Machineguns spit fire and grenades roar. Men dive for cover. But our General stands tall, he continues to shout orders. Suddenly, he collapses...

he has been hit. For a moment, we are confused as more of our men are cut down. Should we retreat? No, not that. We must force the Communists out...

'The troops take the nearest enemy positions and keep advancing. The fastest skiers are already close to the huts. We can see people with their hands up.

Grenades fly into the huts on the left and the right. We advance because we know what we have to do. We are the first to get through the village and we can see the Communists running, crawling through the snow, and now our job is very easy. In the next village the story is the same.

'Slowly, the shooting dies away.

Some huts where ammunition was hidden explode and burst into flames.

'We can't stay too long . . . it will not be long before Communist reinforcements arrive. We head back to the forest. Behind us lie smoking ruins and many dead enemy soldiers.' Lt Kalejs, June 5, 1942 END