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Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 17:54 GMT
Analysis: The Baltics' wartime record

Konrad Kalejs Konrad Kalejs: Alleged leader of Nazi death squad


By regional analyst Jan Repa

Alleged war criminal Konrad Kalejs is accused of being part of a Nazi squad which murdered 30,000 people in his native Latvia during World War II.

It is not the first time the Baltic republics have come under the spotlight over their wartime record.

An estimated 250,000 Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians served in military units under German command.


adolf hitler Latvian SS officers swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler

Latvia alone fielded two SS divisions on the Eastern Front - originally intended as elite units, whose members swore a personal oath of loyalty to Hitler.

Smaller numbers of Baltic volunteers served in police units and death squads, which rounded up and killed Jews, anti-German resistance groups and civilian hostages.

Nearly all the 250,000 Jews in the Baltic states were exterminated.

Anti-Soviet motivation

Local apologists claim many Baltic people served the Nazis under duress - or that they were motivated by a desire to fight the Soviet Union, which had occupied the Baltic states in 1940.

When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union the following year, many initially saw them as liberators.


Kalejs Konrad Kalejs is escorted to his flight to Australia

The Soviets reoccupied the Baltic states in 1944, deporting an estimated 300,000 people to Siberia, and bringing in large numbers of Russian-speaking settlers.

Since regaining independence in 1991, the Baltic states have been accused by Western human-rights groups and Jewish organisations of delaying war-crimes trials.

They have appeared reluctant to air the subject openly - perhaps because it was a staple of post-war Soviet "anti-nationalist" propaganda.

Rallies by Latvian SS veterans have been authorised on Army Day for the last two years running - bitterly dividing local opinion.

The issue is likely to remain controversial for a long time to come.

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  UK Politics
Nazi suspect flees Britain
03 Jan 00 |  UK
Konrad Kalejs: Target for Nazi hunters
28 Dec 99 |  UK
Simon Wiesenthal: Nazi-hunter
05 Jan 00 |  Talking Point
Should we pursue crimes of the past?

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