Linnas Reported Seeking Soviet Pardon From Death Sentence
Karl Linnas, the wartime commandant of a German concentration camp in Estonia, has reportedly asked a Soviet court to pardon him from a death sentence imposed after his 1962 conviction, in absentia, as a war criminal.
Tass, the Soviet news agency, said Wednesday that Linnas, in requesting the pardon, argued that more than 40 years have passed since the alleged offenses took place. He was convicted of ordering mass executions at the concentration camp, located at Tartu.
The Estonian prosecutor in the 1962 trial, Karl Kimmel, was quoted as saying that Linnas may be tried again if significant new information has since come to light.
A lawyer has been appointed to represent Linnas, the news agency said. It quoted Kimmel as saying that the lawyer has had two meetings with Linnas in a jail cell at Tallinn, where he is being held under the same conditions as other prisoners.
“The (Estonian) republic’s judicial authorities will study the circumstances of the case once more and make a decision,” Tass quoted Kimmel as saying. “It will be in full conformity with the law.”
Linnas, 67, was deported from the United States for concealing his Nazi past. He fled from Estonia, now one of the Soviet republics, after the war and lived for more than 35 years in a small town on Long Island in New York.
In a separate report, Tass charged that Linnas once drove a tank over children in the camp at Tartu because they annoyed him.
It attributed this information to Ludmilla Kashechkina, a resident of Minsk, who was quoted as saying she heard it from an Estonian woman, Anna Lembit, when they were both in a Nazi concentration camp in France, known as St. Paul Camp.
According to Tass, Lembit carried a flattened metal button that she said was the only thing left of her 3-year-old daughter after the tank rolled over her.
” . . . Linnas hated children,” Tass said. “Once he witnessed a child’s prank. He ordered the children to line up in the square of the camp and march forward without looking back. Then he got into a tank standing there and, in front of grief-stricken mothers, rode in his tank against the children. . . . The mothers could tell them later only by their clothing.”
Kashechkina was quoted as saying that Lembit died in the camp in France.
According to the Tass account, when Kashechkina heard that Linnas had been returned to Estonia, she “took out the button and thought that there is God above us in the sky.”