Vilis Arveds HāznersLegacy of the INS Case

It has been thirty-nine years since the judicial review of Hāzners' case was handed down, upholding the finding of insufficient evidence and denying Alan A. Ryan, Jr., Neal Sher, et al. the OSI's motion to appeal. Why rehash old news?

The lie that Hāzners got off on a technicality—"issues with pictures"—continues to live a life of its own, as does the Soviet propaganda which instigated the hunt for Latvian Nazis and painted a bull-eye on Hāzners as the prize trophy. As much as it is obvious to anyone not mired in factless dogma that U.S. authorities victimized Hāzners, he was not the only one to suffer. The INS and Israelis together shattered the hopes of witnesses who believed in their mission to convict a "known" war criminal. Once Hāzners was vindicated, rather than seek the cause of their loss in the origin of the accusations against him, Alan A. Ryan, Jr. and others compounded the anguish and anger of the Jewish community by publicly excoriating the INS for its ineptitude—prompting calls for mob justice. Indeed, the Jewish Defense League bombed the home of another Latvian against whom an INS deportation case failed.

However, the INS's own words in the post-trial brief summarizing the Hāzners case condemn them. They ignored and suppressed exonerating evidence and stonewalled the defense's requests for records. They misconstrued and misrepresented documents and testimony. They lied on the record.

Did INS attorneys Mendelsohn and Boylan really believe that no one would check their citations to find that instead of the "Germanless Holocaust" they purported was described in a German report, that report not only documented the German Einsatzkommandos were in charge of Jewish extermination albeit with local collaborator assistance, but actually complained to Berlin that the Latvian populace was disinterested in Nazi attempts to incite anti-Semitism? Did they really believe they could ignore Hāzners' exonerating war record provided by German authorities and instead convict Hāzners on their implausible, convoluted, and syllogistic conjurings to explain his possible presence at the Prefecture and Ghetto when he was elsewhere?

Israeli investigators were equally at fault. Their "witness identification" process consisted of showing photographs to hundreds survivors of the Holocaust in Latvia, some 150-200 were shown Hāzners' photograph, described as a member of the notorious Arājs Kommando. They were bound to produce false identifications. Moreover, Hāzners had been denounced regularly in Latvia as a war criminal for at least a decade and a half prior to the witnesses emigrating to Israel. It was impossible for such recent Soviet émigrés to not have seen and heard those accusations. One of the Soviet-Israeli witnesses even had copies all of the anti-Latvian Soviet propaganda booklets including Hāzners' photograph, entered into evidence—and here were the Israeli authorities, telling them that all the accusations were all true. You should have seen this murderer in Rīga at the Prefecture or at the Ghetto, does he look at all familiar to you? We are seeking witnesses to bring him to justice.

Judging by their brief, the INS was unaware that the stress and adrenaline rush which it contended would have indelibly and accurately seared Hāzners' image in eyewitness' minds have actually been proven to be principal contributors to misidentification.[1]

Fundamentally, the INS and subsequently OSI bought into the Holtzman edict: all Latvians are Nazis. They sought evidence to fit, disregarded exulpatory records, and resorted to character assassination when all else failed. One can only conclude that the INS and OSI were not only incredibly naive in dealing with the Soviets but also incredibly prejudiced, to the point of entering lies into the record in their crusade to convict Hāzners. And when it appeared that the INS would lose its case, attorney Mark Mendelsohn expressed satisfaction in having ruined Hāzners' life regardless of the verdict.

Ultimately, the Kremlin's propagandists usurped the U.S. Justice Department as a fifth column to persecute the leadership of their most troublesome émigré communities, creating a legacy poisoning Jewish-Latvian relations then, now, and—from all indications—for generations to come.

[1]80% of wrongful convictions are based on eyewitness testimony, with multiple witnesses in a full third of convictions overturned by DNA testing.

Updated: June, 2017

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