Canberra Times, April 8, 2001

Australia's highest ranking alleged Nazi war criminal, a former Australian Chess Champion, died in Melbourne last week.

Karlis Ozols was born in 1912 and had already become one of Latvia's strongest players, representing Lativa at two Chess Olympiads before World War II intervened.

In 1940 the USSR took control of the Baltic states and, Ozols who had just completed a law degree, became an anti-communist activist. He greeted the arriving Germans in 1941 as liberators and became an Oberlieutenant in the pro-Nazi Latvian army.

Ozols travelled to Belarus as leader of a platoon of 130 men as part of the notorious Arajs Commandos, responsible for the murder of tens of thousands of people.

The indictment against Ozols included an allegation that he commanded a unit that between July 1942 and September 1943 assisted in the transportation, guarding and execution of Jews at the Minsk ghetto, more than 10,000 of whom were murdered.

A Private Arnold Zulka, who claims to have been a member of Ozols' unit, later related, "[The platoon's] victims would be taken by lorry from their cells to a pine wood, placed on the edge of a pit and shot down."

In 1944, a year in which Ozols found time to win the Riga Championship, Ozols' unit, which had suffered heavy losses, was shipped to Germany. He remained there, apart from a brief period in a POW camp in Belgium, until emigrating to Australia in 1949, a beneficiary of Australia's post-war policy of encouraging anti-communist refugees, even Nazis.

Ozols soon established himself as one of Australia's top players. He tied for the national title in 1958 and later represented Australia at a number of correspondence chess Olympiads. He was awarded the correspondence IM title in 1972.

However Ozols' exalted reputation in the chess community took a hit when, in 1986, Mark Aarons' series 'Nazis in Australia' named Ozols as one of many Nazi war criminals living in Australia. Some of Ozols' contemporaries admitted that these revelations did not come as a complete surprise; some dark secret had been suspected.

The Australian government set up a Special Investigations Unit, but in 1994, shortly before the prosecution of Ozols was about to commence, the SUI was closed down.

Although the SUI's first three prosecutions had failed, the Ozols case would have been highly significant, not only because the evidence against Ozols was strong but also because Ozols would probably not have tried to deny his wartime activities.

Instead, Ozols would have defended himself by arguing, as he did in private, that a Nazi victory would have been better for Latvia than the Allied victory which resulted in Latvia staying in the USSR for five decades.

The former head of the SIU, Robert Greenwood, pressed the Federal Government to reopen the case against Ozols for alleged genocide but in March 1997 the Attorney-General Darryl Williams' office issued a statement saying that the Ozols case was closed. "In the DPP's view, the existing material was insufficient and the incomplete case was referred to the Australian Federal Police. The AFP concluded there was little chance of success in pursuing the case to finality. There are very serious difficulties in taking to trial cases dealing with events of more than 50 years ago where witnesses ... and any accused are of advanced years."

After an outcry, Williams' office 'clarified' the statement, saying that the Ozols case was not closed, just dormant, but that no action would be taken against Ozols unless new evidence was uncovered.

Ozols' last public appearance in the chess world came when he briefly visited the Melbourne Australian Championship in January 1997 but found himself shunned by most.

Soon thereafter Ozols was confined to a northern Melbourne nursing home, where he died in his sleep on March 26, aged 88. His funeral was attended by only a few chessplayers.

Karlis Ozols
Born Riga, Latvia 9/8/1912
Died Melbourne 26/03/2001