Wanted: last of the Nazi war criminals

  • 2002-07-11
  • Staff and Wire reports
A top Jewish rights organization said July 8 that it is offering rewards of $10,000 to anyone who provides information that helps convict alleged Nazi war criminals from the three Baltic states.

The initiative, dubbed "Operation: Last Chance," was announced at a Vilnius news conference by Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem office, and Aryeh Rubin, head of the Miami-based charity Targum Shlishi.

"The situation with the prosecution of Nazi criminals in the Baltic states is far from satisfactory," Zuroff said.

In Lithuania, where nearly the entire prewar Jewish community of 220,000 was wiped out during World War II, has yet to convict or imprison a single person for war crimes or genocide.

Lithuania put two men —- Aleksandras Lileikis and Kazys Gimzauskas —- on trial in the late 1990s for allegedly sending scores of Lithuanian Jews to Nazi death camps when they served in the pro-German Lithuania security forces during the war.

Both trials were suspended, however, when it was ruled that neither was physically fit to stand trial.

Both men had emigrated to the United States after the war and were subsequently stripped of U.S. citizenship when the charges against them came to light.

Both died without being convicted.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center hopes that the rewards will change Lithuania's situation dramatically, said Zuroff, describing the initiative as the last opportunity for both Nazi-hunters and Lithuania.

He said a likely candidate for prosecution was Algimantas Daili-de, who Lithuanian prosecutors say served as an officer in the Nazi-backed Saugumas police and helped the occupying German forces round up Jews.

A U.S. immigration judge ordered Dailide, now a resident of the United States, deported for allegedly participating in massacres of Jews.

Dailide contended he worked as a forester in Lithuania from 1941-1944, the time period during which he is accused of crimes.

Rimvydas Valentukevicius, Lithuania's chief prosecutor in charge of special investigations, said earlier this year that he did not have enough evidence against Dailide to charge him.

Latvian prosecutors charged Konrads Kalejs in 2000 for his alleged role as a guard at the Salaspils concentration camp outside Riga and his service in the Arajs Commando, a Nazi-backed death squad.

But Kalejs, who emigrated to Australia after the war, died last year while fighting extradition to his homeland.

Zuroff said media in all three Baltic countries would be provided with contact information, and reward-seekers will be able to call the Simon Wiesenthal Center, their local Jewish community offices or local prosecutors to report tips.

He said key information may actually come from other Nazi collaborators.

Simon Alperavicius, head of Lithuania's Jewish community, reacted cautiously to the project, saying it would be "difficult to guess whether it will work."

It could, he said, bring war criminals to justice, but it could also provoke anti-Semitism in the Baltics.