Posted on Mon, Jul. 08, 2002
Florida man funds war-crimes
$10,000 rewards offered
for information on Nazi-era figures in the Baltics
BY ELINOR J. BRECHER
There should be no peace for Nazi war
criminals, Aryeh Rubin believes, even if they are old,
sick or respected in their re-made lives.
That's why the Golden Beach investment
manager is underwriting a Simon Wiesenthal Center Nazi-hunting
project in the Baltics that's offering $10,000 rewards
for information leading to arrests and convictions of
locals guilty of World War II atrocities.
It's called Operation Last Chance, because
nearly 60 years after World War II, time is running
out to track down an exceptionally brutal class of oppressors,
said the Wiesenthal Center's Jerusalem director, Efraim
Rubin and Zuroff are in Vilnius, Lithuania,
where today they'll announce the rewards at a news conference.
Then the two -- friends from their student days at Yeshiva
University in New York in the 1970s -- will repeat the
offer in Riga, Latvia, and Tallinn, Estonia.
''We have obtained a degree of technical
cooperation from those governments,'' Zuroff said. ``They've
agreed to let us publish ads with the phone numbers
of the prosecutors.''
Rubin, who turned 52 Sunday, already has
donated $50,000 toward the project and has guaranteed
twice that for rewards.
''I'd like to give away $100,000,'' Rubin
said. ``It's a tool.''
Rubin is counting on an eyewitness or
''a perpetrator who may feel some guilt and have regrets''
to reach for the bait -- $10,000 being a small fortune
in countries where the average annual income is $2,500-$3,500.
''Without trying to be crude, I consider
this a test market,'' Rubin said. ``I'd like to take
this to Germany.''
He's convinced that war-crimes trials
``act as a conscience, and force societies to come to
terms with the past . . . This is about justice, not
This isn't the first foray into Nazi hunting
for Rubin, whose parents narrowly escaped the Holocaust
but lost many relatives. His mother died in 1976, his
father a decade later.
Rubin was involved in pressuring the Costa
Rican government into pursuing a one-time Broward County
motel owner who fled deportation from the United States
in 1981. A West Palm Beach federal judge ruled that
Bogdan Koziy, a Ukrainian, lied to U.S. immigration
authorities about his war-time activities, which included
the murders of 17 Jews in the village of Lysic, Poland
-- one of them a 4-year-old girl shot in the head as
she begged for her life.
Rubin, who once owned a New York medical
publishing company and a popular but short-lived national
magazine called Jewish Living, paid for Wiesenthal Center
ads in Costa Rican newspapers warning that ''the world
is watching'' to see if a democratic government would
harbor a war criminal or return him to stand trial in
Then he threatened to follow up with ads
in international travel magazines calling tourism-dependent
Costa Rica ''the land of tropical rain forests and Nazis.''
But he did not act on the threat because, he said, three
days later ``the Costa Rican Supreme Court ruled in
favor of his deportation. We made waves.''
But Koziy remains in Costa Rica because
the Costa Rican government has yet to act on his deportation.
In another case, Rubin helped Zuroff expose
an ex-Nazi who became an Icelandic citizen in 1955:
Evald Mikson, WWII-era deputy commander of the Estonian
Implicated in the murder of Jews during
the war, he changed his last name to Hinriksson and
became a national figure in Iceland after he introduced
professional basketball. His sons were national soccer-team
Rubin: ``It was not very popular to take
As authorities closed in, Mickson fell
''I found myself in the curious position
of praying for the guy's good health,'' said Rubin,
greatly disappointed when Mickson died last year before
facing formal charges.
The Wiesenthal Center has been relentless
in pushing Baltic governments to confront the well-documented
enthusiasm for Hitler's agenda.
(A Gulfport man, Algimantas Dailide, is
awaiting deportation to Lithuania after losing his U.S.
citizenship for lying about his activities with the
Lithuanian security in Vilnius during the war. He is
appealing the deportation order).
''There is very little support for prosecution of local
criminals,'' he said. More than a decade after independence,
''not a single Nazi war criminal has sat in jail'' in
the Baltics, ``and not for lack of suspects. These countries
had the highest percentage of Jews killed by the locals,
and the locals were sent overseas to help carry out
the Final Solution.''
Kestutis Jankauskas, minister-counselor
for political affairs at the Lithuanian embassy in Washington,
notes that his is ``one of the few countries that has
amended its laws to allow prosecution in absentia. We
have completed one of the first cases a year ago.''
However, he acknowledged, ``the few indicted
have been too infirm to stand trial.''
That owes less to coincidence than to
deliberate foot-dragging, Zuroff said.
Not only is this the ''last chance'' for
Nazi hunters, Zuroff added, ``but it's the last chance
for these countries. If there are no successful prosecutions,
it will come back to haunt these societies for generations.''
The Baltic nations ``want to get into
NATO, and they really need to face their Holocaust past.
The best way to do this under their own flags.''
Indeed, a Lithuanian Foreign Ministry
fact sheet on ''post-Holocaust issues'' notes that leaders
of the Lithuanian Jewish Community are campaigning for
that nation's NATO membership.
Nazi-hunting missions have helped Rubin
come to terms with his own history. His mother left
Germany on the eve of the war in 1939 and found her
way to New York. His father fled Poland for the Soviet
Union and ended up in Siberia where, in a 45-day period,
he watched his father, brother and his 2-year-old niece
die of hunger.
The niece's mother, father and their newborn
died in the Majdanek concentration camp.
Rubin and his Colombian-born wife, Raquel, named the
youngest of their three daughters -- Maya Johanna, 5,
or Malka Sheina Techiya in Hebrew -- after the mother
and a relative of Raquel's who perished in a labor camp.
Daughters Angelica and Felissa are 12
and 14 respectively.
They attend Jewish parochial schools,
an institution that Rubin is trying to reform.
In 1992, Aryeh and Raquel Rubin established
the Targum Shlishi Foundation -- Hebrew for ''the third
interpretation,'' which has to do with looking at Jewish
issues from a new perspective.
It supports women's issues, Israel-related
causes and Jewish education in addition to Nazi hunting
and Third World land-mine clearing. Part of the education
agenda involves interest-free loans to historically-underpaid
teachers at Jewish day schools: the Peace of Mind Program,
run by the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Lubavitch synagogue.
Rubin hails from the Crown Heights section
of Brooklyn, near but not part of the Lubavitcher Hasidic
''No one was telling Cinderella stories''
to kids in his neighborhood, he recalls. Children grew
up on their parents' Holocaust tragedies: ``This one
threw his daughter from a train. That one hid in a latrine.''
He and his family observe a hybrid of
Jewish traditions: some Orthodox and some Conservative
practices spiced with the influence of Reconstructionist
Movement founder, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, who originated
the practice of bat mitzvah for girls.
When he was 16, Rubin read Mila 18,
Leon Uris's historical novel about the Warsaw Ghetto
uprising. A passage about the shame of a rabbi forced
to desecrate a holy Torah scroll galvanized Rubin's
''I broke into a cold sweat,'' said Rubin,
extracting the paperback -- now yellowed and disintegrating
-- from a vast home library of Jewish books. ``This
still travels with me everywhere.''
In the mid-1970s, spent a year visiting concentration
camps. The experience affected him profoundly.
He launched Jewish Living after
he returned ''as a response to the Holocaust trip.''
He described it as ''a cross between The New Yorker
and Southern Living,'' offering Jewish lifestyle
features and profiles.
He's still publishing. He and his wife
are working on a handbook for Orthodox Jews who -- like
the Rubins -- want their daughters to become bat mitzvah
(a practice that Orthodox Judaism doesn't recognize,
as Orthodox women aren't allowed to read from the Torah).
For Felissa, the Rubins devised a makeshift
synagogue, complete with Ark of the Torah. She read
her Torah portion at that service, then the family and
guests joined regular services across the street at
At an unconventional ''Simchat Bat'' ceremony celebrating
the birth of a daughter -- Maya -- Rubin's note to guests
said, ``Like many Jews today, I believe that the absence
of law and tradition leaves us ample room to maneuver,
improvise, and invent customs for our people. . . Previous
generations did not face the challenges of bringing
up daughters in today's society. . . Rabbi Kaplan was
fond of saying that he had four reasons for instituting
the bat mitzvah ceremony: his four daughters. . . In
collating, adding to, editing and compiling this version
of the Simchat Bat I have my own three reasons: Felissa,
Angelica and Maya.''
The bat mitzvah book, Rubin said, is bound
to upset many in the Orthodox community.
"But I look for trouble, whether
it's in Miami or the Baltics."
Zuroff, for one, appreciates that in
his old friend.
"It's a very lonely thing to
go to these places to hunt Nazis, and Aryeh has gone
with me. He's been a tremendous support to me in every