`Where the Nazis Are' Private Eye on Prowl for Hundreds He Says Found Haven in Canada

By 1997, Los Angeles Times | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

`Where the Nazis Are' Private Eye on Prowl for Hundreds He Says Found Haven in Canada


1997, Los Angeles Times, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


On a cold Canadian evening, New York private eye Steve Rambam drops into the passenger seat of his rental car, runs a quick inventory of his eavesdropping equipment, looks over the map of southern Ontario and pronounces himself ready for the night's Nazi-hunting.

He pulls into a driveway of the home of a man he has identified as an officer of a World War II collaborationist unit responsible for rounding up Jews, Gypsies and Communists in Latvia.

Hitler's government so appreciated the man's work on behalf of the Third Reich that it awarded him the Iron Cross. But after the war, he, like hundreds and perhaps thousands of other concentration camp guards, collaborators and SS members, migrated to Canada, where he has lived openly ever since. "Canada is where the Nazis are," Rambam says. "Canada is the unknown haven for Nazis. Everybody knows about Argentina, but nobody knows about Canada." Since the end of World War II, Canada has deported just one man for war crimes. In 1992, Dutch collaborator Jacob Luitjens was returned to the Netherlands, where he had been convicted in absentia 44 years earlier. That nation had been seeking his extradition since 1983, when a journalist discovered him living in Vancouver. Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal long has refused to set foot in Canada as his way of protesting government inaction. On this night, Rambam, 39, is outfitted with a wireless transmitter disguised as a fountain pen and carries a phony passport and other documents identifying him as a professor at a fictitious Central American university. He intends to interview the man on a pretext ruse he has used on 61 other alleged war criminals he says he has tracked down in Canada over the past two years. With a cover story involving academic research, Rambam has wheedled what he terms incriminating admissions out of seven of them and given secretly made tape recordings of five of those interviews to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Whether any of the recorded statements will be admissible in depor tation of criminal proceedings is not yet clear. But Rambam, a one-time Jewish militant, is trying to shame Canada into revoking asylum for war criminals. While they scoff at Rambam's allegations, Canadian Justice Department officials admit to a spotty record of war crimes investigations and have agreed to review his evidence. John Sims, an assistant deputy attorney general who has listened to some of Rambam's tapes, says they "may be useful on an investigative level." In the only recording he has made public, a man Rambam identifies as Antanas Kenstavicius, 90, of Hope, British Columbia, describes the roundup of thousands of Lithuanian Jews who were then lined up in front of freshly dug trenches, stripped naked and shot to death in 1941. Kenstavicius was deputy chief and then chief of a collaborationist police unit from 1941 to 1944. …

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