Ex-Clevelander will be tried next spring in Lithuania on war-crime charges

Sunday, December 25, 2005
John Caniglia
Plain Dealer Reporter

With a fading memory and few witnesses, a former Cleveland real estate agent will face trial next spring in his homeland, accused of heinous acts against Jews.

To Nazi hunters, Algimantas Dailide's trial means justice, even if it comes 64 years since Dailide's work in Vilnius, Lithuania.

If convicted, Dailide, 84, could become the first man sent to prison in Lithuania for crimes committed during World War II. Two others have been charged in Lithuania in the past six years. One died during trial. The other suffered from senility and was never punished.

Dailide presents one of the most difficult cases in the long history of criminal prosecutions of suspected Nazis: How can an aging man with such little recollection of the past defend himself in court?

"So much time has gone by that he just can't do it," said Jo seph McGin ness, the Cleve land attorney who represented Dailide for several years.

"Half the things that went on he can't remember. Any witnesses that he might have are dead or they wouldn't be in a good mental state. You try to take that to trial. It is impossible."

Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human-rights organization, agreed that the lack of witnesses is a problem, but not for Dailide.

"If anything, it is the prosecution that suffers because of the passage of time," Zuroff said. "And, of course, the fact that the main victims of Dailide and his ilk were murdered by them. It always amazes me that people who gave no sympathy to their victims now want mercy because they are old."

In Medina, Dailide's family worries about the trial.

"It's a joke. You know it's a joke," said a man who answered the door at the home of Dailide's son, Al. He declined to comment further.

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