A Good Son : In a Lonely Crusade Against World Opinion, Rad Artukovic Fights for a Father Accused of Directing the Holocaust in Croatia
A restless 3-year-old boy sat toward the back of a musty Los Angeles federal courtroom, alternately running a red toy fire truck across the seat and gnawing distractedly on the back of the wooden bench in front of him.
His mother’s friends had bought him the toy to keep him quiet and occupied in court. His two elder sisters had put on new dresses that day, matching ones, with red and blue and yellow designs that caught the boy’s eye. This was a big occasion: Their father had been arrested at his desk at his brother’s contracting company 10 days earlier, on a Yugoslavian government charge of murdering a Serbian archbishop nine years before, and the children had been allowed to come to court on their best behavior especially to see him.
The two girls would be teen-agers by the time, eight years later, a judge ruled that their father would not be extradited on murder charges. The boy would be a father himself by the time the case was revived, a quarter-century later, with different results.
But suddenly there were murmurs, and way up in front the little boy saw his father stride in and raise his handcuffed hands over his head, as his supporters, packed into the hot courtroom, roared their cheers.
The boy’s earliest memory has shaped the man’s life. Radoslav Artukovic, once that child with the fire engine, is 38 now and spends his adult energies fighting his father’s fires.
In fact, they are more than mere fires--they are international conflagrations. Radoslav’s father is Andrija Artukovic, now a sometimes befuddled, purblind man of 86, extradited to Yugoslavia in February, after nearly 40 years in Southern California, for trial as a war criminal--a former cabinet minister in a short-lived wartime Croatian government that executed tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies with a zeal matching that of its Nazi allies. In a Zagreb courthouse this month, in the heart of the Croatian homeland where Artukovic once held high rank, Radoslav watched once more, from a different court bench, as his father shuffled in from a hospital cell and slid into an armchair within a bulletproof cubicle much like the one built for Adolf Eichmann’s war-crimes trial in Israel a quarter-century ago. The world sees an aging ally of Adolf Hitler’s ghastly war machine; Radoslav sees the father who taught him to read by scratching letters in the beach sand on twilit evenings.
There would be no red fire truck this round, no cheering from the front of the courtroom. The Yugoslavs had anticipated this proceeding for a long time. It would take place under the eyes of five judges and 175 closely screened spectators--foreign reporters, World War II veterans, survivors of the Croatian concentration camps and, again, Radoslav Artukovic.
The sins of which a father stands accused have reached out across history to change the life of the son. The genial stockbroker who coaches a kids’ soccer team, drinks California jug wine and directs visitors to find his house by the baseball scuff marks on the garage door from his son’s pitching practice, is one thing more: the only son of a man labeled “the Butcher of the Balkans.”
“Of all the families to be born in,” he says disarmingly, “I sure got an interesting one.” To almost anyone else, it would seem a battle now over, time to absorb losses. Two governments--U.S. and Yugoslavian--and world opinion are against him. But with a stockbroker’s instinct for risk, he relishes a fight: “There’s no bigger challenge than this.”
With relentless vigor, he has captained and championed his father’s cause--a cause for which “unpopular” is a timid understatement--unabashedly using the force of his genuinely nice-guy personality, the “my God, what if that was me ?” factor, the American sense of fair play, as tools in his crusade. Conviction and second-generation immunity have made him bold: He hired an excellent extradition lawyer--a Jewish one--for his father’s latest defense; he has chatted aggressively with members of the militant Jewish Defense League; he once sat in a synagogue hall, taking notes as a speaker denounced his dad.
When he signed onto his father’s team 10 years ago, he had no real idea that he would find himself a part of the Old World way in the New World, the fervor of Croatian nationalism. For that is what the senior Artukovic represents to some Croatian expatriates: not the slaughterer of thousands, but the heroic survivor of the time when, briefly, they had a country of their own.
Already, though, Rad sometimes slips into the past tense when speaking of his father: “I’ve made my farewells to my dad as a person. . . . He now belongs to history. Maybe he always did.”
Rad Artukovic has been a Californian since he was 6 weeks old, with the casual manner and the T-shirt assortment to prove it. “Radoslav” was clipped to a California monosyllable, Rad, by his grammar school pals. In the 18 months since his father’s most recent arrest, the younger Artukovic has acquired another quintessentially American skill: public relations. “ KISS --keep it short and simple” is his media motto. Although in other conversations he may wander down tangential paths of Croatian history, telling of the national separatist movement that has sought independence for more than 1,000 years, he has become adept at the colorful, 20-second “bites” that TV and radio newscasters thrive on. After a hearing last year to determine whether his father was competent to stand trial in Yugoslavia, Rad declared to the microphones that his father was so senile that he would have answered yes “if they’d asked him if Chucko the Clown was his attorney.” With his American sporting philosophy that the best defense is a good offense, he has earned some listeners, if not converts. “I don’t feel we can hide in a cocoon and absorb a few hits. . . . We have an obligation to represent ourselves and what we have to say.”
Herb Brin, the man who probably loathes the senior Artukovic as much as anyone else in the world, has “a lot of respect” for the son, misguided though he says he finds him. Brin is founder and publisher of a chain of Jewish newspapers called Heritage and has dogged Andrija Artukovic in print since 1957. “I see he has an obligation to fight for his father--I don’t fault that, not in the slightest. I feel sorry for him; he has to live with a curse upon his family.”
On one point Brin and Rad Artukovic agree: that for Rad, there never was a choice. “I’ve toyed with the idea: What if I just walked away from it?” Rad says. “I’d have to desert my family; I’d be turning my back on basically everything I believe in, for personal selfishness.” And fairness? “Well, who knows? The way I look at it, it’s unfair that some kid gets born into a family of 12 in India and lives in a sewage pipe. It’s unfair for all those kids in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. There’s plenty of unfairness to go around.”
Rad has subscribed for years to Brin’s publication, if not to all of his ideas. He expresses distaste for anti-Semitism and keeps a cautious distance from Holocaust debunkers: “I’m not denying people died; I’m just saying my dad didn’t do it.” One of his maxims is, “We all suffered during the war, we all have pain.”
It was Rad who stepped to Brin’s support in a hostile confrontation in an L.A. courthouse hallway last year, where Artukovic supporters ranged along one side, opponents along the other. “They threatened me; I told Rad about that, and he called that un-Christian and denounced them right in front of me,” Brin says.
This has been a wearying battle on a lesser front--keeping his allies from besmirching his efforts with ugly exchanges that invariably wound up on the 6 o’clock news. Another time, outside the Los Angeles federal courthouse, as Rad began to speak, a JDL member yelled, “Death to Artukovic!” and, as the cameras swiveled, “Don’t interview that Nazi pig!”
An old Croatian woman, an Artukovic ally, shouted, “The Jews control everything--the banks, the newspapers, everything!” and the JDL member yelled back, “Artukovic, the Himmler of Croatia!”
Rad has not shrunk from publicity. “If I believe he’s innocent, why shouldn’t I say so?” he asks. He clips four daily newspapers and subscribes to a dozen liberal and Jewish magazines, sometimes under his wife’s maiden name. His files are full of letters written in a breezy, assertive tone that he knows will be eye-catching, like the one to an NBC news executive: “No doubt you think that I am a big pain, hassling you over a measly four minutes of broadcast. . . . The problem is that your four minutes was garbage.” Armed with sheafs of photocopied documents and faded depositions, he politely stormed the offices of editorial writers who called his father’s presence in the United States “an embarrassment” or worse.
He has honed his grievances to a careful 10-minute “spiel,” as he calls it, a dizzying quick-march through selective prosecution, “witch hunting,” Balkan history in general and his father’s in particular. “Quite frankly, he’s a better PR man for the family than any of the attorneys,” says lawyer Ronald H. Bonaparte, who is also a second-generation comer to the case; his aunt handled Artukovic’s deportation proceedings 35 years ago.
“The fact is, if I’m not willing to speak up for him, how can I expect anybody else to?” Rad says. “I’d much rather not be a public figure. Life would certainly be a lot easier if it wasn’t for this.”
Brin, too, has made sacrifices for what he believes in. He gave up a Los Angeles newspaper job from a sense of guilt more than 30 years ago to launch his own Jewish publications and to keep implacable watch on Artukovic. He has seen Rad grow up. “You can’t visit the sins of the father on the son, and he’s defending his father, and you’d expect him to. But he’s grasping at straws. It is a pathetic thing. I feel so sorry for him. . . . Rad somehow, if he weathers this well, will come through as a decent human being, one we can all be proud of for at least facing the issue. He’s defending a wrong cause, but he has to do that just because of the Fates.”
Rad arrived in Zagreb on April 15, with the visa for which he had to pledge silent good behavior, tantamount to a personal gag order for one so garrulously ardent.
Two days before he left, he had been at home--making plans for Yugoslav press conferences that now would not come off--his 5-year-old Mazda parked out front. Inside, “Dad’s case” was everywhere, like a rambunctious child. In the sunny family room filled with country-oak furniture, the wet bar was heaped with green plastic binders, files and newspapers. There were more files on the master bedroom shelves and in boxes under the dresser, with a catcher’s mitt thrown in on top. Beyond the hall, taped floor to ceiling with his children’s crayon drawings, cardboard boxes marked “active correspondence” stepped up one wall of the playroom.
His den--where he has practically replayed the Balkan part of World War II every night for months--was even worse, with a copying machine he bought two years ago, the hip-deep files, the cartons of documents, and in there somewhere, 200 rolls of microfilm from war archives, all to fight for the man one congressman said “any decent person” would want deported.
For these 18 months, Rad Artukovic has taken a chance, and put a human face--his own--on charges of inhuman crimes. In trying to unpeel the epithet “Nazi” from his father’s name, he has used his own version of the women’s movement technique--making the political personal. “How do I get it across? I don’t know. All I can say is, ‘Gee, I’m a decent guy and I spent a lot of time on this; there’s nobody more interested in whether my dad really was a war criminal or what kind of guy he is than I am.’ ”
His father has rarely spoken publicly since 1959. Rad’s mother, 20 years her husband’s junior, works at the same Long Beach hospital where Rad’s youngest sister was born. Rad’s four married sisters seldom enter the debate. It is their brother who still bears the family surname and, therefore, the burden of the image of inhuman cruelty that the Artukovic surname evokes in so many:
Photographer, adjusting his gear: “What I want is to get a picture of you as. . . . “
Artukovic, smiling wryly: " . . . As a human being?”
His immediate family’s active life has largely gone on without him. Since 1984, dinner has been a mutable feast, interrupted by phone calls--such as one from a Florida medical technician and war buff who has just found the German order of battle for Croatia in the Library of Congress. When one lawyer called with a question while Rad was engrossed in the movie “The Maltese Falcon,” he snapped with unwonted impatience, “How do I know? I was only 8 years old when that happened.”
At work--Post 12 of the new, serenely lighted Pacific Stock Exchange in downtown Los Angeles--his fellow brokers have labeled his appearance “the Clorox look,” a pasty, indoor pallor on a heavy-jowled face. They haven’t seen as much of him there lately, either. Although trips to Croatian neighborhoods in Cleveland, Toronto and elsewhere have raised “multiples of six figures” to pay for lawyers, phone bills of up to $800 a month and other expenses, his time away from work has cost him more than he wants to tally. His 10th wedding anniversary is three months off and such an accounting, he says with a stage flinch, “might get me divorced.”
These last few months, when he has flown to Europe four times in six weeks, hiring Yugoslavian attorneys for his father, providing them with some of the reams of documents he has accumulated, “have been harder than everything else put together.”
He tilted his head to look up at his wife, Donna, who was closing the curtains to the afternoon sun. “Honey, with the exception of me being gone and newspapers being everywhere, and all the phone calls, is your life pretty well the way it would be otherwise?”
Donna, a tennis-tanned blonde and a liberal, who met Rad at Cal State Long Beach (“I’m the only conservative she ever dated”), rumples his hair, and says, with a light sardonic note in her low voice, “Well, with the exception of the fact you’re never here, and when you are, you’re on the phone, sure. It’s like saying if you were blind but if you could see, would your life be the same otherwise?”
On this day, the last full day at home before the final courtroom session began, Rad made some amends. He could still see his son pitch an inning or two at a baseball game, with time left to pack: one suitcase for clothes, one suitcase for papers.
Rad reluctantly set down a stack of files before leaving for the ballgame. “I feel so guilty, and yet I feel guilty if I’m not doing enough for Dad. I kind of feel like my dad is my third child, and right now he’s the one who needs the attention.” But this Saturday, out on the gray bleachers of the Los Alamitos ballpark, Rad watched his son, in the Giants’ black-and-gold uniform No. 1, swat a ringing double to left. “Great hit!” he called. It was a far different outing from the January day when Rad took his son to Terminal Island federal prison to see his grandfather. Rad and Donna’s children (the parents requested that they not be named) know their grandfather as a pleasant old man who got arrested. In a simile that would infuriate Brin and the lawyers who obtained the extradition of the senior Artukovic, Rad says: “I tried to explain to them, (it is) like George Washington fighting the British . . . that Didi (grandfather) was fighting for his country, and when he was young, he was a neat guy who tried to help his people out. However, his enemies took over the country . . . and they’re trying to get even with him when he’s old and sick.”
Before Andrija Artukovic was arrested, few connected him with the young suburban family. “You don’t go around announcing it,” says Donna. “My first thought was that people would sort of . . . draw back. But the exact opposite happened. We had more people calling us . . . saying, ‘We’re sorry this is happening.’ ”
Neighbor Linda Taylor got to know the Artukovics at the local preschool. At first, nothing about the family seemed unusual to Taylor, but as the friendship grew, it became obvious that Rad was preoccupied. On a two-family ski weekend, for example, “there was Rad,” indoors, reading a Yugoslavian lawbook. Even when he came out to play in the snow, “his heart was not in it; obviously he wanted to be back and doing his research.”
“It’s tearing my heart out to see him going through this,” says Taylor. Her politics are “totally opposite” to Rad’s, and their political discussions are animated. If she had not known them personally, well, who could say? “I hear Rad’s side. . . . It’s so hard, the facts, 700,000 (dead). . . . I don’t know.” But “because I know Rad and Donna, we just support them, whatever the circumstances. I feel strongly about the Holocaust, (but) I just want to be there for them.”
After arriving in America in 1948, the family moved to Surfside, Calif., into a house then owned by Andrija’s brother, John. On its living room walls were paintings of Croatian cathedrals and the same red-and-white checkerboard Croatian coat of arms that in Rad’s living room hangs opposite more secular ornaments, Donna’s tennis trophies. In the dining room was a picture of Jesus, in front of which Rad and his sisters spent hours saying the rosary when they disobeyed or laughed too much at dinner. “Your priorities,” Rad says, echoing his father’s Croatian credo, “should be God, country and family.” They grew up in “a cultural isolation chamber.” The stock market, which now supplies his livelihood, was frowned on as gambling by his parents, who were upset when a relative gave young Rad some penny stocks.
It was a big event when he got to join the Cub Scouts, and when a Garden Grove family invited him over for tacos--his first Mexican food--"and to watch TV! We didn’t even have a TV, so anytime we visited somebody’s house we made a beeline for the TV.”
Inklings that his father was someone different came slowly. Insulated from the negatives, Rad saw the positives. One January day in 1959, the day his father’s extradition was halted for insufficient evidence, the principal at Blessed Sacrament School called him aside. “Rad, I have something to tell you--can you guess what it is?”
“My daddy won?” he guessed.
“You’re right,” the nun told him, and she went into class to tell the other kids, who applauded as Rad cried. That night, he got to stay up past his bedtime, posing for newspaper photos with his beaming father.
In the relaxed atmosphere of California, the Old Country ties loosened. He forgot much of his Croatian. After three years, he left the San Gabriel high school seminary his parents had sent him to. For a while, he dated a divorced woman, and once--only once--took her to a picnic, where an old Croatian woman came up to him and demanded, “Rad, Rad, why you date such trash?”
He flunked out of Loyola in 1967 because he spent too much time running campus campaigns for Republican candidates. He finally earned his bachelor’s degree, in economics, in night classes at Cal State Long Beach.
With one eye on the escalating war in Vietnam, he tried to enlist in the National Guard. “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, they wouldn’t touch me. I couldn’t join if I wanted. I got the message. I’ll be damned if a few years later I didn’t get ‘Greetings from Uncle Sam.’
“I remember as a little kid dreaming I was a big, rough, tough MP and I would go arrest sailors in Long Beach--you know, compensation? One day I wake up in Texas wearing a .45 on one hip and a billy club on one hip, and thinking, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ ”
The MP’s helmet still has pride of place in his jumbled study. His provost marshal investigator job taught him the doggedness that he now turns on stacks of aging documents. When his father’s lawyers won a recent lawsuit with help from something he had unearthed, he beamed. “I dug that sucker out, and we were able to use it!”
Over the years, as the Yugoslavian government was building its case against Andrija Artukovic, Rad has been building one for him.
Rad Artukovic became a U.S. citizen in 1971. He first visited Yugoslavia in 1973, and came home “a born-again Croatian.” That summer, decked out in white shorts, orange Hobie Cat T-shirt and a tennis cap with an American eagle on it, he had practically sauntered into the country at an obscure checkpoint. Despite his high-profile name, he was pegged as a tourist for miles around, he is sure, delighted even now at his James Bond deception.
The country Rad entered in burlesque tourist guise had healed from some of the religious and ethnic wounds that came during World War II, but the ancient memories were there. In the region where his father was born, word of who he was spread. “These old ladies in black, like from Zorba the Greek . . . would come up to me. . . . They would say in my ear, ‘Is he all right? . . . How is he doing?'--never say his name--and they would look around to make sure nobody was watching.”
At an inn where he stopped one night, he saw a bookcase with a small Croatian coat of arms. After a few halting Croatian pleasantries with the proprietress, he gave her his passport to register for the night. She opened it, looked at the name and began shaking. “I said, ‘Please, madam, don’t be frightened, that’s my father of whom you are thinking.’ ” They stayed up till 4 a.m., talking of the war.
He returned to the United States looking at his father through different eyes. He also returned to a December, 1973, article in Reader’s Digest that labeled his father and others “the most illegal of the illegals.” Rad’s first attempt at public relations--knocking on the door of Reader’s Digest--failed. “They wouldn’t talk to me.”
Neither, until then, would his father. “He’d kinda written me off; I’d kinda flunked out.”
Rad remembered seeing, as a child, an 82-page booklet sent out by the Yugoslavian government. There was a copy in the Surfside bungalow, and he would “sneak a look at it,” the way some children look at Playboy. “This Is Artukovic” was full of gory pictures of dismembered children and men with ax-cleaved skulls, and of a picture of his father in the uniform of the Nazi-allied Croatian government, delivering a stiff-arm salute. The point was obvious, even to a child not old enough to read. That was his father there. “The first time you see it, it’s scary.
“I always had a good feeling about my dad, but as an adult, I was confronted with truly disturbing questions,” he says. “Simply to believe in my dad wasn’t enough. These people would come up with seemingly pinpoint facts (about his father’s alleged guilt) that would indicate they knew what they were talking about.”
And so, he says, “when the stuff in Reader’s Digest came up,” he figured he had better find out what “all this” was about. “I started asking questions. He wasn’t very communicative. Finally he realized I was sincere.”
They sat down and talked. The story Artukovic unraveled over months to his son was of a patriot who had, since his youth, helped his fellow Croats and others, even at risk to himself; a popular lawyer who was naively drawn into a wartime government run by venal men and supported by Nazi bullies, a man who had a title but no power.
It is a portrait at considerable variance with the U.S. and Yugoslavian accounts of Artukovic as the bloodthirsty head of a vicious, elite police that roamed the countryside maiming and killing, a man who emulated his Nazi allies in setting up concentration camps.
“It may sound hokey or something,” Rad said of his father’s tale. “He would tell me stuff that I . . . kind of thought, ‘Well, I know he’s telling me that, but it just can’t be.” But after a decade of research, a houseful of documents and a head full of data, Artukovic believes “everything he told me was true. It definitely wasn’t like St. Paul being smitten from the horse; it just kind of gradually locked in.”
Why, then, do two governments and thousands of Jews and others believe him guilty? Rad sighs. “It’s so damned complicated. I want (people) to believe my dad is innocent, but I’m realistic.”
Still, “had it not been for this experience, which hasn’t been a real picnic, I wouldn’t know the truth of my dad. He would have died, and these things would have come up, and I wouldn’t know anything and maybe sometimes I’d wonder. I’m satisfied I have the answers, and my dad is a great figure. . . . I’m proud to be his son.”
After Sunday Mass, in the buff-drab church hall of St. Anthony’s Croatian Church on a hill above Chinatown in downtown Los Angeles, Rad stood on a steel folding chair--the microphone had broken down--and was speaking in Croatian, a language he learned, all but forgot and now has learned again.
He would be leaving the next day for Yugoslavia, and these people had stayed to hear his farewell. “I don’t want to see any sad faces,” he told them. “I want to see some optimism.”
Here, every morning for a week before the trial in Yugoslavia began, a priest said Mass for his father. And here--even if his father’s name may be an anathema elsewhere--here, Andrija Artukovic is a hero, a Croatian patriot and a man wronged. The George Washington parallel would be applauded here.
As Rad stepped off the chair, the expatriates at the long, laminated tables began to surround him, to touch his sleeve, to send a wish with him. An old woman in a pink sweater squeezed his cheeks tearfully. Twenty-five years ago, they had passed the hat for Andrija Artukovic in this same church and raised $3,500. Today, a man in a striped shirt pressed three $50 bills into Rad’s hand. Another waited at his elbow with a crumpled $20 bill. A woman in a tight pastel dress scribbled a check for $100: “My hundred, it isn’t going to help, but as a Croatian, it’s something.” A blond woman slips an arm through his. "(You’re) a doll. Good luck,” she crooned. “Say hello to Papa.”
Andrija Artukovic has enjoyed the support of the Catholic clergy. Years ago, priests had stood with him in the ranks of the extreme Croatian nationalist group, Ustasha. His friend, Cardinal Aloysius Stepinac, was convicted as a Ustasha collaborator after the war. Last year, Cardinal Timothy Manning sent a one-paragraph letter to Rad, “hoping that your cherished father will merit the indulgence of the court and be returned to the care of his family"--a letter that outraged Artukovic foes, forcing Manning to issue a clarification.
When Rad was a boy, being Croatian, to him, merely meant “neat picnics,” the suffocating hugs of myriad old ladies and the puzzling deference of his father’s friends; in this same church hall, the Artukovic kids always went to the front of the buffet line.
Now, it is time to return the favor, and even his father’s death, in bed or by firing squad, will not end that. He will light his own torch--as a “semi-pro Croatian"--once his father’s is extinguished. Again, he says fate leaves him no choice. “I can’t just say, ‘We went through this, now we go back and forget what happened.’ I’m someone who can speak in front of a camera, who doesn’t fumble or speak with a heavy accent, and they know their message gets across through me, so they see that which they believe in isn’t dying with them. How can you then just say, ‘Thanks for the money, I’m done with the old man and now I’m going to forget you all?’ ”
Artukovic’s attorneys would be content to have the old man acquitted; Rad wants to hew him an honored niche in history. It is an Augean chore, one a casual observer might think he is crazy to attempt. Says Brin of Rad’s efforts to change the course of the deep stream of current history: “He answers nothing; he has nothing to answer with.”
But Rad thinks otherwise. Maddened by Rad’s indefatigable buoyancy, a reporter once demanded, “You have an answer for everything, don’t you?” The unflappable Artukovic responded, “That’s because there is an answer for everything.” While his personable road show has apparently not changed many minds about his father’s past, there have been small victories.
An alleged crept into the “Nazi war criminal” phrase strung in front of his father’s name. He glowed at a Herald Examiner editorial headlined “Do Nazis Have Rights?” which warned that tossing out “legal niceties of due process for Nazis” is exactly what Adolf Hitler did to the Jews. A Canadian reporter sent Rad a note ending with a sentiment that seemed to discomfit the writer: “I don’t know whether it is appropriate to wish the family of an accused mass-murderer ‘good luck,’ but I fervently hope that your father finds true justice and fair play in his coming court battles, whatever that might entail.”
Brin has watched the process with bemusement: The old man gets hearings not afforded his alleged victims, the young man “has the media to plead his case to. Of course, it had to affect public opinion. Subconsciously you’re gonna feel sorry for a young man going from newspaper to newspaper, TV station to TV station, pleading for justice for an old man . . . calling for compassion for his elderly father, a man who had no compassion for anyone else.”
Rad is more than satisfied with his research. If it cannot be the stuff of a trial defense (and how much of it his father’s attorneys in Yugoslavia would be able to use is problematic), it will one day be the makings of a book to set his record straight. And if all his research had pointed to his father’s guilt? “I wouldn’t be talking to you today, my dear,” he laughed, then grew solemn. “This is the $64,000 question. If I thought he’d done this stuff, killed innocent people, would I be running around doing all this? I’ve sacrificed everything for this, and you don’t sacrifice everything to defend that which is not true. . . . I would still love my dad probably as my dad, but . . . if I thought he was guilty, I don’t think I should be doing this.”
Somewhere in Rad’s disordered study is a “someday” list of the things he’d like to do when this is over. No one could ever accuse Rad of setting his sights too low: Besides exonerating his father’s name, he would like to be able to play jazz piano like Red Garland. (“Well, OK, just play the piano.”) He would like to go to the Gilroy Garlic Festival. He would like to take a vacation without a briefcase. He would like to “barbecue a lamb and invite all my friends over.”
There are people who worry about what will happen to him when this frenzy ends. “He’s on a roll,” says his wife, and when the stimulating intellectual challenge of it is gone, she frets that the emotional letdown will take him unawares. At the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Abraham Cooper has thought about him, too: “Will he ever be in a position to look objectively at the charges, or at the larger legacy that was left behind by those individuals? That troubles me.”
To Rad, there are no questions he has not answered. His armor is without a chink. “Put yourself in my shoes. What would you do differently? I have nothing to regret. . . . Besides,” he says, with a flash of a smile, “the worst thing they can say about me is I’m a dummy who believes in his father.”