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William Wolf   Ukrainian Weekly   10-Jul-1988   Death, death, death!
Additional information concerning Attorney William Wolf, author of the article below, can be found in another Ukrainian Weekly article of 23-Oct-1988 (This is the road I wish to travel) written by William Wolf, and in a Ukrainian Weekly article of 11-Dec-1988 (Wolf says Glazar mum) written about William Wolf.

Also of interest is a telephone conversation with Treblinka survivor Richard Glazar of Berne, Switzerland that Mr. Wolf tape-recorded, a transcript of which is available on the Ukrainian Archive.


External link to Ukrainian Weekly web site

Demjanjuk did not get a fair trial in Israel

by William Wolf

William Wolf

As a lawyer, a Jew, and a human rights activist who has a deep and abiding love for Israel, I no longer can remain silent about the John Demjanjuk trial.  Is it possible that reason and justice have given way to blind prejudice and lust for revenge, in the one nation where such actions should be unthinkable?  Is it possible that the nightmare of every civilized society the execution of an innocent man will become reality in Israel?

The courtroom chants of "death, death, death" at the Demjanjuk sentencing so alien to the Jewish spirit and tradition symbolized the problem.  Where there should have been scrupulous observation of due process, the decade-long U.S. and Israeli proceedings against Demjanjuk were shockingly deficient.

Although the proceedings to deport a suspected war criminal from the United States are the equivalent of a criminal judgment of guilt as a Nazi (and a sentence of death, if deportation is to the Soviet Union), none of the standard criminal procedural safeguards are afforded a defendant such as Demjanjuk.  There is no jury trial.  There is no absolute right against self-incrimination; no presumption of innocence; no requirement of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt"; and no right to appointed counsel.

In addition, the U.S. Justice Department withheld from the defense the exonerating evidence that over 50 Treblinka survivors who knew "Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka" failed to identify John Demjanjuk as Ivan.  One such Treblinka survivor spent 11 months in the camp, and reported knowing "Ivan the Terrible" "very well" and seeing him "every day."

This and other evidence of Demjanjuk's innocence were withheld by the U.S. Justice Department from Demjanjuk and the Israeli authorities, virtually ruling out the possibility of an adequate defense.  The evidence was disclosed on February 3, 1988, after a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Demjanjuk family.  Tragically, the forced disclosure of the exculpatory evidence came too late, after the trial in Israel had concluded.

The sole tangible evidence introduced by the prosecution at trial was the Trawniki ID card.  Incredibly, full access to this critical piece of evidence was denied the Demjanjuk defense.  The defense document examiners, suspecting Soviet writing on the back of the photograph because Soviet archival ink appeared in two staple holes through the photograph, were not permitted to remove the photograph from the card to examine the reverse side.  Such writing would have exposed the document as a forgery rather than one captured intact from the Germans.  The Soviet authorities had instructed the Israelis not to allow the photograph to be removed from the card for such an examination and the Israeli court complied.

There are more discrepancies: the card states that the person identified thereon is four inches shorter than John Demjanjuk; the alleged signature of John Demjanjuk was an obvious forgery, not authenticated even by the prosecution; and the outlines of an ink seal, partly on the photo and partly on the card, do not match.  Can anybody who knows these facts really believe that John Demjanjuk, who at this moment faces a death sentence, was afforded due process?

But why would the Soviets want to frame John Demjanjuk, an obscure Ukrainian-born American citizen leading a non-descript life in blue-collar America?  Because he and other refugees who fled the Soviet Union after World War II are the last survivors of the crucible of Soviet terror.  Their children and grandchildren are vicarious witnesses to Soviet crimes against humanity.  The Soviets know that if the large and vocal Ukrainian communities in the U.S. can be stigmatized, discredited and drained of their financial resources through continuous litigation, their voice in revealing the past and cautioning future generations can be diminished.

Undeniably, Israel has the duty to constantly renew the world's consciousness of the Holocaust, in which innocent people perished simply because of their religion, race or nationality.  Nevertheless, the ultimate desecration of the memories of millions of innocent Holocaust victims, Jews and non-Jews, would be to take the life of an innocent man.

The acquittal of John Demjanjuk, amply justified by the evidence, would have brought world admiration upon the Israeli justice system.  Instead, the Israeli justice system is the subject of worldwide controversy and criticism.  If any person is to be executed, in Israel or anywhere else, his guilt must have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, through procedures which afforded him an adequate defense.  Tragically, if John Demjanjuk is executed, this will not have occurred, and Israeli justice will be the last victim of "Ivan the Terrible."



The commentary above appeared in the June 21 issue of the Phoenix Gazette.  (Copyright 1988 Phoenix Newspapers Inc.  Reprinted with permission of the Phoenix Gazette.  Permission does not imply endorsement by the Phoenix Gazette.)

William Wolf is a Phoenix attorney, former fellow with the Robert F. Kennedy Foundation of Washington, member of the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, chairman of the Lawyers' Committee of the Arizona Action for Soviet Jewry, and a board member of Hillel at Arizona State University.



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