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

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

William Wolf

William Wolf: speaking out about the Demjanjuk case

by Roma Hadzewycz

JERSEY CITY, N.J. "I have to speak out."  Simply put, this is how a Jewish American attorney from Phoenix, Ariz., explains his motivation for attempting to tell the public about what he perceives as a grave injustice: the conviction of John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian formerly of the Cleveland area, for Nazi war crimes committed by "Ivan the Terrible" of the Treblinka death camp.

In letters to the editor sent to newspapers across the United States including many serving the Jewish community William J. Wolf stated:

I am an American Jew and a trial lawyer who has been active in the cause of Soviet Jewry and human rights for a number of years.  I have examined the history of the trial of John Demjanjuk, both in the United States and in Israel, and feel compelled to speak out for Mr. Demjanjuk and his family to ensure that a terrible injustice is not perpetrated against them in Israel.

In brief, I find the proceedings which led to Mr. Demjanjuk's conviction and death sentence (handed down in April) to be shockingly deficient, in a manner that may cost an innocent man his life.


Mr. Wolf has stated his case also in commentaries published in the Phoenix Gazette and in interviews with Jewish community publications.  He has appeared at rallies supporting the John Demjanjuk Defense Fund and has worked on finding new evidence for the defense.

In fact, it was Mr. Wolf who, while interviewing Treblinka survivors listed as not being able to identify the defendant, came across one Richard Glazar of Switzerland.  In a tape recorded conversation with Mr. Wolf, Mr. Glazar said:

I promised to the general attorney who investigated me, the Israeli attorney, not to talk to anybody as long as the trial is not closed.


The tape recording has been submitted to the Israeli court hearing Mr. Demjanjuk's appeal as evidence of what the defense says is tampering with a witness and obstructing justice.

Mr. Wolf has also traveled to Israel twice in an effort to present the defense side of the Demjanjuk case and to point out the reasons he believes Mr. Demjanjuk did not get a fair trail.  As well, Mr. Wolf told The Weekly in a telephone interview, he wanted to meet Mr. Demjanjuk, since he had written and spoken on his behalf.

During his first visit to Israel on July 4 through 16, Mr. Wolf said he tried to make two things clear to the Israeli news media:

1. Mr. Demjanjuk did not receive a fair trial in the United States or Israel; 2. he is not guilty of what he is accused of.


During that trip he spoke with reporters from 10 or 11 papers, but only three eventually ran interviews, Mr. Wolf noted.

In the July 12 issue of Al-Hamishmar, a Hebrew-language newspaper, Mr. Wolf was quoted as saying:

As a lawyer, a Jew and a human rights activist who has a deep love for Israel, I can no longer remain silent.  Is it possible that the nightmare of every civilized society the execution of an innocent man will become reality in Israel?


The article also covered what Mr. Wolf said were two important deficiencies in the prosecution of Mr. Demjanjuk.  Reporter Hanna Ish-Horowitz wrote:

First deficiency: the court's refusal to remove the Demjanjuk photograph from the Trawniki card to examine its reverse side.  Second deficiency: The American authorities withheld from the defense the evidence that Treblinka survivors failed to identify Demjanjuk as "Ivan the Terrible."


Another Hebrew-language newspaper, Davar, on July 15 published a story about Mr. Wolf's crusade on behalf of Mr. Demjanjuk.

"'It will be a tragedy,' says Mr. Wolf looking at me with his gloomy black eyes.  'I'm afraid Israel is going to execute an innocent man,'" wrote Israel Landers.

The article went on to state that Mr. Wolf, "a lawyer, an American Jew from Phoenix, Ariz., came to Israel for a short visit in order to meet the media and convince the public that Demjanjuk is likely to be a sacrifice to judicial inequity."

"Mr. William Wolf," the article continued, "expresses his deep and abiding love for Israel.  He says his actions for Demjanjuk are virtually for the benefit of Israel, so that justice is not distorted."

However, the story concluded with the following:

Media publicity is not going to convince the court, so what's the purpose of Mr. Wolf's journey?

Mr. William Wolf, the lawyer, has many copies of articles published in American newspapers, which claim that Demjanjuk did not get a fair trial and his guilt was not proved "beyond a reasonable doubt."

These are some of the preliminary pressures that will be activated on Israel in the future.

The independent Israeli courts are not influenced by such pressures.  But, perhaps, the Demjanjuk family is intending to prepare the grounds to ask for amnesty if the Supreme Court upholds the verdict.


The third newspaper that featured an interview with Mr. Wolf was Tsomet-Hashera.  Writing in the July 22 issue, Mike Karnon noted:

The court has already decided that Mr. John Demjanjuk is Ivan the Terrible from Treblinka.  His lawyers are preparing the appeal.

But, in Phoenix, Ariz., there is a Jewish lawyer who's convinced without any doubt, that if Demjanjuk is executed as the court in Jerusalem decided, it will be a terrible injustice and cause serious harm to Israel.


The article said that Mr. Wolf's purpose in Israel "is to arouse public opinion against the verdict."

It quoted Mr. Wolf as saying,

I find it very difficult to express my opinion, publicly, because of the point of view of the Jewish community to which I belong.  Since I started dealing with the Demjanjuk case I've made some enemies.  But as a Jew who loves Israel deeply and also respects the law, I see it as my duty to speak up and warn against any inequity done to this man.  I have no doubt that John Demjanjuk is not Ivan the Terrible from Treblinka not morally and, surely, not legally.  This man was found guilty because he was denied a full defense by the court, as well as some other elementary rights given to any petty criminal.


After his first trip to Israel, Mr. Wolf told The Weekly there was "negative reaction" from the Jewish community.

The Greater Phoenix Jewish News wrote:

Phoenix attorney William J. Wolf has stirred an international controversy over his contention that John Demjanjuk, convicted Nazi war criminal, did not receive a fair trial.


Mr. Wolf's commentaries on the deficiencies in the Demjanjuk trial "have Wolf at odds with OSI (Office of Special Investigations), as well as the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and others," the Jewish News wrote on August 5.

Mr. Wolf told reporter Dawn Abbey,

Jews, of all people, should understand someone wanting to stand up for something he believes.  ...  I'm subjecting myself to all this aggravation and gaining nothing.  I've become a pariah.

Other than my family, my next concern is the Jewish community.  I love Israel and I don't want Israel to execute an innocent man.  In my heart I believe they have the wrong guy.


In contrast, Mr. Wolf's second trip to Israel, on October 5-14, during which he again spoke to the news media and, finally, had the opportunity to meet with Mr. Demjanjuk, resulted in a very different reaction.  "Virtually all reaction from the Jewish community has been positive," he said.

And, Mr. Wolf observed, "the defense is now building momentum."

"Everything that comes out (in the news media), emphasizes that John Demjanjuk was treated unfairly," he added.

So, is Mr. Wolf optimistic about Mr. Demjanjuk's appeal?

"I'm cautiously optimistic about the outcome," he said, even though "it will be an uphill struggle."  In the U.S. less than 10 percent of appeals are successful, he pointed out, quickly adding that he does not know the figure for appeals in Israel.

Nonetheless, Mr. Wolf has pledged to continue speaking out for the Demjanjuk defense.  He explained that Mr. Demjanjuk made a very favorable impression on him during their two meetings in October, and this, he asserted "has reaffirmed my desire to help a man unjustly convicted."


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