William J. Wolf
This is the road I wish to travel
Additional information concerning Attorney William Wolf, author of the article below, can be found in another Ukrainian Weekly article of 10-Jul-1988 (Death, death, death!) 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.
Phoenix attorney William Wolf speaks about Demjanjuk case
Following is the text of remarks by Phoenix, Ariz., attorney William J. Wolf at a fund-raising meeting for the John Demjanjuk Defense Fund held in Chicago on September 16.
I would like to thank the John Demjanjuk family and all of you for the opportunity to be here. I appreciate the fact that you have put aside your other activities and involvements to devote an evening to the Demjanjuk defense.
I think it appropriate for me to give you a little background on myself. I grew up here in Chicago, graduating from Von Steuben High School in 1963. I attended the University of Illinois school and later Arizona State University, where I received my law degree in 1971. After I graduated from law school, I received a Robert F. Kennedy Fellowship to work with the Guadalupe Organization, a self-help community organization to protect the educational rights of Hispanic children within the public school system. After the fellowship was completed I was employed by the Maricopa County Legal Aid Society, providing legal services to the poor. Eventually, I opened up my own private law office specializing in criminal defense and personal injury cases. My law practice has been successful, but I derived more satisfaction from my activism. It has always seemed to me that there is more to life than professional advancement and financial success.
A major part of my life is my Jewish heritage. My first trip to Israel, in 1983, still has a profound effect on my thinking, and I am sure it will remain with me throughout the rest of my life. At the time, one of my younger brothers had emigrated to Israel, and I was going to visit him. I had changed airplanes in Rome and was heading over the Mediterranean toward the final destination of Tel Aviv. As I felt the plane start to descend toward my destination, I was surprised that my eyes started to fill with tears with the emotion of setting foot for the first time in Israel. Until then I had not realized how much Israel meant to me. Even more moving was
my visit to the Holocaust Memorial named Yad Vashem, and the "Avenue of the Righteous," honoring the
non-Jews who risked or gave up their own lives to save Jews during the second world war.
When I left Israel after that first trip in 1983, I flew to Germany, where I visited Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich. As difficult as it was to be at Yad Vashem in Israel, it was much more difficult to actually be at one of the sites of Nazi horrors against humanity. Most people were silent during the Holocaust. Many who were not silent were Ukrainians who risked their lives to save the lives of Jews from the Nazis.
When I returned to Phoenix from that first trip in 1983, I was not the same person. I enrolled in a Hebrew language course at Phoenix College and joined the local Soviet Jewry group in Phoenix. I also started to take some Jewish education classes and began reading on my own to better understand my culture and its philosophy. I decided that I would never again be counted among the silent.
In 1986, 1 was contacted by a Ukrainian attorney, Orest Jejna, and a non-Ukrainian attorney, Patience
Huntwork, regarding the American Bar Association's agreement with the Association of Soviet Lawyers, a
propaganda arm of the Soviet government. I agreed to join them in opposing the agreement. After two years, we were successful in causing the American Bar Association to terminate its formal relationship with the Association of Soviet Lawyers.
Through my work on the ABA-Soviet issue, I had the opportunity to meet and work with many Ukrainians
and Ukrainian organizations. I have nothing but praise for the Ukrainians with whom I have worked. I regard my contacts with the Ukrainian community as one of the high points of my life.
On June 5, 1987, I first had contact with the John Demjanjuk case. At a meeting in Tucson, Ariz., a representative of the American Bar Association publicly acknowledged that he had met with the president of the Soviet lawyers, Mr. Sukharev and the president of the Israeli Bar, Mr. Berger, to arrange for the transfer of the Trawniki identity card. The idea of the Association of Soviet Lawyers — which has been compared to Nazi propagandists — providing evidence for use in any court was unthinkable.
Gradually I learned more and more about this case. I met with documents examiner William Flynn on two occasions, once in Phoenix, where he resides, and once in Detroit, where I observed a presentation on his analysis of the alleged Trawniki identity card.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been an attorney for 17 years. It is my judgement that under no standard can the trials in the United States and in Israel be considered fair. The taking of a human life under such circumstances cannot be condoned by silence.
Of course, there is a tremendous difference between having an opinion and being willing to express that
opinion publicly. This is where my Jewish heritage comes in. Jewish thinking has evolved over some 4,000 years. This thinking tells me that I must speak out. Any Jew who tells me I should not, does not understand his Jewish heritage. We Jews believe that the Bible is the word of God, and that the Jews are the chosen people. But what does that mean? Does it mean that the Jews are better than anyone else? No, of course not. It means that God designated the Jews, chose the Jews for a mission which continues today and will continue into the future. So what is this mission of the Jews? The mission of the Jews is to espouse the belief in one God for all people and therefore, one standard of ethics, one standard of behavior for all people. There cannot be God without ethics and there cannot be ethics without God if we are to avoid evil.
We Jews are supposed to teach the world including through our behavior. Can there be a different standard of behavior toward Ukrainians than toward Jews? No, never. That is why I say that any Jew who objects to my speaking out on behalf of a Ukrainian does not understand his own heritage, and the mission of the Jewish people. Given the belief I have — that John Demjanjuk is innocent — my Jewish faith requires me to speak out.
Unfortunately, some Jewish organizations have been very critical of my activities. I have also been attacked in the press by OSI (Office of Special Investigations), Director Neal Sher. I am very pleased to report to you, however, that the vast majority from my Jewish community who have spoken to me have been very supportive of my stand, and have encouraged me to continue. One woman in particular made a comment that I wish to share with you. She told me how proud she was of my speaking out as I have. She said she wished that she and other Jewish people as well, would have the moral integrity to speak out against injustice, especially under difficult circumstances. Another Jewish man — a judge — said he was proud a Jew was speaking up for Demjanjuk. This comment and others have shown me that many Jews do in fact understand their heritage and the moral responsibilities inherent in that heritage.
I have had nothing but the most positive of impressions regarding all of the members of the John Demjanjuk family. There is no question they are loving, caring and extremely courageous people who have been caught up in a whirlpool not of their own making.
During my trip to Israel in June of this year I attempted to meet with John Demjanjuk, but was not successful. I hope to be successful next month when I return to Israel, as I continue speaking out about the injustice I believe has occurred in this matter.
During my June trip to Israel I met with as many newspapers as I had time to visit. I also appeared on the Voice of Israel radio. As I approached this task, I did not know what was in store for me, a Jewish American attorney traveling to the Jewish homeland to speak in favor of someone convicted of the most unspeakable crimes possible against the Jewish people and humanity. How would I be received? What might people do to me? These were the questions that raced through my mind. I am pleased to report that I was received with courtesy and attentiveness. The end result was three newspaper articles written about my trip and the views I was expressing as well as a broadcast interview on the Voice of Israel radio.
I have been accused of criticizing the State of Israel. How could I or anyone criticize collectively a nation of over 4 million people? I have criticized the three-judge panel for refusing to allow the defense document expert, William Flynn, to examine the underside of the photograph contained on the alleged Trawniki identity card, and for other rulings. As a lawyer, I see it as absolutely incredible that in a capital case a defense expert would not be allowed to do whatever testing he deems appropriate to test the authenticity of the evidence.
Jews and Ukrainians have many needs in common, which can best be addressed by working together. There is no reason why we cannot work together, except that the Soviets want to keep us apart. Some of us are also hampered by personal prejudices. We have to get to the point where each individual Jew and each individual Ukrainian is judged on what he or she individually has done. Until we reach that goal there will be no justice or progress in Jewish-Ukrainian relations, and only the Soviets will benefit.
It has not been easy for me to speak out and incur financial loss, personal loss and the wrath of organizations and individuals which I respect and with whom I wish to have good relations. But there is no question that I am doing what is right under Jewish law.
I have a philosophy about life which I would like to share with you at this time. I have heard it said that no one on his death bed ever wished that he had spent more time at work. When I near the end of my years on this planet, I want to be able to look back on a life that was worth living and which made a positive difference to the world, however slight.
I cannot and will not be silent when I see injustice. I wish to speak out with every fiber of my being. This is the road I wish to travel. This road is wide enough for everyone. I invite you to join me on this journey.
Thank you very much.