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Archive/File: people/b/brentar.jerome brentar.005
Last-Modified: 1995/02/24

Source: American Israelite
January 9, 1986

Demjanjuk Case Evokes Anti-Semitism


The case of accused Nazi war criminal John (Ivan) Demjanjuk of
Cleveland, who allegedly operated the gas chambers at the Treblinka
death camp and was known as Ivan the Terrible, doesn't seem to be of
great national significance when looked at in isolation.

Yet, when seen in a larger context, the support given to Demjanjuk by
elements of the East European emigre community of Cleveland mimics an
overall national effort by several well organized East European emigre
groups to discredit and ultimately abolish the Justice Department's
Office of Special Investigations.  The OSl's sole purpose is to
locate, prosecute and deport suspected Nazis who illegally entered the
United States after World War 2.  

The Demjanjuk case is a good example of this anti-OSI effort in
action.  The theme of KGB fabricated evidence, which is used in other
cases nationally, is utilized by Demjanjuk's lawyers and supporters
who make the claim that the main piece of evidence, an SS l.D.  card
bearing Demjanjuk s photograph and obtained in the Soviet Union, is
forged by the KGB and therefore should not be accepted as evidence by
the Court.

Despite this claim, It has long been recognized that since the Nazi
death camps were mostly located on territory now behind the Iron
Curtaln, evidence from these areas, especially documents left behind
by the Nazis and captured by Allied Forces, including those of the
Soviet Union, is of obvious importance.  Accordingly, such evidence
was used in the Nuremburg Trials of 1946-49 and has been similarly
employed by Western courts in Nazi cases ever since.

Consequently, based on these precedents, as well as the inability of
Demjanjuk to prove his assertion, all the courts which have heard his
case have rejected his clalm of KGB forged evidence.


Furthermore, and more troubling, is the anti-Semitism which has crept
into the anti-OSI propaganda peddled by these East European emigre
groups.  For example, in the case of Kari Linnas, who faces
deportation for conceallng his role as a supervisor at a concentration
camp in Tartu, Estonia, from 1941-43, one of his supporters from the
New York Estonian community wrote a letter to Secretary of State
George Shultz.

The letter, signed by Dr.  Edward Rubel, charged that the Jewish
Zionist pressure group In Washington speaks through the OSI for the
U.S.  government, that Stalinist Russia during Worid War 2 was
"exclusively ruled by Marxist Zionist Jews as the ruling class."
(Examples from other cases too numerous to list here are avallable at
the ADL office in Columbus).

The Demjanjuk case has also not been without its share of anti-Semitic
innuendos on the part of his supporters.  One major backer, Cleveland
businessman Jerome Brentar, has been described by Demjanjuk's attorney
Mark O'Connor as "the key figure in this case", and credits Brentar
with doing much of the legwork and gathering of information for
Demjanjuk's defense (Cleveland Plain Deaier, May 1, 1985).

Brentar, a Croatian-American, is indeed most interested in this.
case.  He has traveled numerous times to Europe searching for evidence
and witnesses on behalf of Demjanjuk, and he even went to Israel once.
Yet, his deeply held belief that Demjanjuk is innocent is only matched
by his anti-Semitism.  

On May 1, 1985, Brentar appeared as a guest on the John McCulloch Show
at WJW in Cleveland.  In this program Brentar said that Demjamjuk is a
parallel case to the case of Christ on Good Friday." When McCulloch
asked if he meant the Jews wanted Demjanjuk as they supposedly wanted
Christ, Brentar responded by saying: "Who else?  Who else?...  here
was this poor, innocent man (Demjanjuk) standing there like Christ
before Pilate, and they (the Jews) had the witnesses who were not
telling the truth, just like the case of Christ, and yelling: Let his
blood be upon us and our children to atone for their sins."

Later in the program Brentar supported President Reagan's visit to the
Bitburg cemetery with a whitewash of the SS.  He said, "there were the
fighting SS and there was the security SS, they were just like our
Green Berets." He diminished the uniqueness of Jewish suffering during
the Holocaust, and thereby of Nazi anti-Semitism, when he said, "There
was a Holocaust, but not only a Jewish holocaust, but a holocaust
including the Germans, the Croatians.  the Poles, the Ukrainians...
We cannot say only this group, everybody suffered." 

As the show continued, Brentar continued to distort history and came
dangerously close to Holocaust denial theory.  He called every Jewish
Holocaust survivor "a collaborator because they cooperated with the
Germans for the price to remain alive."

And when McCulloch challenged him on this thesis Brentar completely
showed his colors when he referred to the gassing of Jews as "alleged
gassings." When asked if Brentar thought of himself as an anti-Semite,
he p[atronizingly replied, "No.  Absolutely not.  Look, I'm a
Catholic, I pray to a Jew every day, and to his Jew [sic] mother and
to the Jewish faith..."

Another Demjanjuk supporter is the rabidly anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby
organization, founded by Willis Carto, which has been running an
ongoing series of articles on this case in its publication The
Spotlight.

(In the mid-1970's Carto took his anti-Semitism to new heights when he
organized the Institute for Historical Review which has been one of
the main driving forces in the attempt to deny the veracity of the
Holocaust, claiming it is a Jewish fabrication designed to make
non-Jews feel guilty and support the State of Israel.)

Indeed, some of Spotlight's articles on the OSI have been quoted by a
Cleveland-based Lithuanian-language weekly called Dirva ("The Field").
Furthermore, a reference to The Spotlight appears in the Hanuary,
1985, issue of the American Latvian Association's Latvian News Digest,
which cited Spotlight as a source of information on the "shameful
affairs of the OSI."

Since its founding in 1979 the Office of Special Investigations has
conducted its nationwide search for Nazi war criminals, who illegally
entered the U.S.  after the war, with great dedication and
professionalism.  That many, if not most, of these Nazi suspects are
of Eastern European origin is only logical since Nazi-occupied Eastern
Europe was the scene of most of the atrocities committed against the
Jews during the war, and thousands of Eastern Europeans actively
collaborated with the Nazis.

Allan A.  Ryan, Jr., the former head of the OSI, estimates that there
are currently 10,000 of these collaborators who managed to slip into
the United States by concealing their past.  To date, only a handful
have been found and successfully prosecuted.

Despite the proven Nazi pasts of those who have been prosecuted some
emigre groups view any prosecution of one of their own as something to
be resisted, almost as if the indictment of one individual is a
"j'accuse" against the whole community.  Demjanjuk is only one such
example.

We should be concerned by these troubling developments.  Justice
demands that those who participated in the "Final Solution" program to
destroy Jewry should be found, prosecuted and punished to the full
extent of the law.  Fortunately the OSI has had the full support of
both the Carter and Reagan administrations, full congressional
support, and the support of most Americans.

The United States stands as a haven for the persecuted from around the
world and millions have poured into this country escaping tyranny and
oppression.  Among those millions are several thousand persecutors and
tormentors who do not deserve our hospitality and protection.  For
everything that America stands for the OSI must be allowed to complete
its mission.

[Yitzhak Santis is community consultant, Anti-Defamation League of
B'Nai B'Rith, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana regional office.]





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