The US Office of Special Investigations (OSI), under the direction of
Neal Sher, suppressed or destroyed evidence that was exculpatory of John
Demjanjuk, who was accused of being Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. Below
you will find the article published in the
Forward, as well as a 1998 commentary by Myron
Kuropas of the Ukrainian
Weekly, who was already then calling for Sher's disbarment for his
reckless conduct in the Demjanjuk case.
Also several reactions from E-Poshta subscribers and other articles related to this whole fiasco.
Restitution leader disbarred by
court after investigation of job misconduct
September 5, 2003
"The former top American professional of an international Holocaust restitution commission has been disbarred. The move comes one year after the official, Neal Sher, former chief of staff in the Washington office of the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, was investigated by the commission for allegedly misappropriating funds for personal use. The investigation was launched after Sher admitted "unauthorized reimbursements of his ICHEIC travel expenses," according to sources and an internal document written by the commission's chairman, former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. On August 28, 2003, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals ordered Sher "disbarred by consent effective forthwith" from the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. The order does not specify the reasons for his disbarment, but Sher signed an affidavit consenting to it. A consent affidavit is submitted when an attorney is the subject of an "investigation or a pending proceeding based on allegations of misconduct," according to a rule of the D.C. bar association that was cited in the court order ...
As director of the Office of Special Investigations of the United States Department of Justice, Sher handled the denaturalization and deportation of dozens of onetime Nazi war criminals. He headed an investigation into the Nazi past of Austrian president Kurt Waldheim and is credited for Waldheim's placement on the watch list of persons ineligible to enter the United States. In 1994 Sher became the top executive of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which he led for two years. Steinberg praised Sher's work at the Justice Department: "Neal Sher has literally, not figuratively, laid down his life for the Jewish people on many occasions. I know of several death threats against him when he was hunting Nazi war criminals." But Sher's work at the commission was not as widely admired. Both during and after his tenure, the commission came under attack from some survivor groups and congressmen for spending more money on administrative expenses than on payouts to survivors."
Should Neal Sher be disbarred?
Now that Judge Paul R. Matia of the U.S. District Court of Ohio, Eastern Division, has restored John Demjanjuk's citizenship and corroborated an earlier court ruling that "the OSI attorneys acted with reckless disregard for their duty to the court and their discovery obligations," the question arises: should Neal Sher be disbarred?
In his ruling, Judge Matia also reiterated the words of the Sixth Circuit Court that "the attitude of the OSI attorneys toward disclosing information to Demjanjuk's counsel was not consistent with the government's obligation to work for justice rather than for a result that favors its attorney's preconceived ideas of what the outcome of legal proceedings should be."
Even the identification process against Mr. Demjanjuk was confirmed by Judge Matia to be "tainted by the fraudulent acts of the government." Most damaging to Mr. Sher and his cohorts is additional evidence of the "government's failure to disclose potentially important evidence directly related to the Trawniki charge."
"Jacob Reimer," Judge Matia writes, "is an ethnic German who served as clerical official at the Trawniki labor camp during the period defendant is alleged to have served their as a guard. Reimer had subsequently been admitted to the United States and was still living here during the defendant's denaturalization proceedings. He was interviewed by the lead OSI denaturalization lawyers in February of 1980. There is apparently no record of what was said during the interview, the only contemporaneous documentation of that meeting being a memo dated April 11, 1980, from OSI attorney Norman A. Moscowitz to Allan A. Ryan Jr. stating '[Reimer] had no useful information.' Neither the occurrence of this interview nor the existence of the memo concerning it were revealed to defendant before his 1981 trial."
"What is the significance of the notation that Reimer 'had no useful information?'" Judge Matia asks. "Was he shown the Trawniki card and could not identify it? Had he never seen one like it? Was it different in appearance or content from cards he was familiar with?"
"Even if Reimer had never been shown the card, he was still described by the government itself as someone who 'may turn out to be an important witness,' was 'a potential source of information about Trawniki generally,' and 'was a clerical official' who many have been 'able to assist in the authentication of Trawniki documents ... Can anyone seriously doubt that Reimer was a potential witness whose existence should have been disclosed to Demjanjuk? If indeed Reimer, for one reason or another 'had no useful information,' shouldn't Demjanjuk's attorneys have had the right to make that determination themselves?" he continued.
Judge Matia also noted the decision of the OSI to provide the so-called Dorofeev Protocols to the defense only after the denaturalization case was over, stating that they represented "further incriminatory information and support for the government's case." As described by the Sixth Circuit Court the protocols included "statements of five Soviets who served at the Trawniki, Poland, training camp for guards. Only one individual recalled the name Demjanjuk and although he identified two of Demjanjuk's photos in a three-photograph photo spread, he qualified his identification by stating that his recollection of Demjanjuk was poor."
Reflecting on this information, Judge Matia concluded: "Although the Dorofeev evidence was considered by Judge Battisti and found by him not to be of such a nature as to alter the outcome of the case, this court believes that the evidence may very well take on added significance in the light of what has transpired since Chief Judge Battisti's ruling. Certainly the evidence has both inculpatory and exculpatory elements, but this court does not understand how a responsible government attorney would not instantly recognize that Demjanjuk's attorneys should have been immediately apprised of evidence demonstrating that four of these five Trawniki witnesses were unable to identify Demjanjuk and that the fifth was very tentative."
According to a biographical sketch supplied by the Washington law firm Schmeltzer, Aptaker & Shepard where he is a law partner, Mr. Sher joined the OSI as a senior trial attorney in 1979, when the office was created, and became deputy director in 1980, "overseeing all aspects of the investigations and prosecutions." He was OSI director from 1983 through 1994.
Among "noteworthy accomplishments" Mr. Sher's bio lists: "taking the first depositions in the then Soviet Union, a landmark step which paved the way for critical evidence gathering in the USSR." And we all know that in the case of Bohdan Koziy, who Mr. Sher alleges killed a 4-year-old Jewish girl, the KGB coerced evidence. As reported in The Ukrainian Weekly, "65-year old Hanna Snegur, a Polish Catholic pensioner, admitted that she was forced to testify during an interrogation by the KGB that in 1943 she saw Mr. Koziy, then a militiaman in German-occupied Lysets, Ukraine, carrying off the little Jewish girl."
Is there anyone out there who still believes that Mr. Sher was not consciously and deliberately involved in the fraud perpetrated upon U.S. courts? Can any sane and unbiased person accept the notion that despite high-level positions in the OSI for a period of 15 years, Mr. Sher knew nothing of the "refiling" of exculpatory evidence in dumpsters in Washington, or the faked Tawniki ID card, or the fraudulent manner by which witnesses were asked to identify photos of Mr. Demjanjuk? Is it possible that Mr. Sher was totally unaware of OSI efforts to deceive, fabricate and conceal evidence once it became clear that the OSI didn't have a case against Mr. Demjanjuk?
What does it take to disbar a U.S. government official, a ranking member of the Justice Department, sworn to uphold the law? When are fraud and reckless disregard for the truth enough? When are preconceived notions of guilt based on ethnic background sufficient to disqualify one from representing a governmental agency ostensibly dedicated to justice? When will Jewish leaders finally condemn behavior that trivializes the Holocaust?
Mr. Sher's bio-sketch lists a total of 20 awards and commendations. Eighteen of these awards have been from Jewish American or Israeli organizations.
Is Mr. Demjanjuk home free? Don't bet on it. That old Ukrainophobe Eli Rosenbaum, Neal Sher's successor as OSI head, has informed the media that his staff is considering reopening the Demjanjuk case, at American taxpayers' expense, of course.
From: James Mace: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am royally pleased to see Neal Sher get his just deserts. I remember the late 1980s when staff director of the US Commission on the Ukraine Famine getting calls from members of Congress curious about the Demjanjuk case to explain what the OSI was all about. All I could do was to explain why I thought it was bad public policy to set up a special office to try to find people allegedly guilty of one thing and only have to prove in a civil case that they were probably guilty of something else like lying about their place of birth to avoid forced repatriation.
Then, "What's the politics?" I would be asked.
"On this one, for the Jewish community it's a sacred cow, and they can roll the Ukrainians, Balts, and they'll target you if you step on their collective toes. Let your conscience be your guide," was all I could reply.
Demjanjuk proved his innocence against all odds (God bless the intrepid lawyers who prevented a gross miscarriage of justice), returned to Cleveland, and I advise all readers to let justice take its course on this one. Stay out of it.
But still, I am not surprised that such an inherently flawed project would produce such inherently flawed characters as Mr. Sher seems to have turned out to be.
An old friend, Dr. Yuri Boshyk who was then based at the U. of Toronto, once told me of being visited by an OSI investigator, who seriously asked, "And what role did the Ukrainians play in the Reichkommissariat Ukraine?"
After getting over his urge to split his sides in laughter, he replied with absolute accuracy, "Untermenschen."
From: Paulette MacQuarrie: email@example.com
Through an assistant, [former secretary of state Lawrence] Eagleburger said, Sher "did a bad thing, but didn't deserve to have his whole life destroyed."
What about the innocent senior citizens and their families whose lives Sher destroyed with his misconduct and sheer malice? Merely being disbarred is not enough for someone of Sher's ilk; he deserves far worse. However, it's hard to say which is more reprehensible; Sher and his misconduct, or the highly placed government officials who so slavishly excuse it.
No wonder the governments "emerging democracies" of the FSU are so corrupt .... look at their models.
Other articles of interest: