Chapter 7: The Trial
Wolf’s trial took place in the city of Kielce. The first hearing was scheduled for November 3, 1924, a very significant day in the history of Poland. It was on that day, six years earlier, that Poland was liberated from the oppression of the Russians and became a republic.
Beginning with his opening statements, the state attorney’s remarks were overtly anti-Semitic.
“Your honor,” he began. “Before us on trial stands a Jew, who many claim we discriminate against, who received a very prominent government job as the chief tax collector in Radom Kielce. What did he do in return? He betrayed his people and country and showed nothing but ingratitude and betrayal. He was the enemy from within.”
He then listed all the trumped-up charges against Wolf.
At the trial he was questioned about his sister-in-law, Emma, who had fled to Russia and joined the Bolsheviks. The testimony of Janusz was heard in its entirety. In it he described how Emma was helped to escape to Russia. He also testified that Roza had told him about Wolf’s brother who lived in Moscow who was a senior officer in the N.K.V.D and that Wolf had travelled several years ago to Moscow to visit him.
Although Wolf pleaded not guilty and that he was loyal to the homeland, it was to no avail. He tried to explain to the court that he had no control over Emma’s actions and that he had learned that she fled only after the fact, since he had severed ties with his brother years before. It all fell on deaf ears. The judge did not accept any of his arguments or explanations.
At the end of the trial Wolf was convicted and received a two-year prison sentence.
Nobody ever saw Janusz again. He disappeared never to be heard from again.
Wolf was imprisoned, fired from his job at the Ministry of Finance, and of course as the adviser to Count Sosnowski. His car was taken from him as well. He was permitted to receive visitors only once a month.
While Wolf was incarcerated, his brother-in-law Stanislaw wrote letters to members of the Polish parliament, outlining the facts of Wolf’s imprisonment and compared the trial to the “Dreyfus Trial,” that had taken place thirty years before. He listed all the false accusations and that it was all an act of revenge. He threatened to send letters to prominent institutions in other countries and place notices in the foreign press. The pressure and threats bore fruit. After serving one year of his sentence during which he rarely saw his wife and three children, a mistrial was declared and Wolf was granted a retrial.
The retrial was held behind closed doors with only the public defender present. He described the injustice that had been done to Wolf and the damage to his image. Wolf hardly spoke at the trial. He had become thin, pale, and walked with bent shoulders. He had lost all the self confidence which was so characteristic of him.
The retrial was attended by three judges, one of whom was a public figure. They acquitted him of all charges and ruled that he should be reinstated in his government job, given back his car and be paid compensation for his suffering.
When Wolf returned home, he was no longer the same Wolf who was a lawyer, bridge player, lover of the good life, fond of motorcycles and beautiful women. He was emotionally shattered and depressed and just sat at home and stared at the window for several days.
Lilly would go into his room, sit next to him and read him a story. He would hold her hand as tears streamed down his face.
Ida went to Warsaw with Izio and Davidek to spend some time with her sister. Roza assured her that she would look after Lilly and Wolf. Grandma Paulina also helped by cooking and cleaning and caring for her son’s needs.
One day Lolek Bitoft, the son of the pharmacists, appeared at the door. When Lilly opened the door and saw who was there, she froze and both were unable to pronounce any words.
Lolek recovered first, stretched his hand out and said, “Do you not remember me? I am Lolek.” Lilly remembered him quite vividly. How could she forget that good looking boy with the golden curls and blue eyes, and two rabbit teeth that adorned his beautiful smile.