Pollard Makes Schindler's List

Adam Dickter - The Jewish Week - January 20, 1995

Jonathan Pollard's quest for freedom received a substantial credibility boost last week when Emilie Schindler entered the fray.

In a quarter-page ad in The Washington Post, Schindler, widow of German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who rescued 1,000 Jews from Nazi death camps, added her voice to those calling for commutation of Pollard's sentence for espionage to time served. Pollard, 40, has been in prison for 10 years.

In an open letter to President Bill Clinton, Schindler wrote that Pollard's "misguided deeds," providing classified American intelligence data to Israel, were "motivated by a fear for safety for the Jewish people in Israel." Evoking images of her husband's wartime experiences, made famous in the Oscar-winning film "Schindler's List", Schindler wrote that "I know from personal experience that often good decisions are the most difficult to make."

The ad, paid for by an anonymous donor, mentions the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center and Citizens for Justice for Pollard advocacy group run by his sister, Carol, in New Haven, Conn. According to Carol Pollard, the ad is the first in a series that will be appearing on the Washington Post Federal page with prominent personalities calling for Pollard's freedom.

Carol Pollard, who says she has never spoken to Emilie Schindler, said the letter was a "voice of conscience" that she hoped would influence her brother's parole hearing, scheduled for this year. "The Post's Federal page is read by everyone in Washington," she said. "When I looked at [Schindler's letter], I said 'Wow, this is great that she has taken a stand.'"

Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said Jonathan Pollard asked him during a recent visit to reach out to Schindler. After viewing "Schindler's List" in prison, Pollard said he considered Emilie Schindler an unsung hero whose role was not highlighted. "He wondered if she would be interested in getting involved," said Rabbi Cooper.

The Wiesenthal Center keeps in touch with Schindler and honored her at a recent dinner. When Schindler, who lives in Argentina, visited Florida in December, Cooper and some of his board members briefed her on the Pollard case and she agreed to write the letter.

Rabbi Cooper, who believes President Clinton will reverse his decision not to commute Pollard's sentence if American Jews "flex some muscle and bombard the White House with letters," said the Schindler letter, which he forwarded to Clinton, was an important contribution.

"Maybe it will help end some of his isolation," the rabbi said.