German Holocaust film ‘Phoenix’ examines life after death camps

The phoenix is a mythical firebird that lives for centuries, dies in flames and then rises from its ashes to start life anew.

Phoenix is the name of a nightclub in 1945 Berlin, a city consumed by Allied bombs and Russian canons, trying to rise again after Germany’s crushing defeat in World War II.

And “Phoenix” is the title of a haunting German film, which, like its mythical namesake, can be accepted only on its own terms after a determined suspension of disbelief.

The film opens with American soldiers of the occupation force stopping a car. In the passenger seat sits a woman, her face completely covered by bandages, except for two eye slits.

She is Nelly, a German Jew and former nightclub singer, who has survived Auschwitz but has paid with a disfigured face, scarred by a bullet.

At the hospital, doctors offer to reconstruct her face in the image of anyone she wants, even the Jewish beauty Hedy Lamarr, but Nelly insists she wants her old face back.

After the operation, with Nelly looking almost like her old self, her friend Lene urges her to start a new life in Palestine. Nelly refuses because the only hope that sustained her in the concentration camp — and drives her now — is her burning love for her “Aryan” husband, Johnny.

Her search for him leads through the rubble-strewn streets of Berlin to the Phoenix nightclub, where Johnny now works as a busboy. She calls out to him and though other people recognize the slightly altered Nelly, Johnny views her as a stranger.

Yet he detects some resemblance to his wife, who, he presumes, died in Auschwitz, and he recruits her in a plot he is hatching. It calls for reshaping the assumed refugee into his former wife so he can get his hands on the inheritance left to Nelly by relatives killed in the Holocaust.

Nelly plays along, hoping desperately that at some point Johnny will recognize her as his wife, and much of the rest of the film hangs on that supposed charade.

Is it really possible for a man, married to a woman for years, not to recognize her, even if she has the “deceased’s” handwriting and fits perfectly into her dress and shoes?

We put this question to Christian Petzold, the film’s director, who broke down his analysis into two points.

“There are strong indications that Johnny revealed his Jewish wife’s hiding place to the Nazis and he has now built a wall around his mind to deny this, even to himself,” said Petzold, one of his country’s leading directors.

There is yet another aspect. “I’ve talked to many survivors of the camps and when they came back, old neighbors didn’t recognize them and nobody asked what had happened to them,” Petzold said. “The survivors said they felt like invisible walking ghosts.”

Still, the plotline and Petzold’s explanations may seem far-fetched, but they gain credence through the exceptional performance of Nina Hoss, one of Germany’s finest dramatic actresses, as Nelly. She is ably complemented by Ronald Zehrfeld as Johnny and Nina Kunzendorf as Lene.

Running through the film like an elegy is the Kurt Weill-Ogden Nash torch song “Speak Low.”

Among the questions raised by “Phoenix” is why, 70 years after the end of World War II, producers and directors continue to make films on Holocaust themes, and why Petzold chose this particular storyline for his film.

“There are many Holocaust-themed movies but few of them are post-Auschwitz ‘homecoming’ stories,” Petzold said. He cited the German writer Alexander Kluge as observing that in Greek mythology, “It took Odysseus 10 years to reintegrate into society, because, after the battle for Troy, he couldn’t come straight home.”

Additionally, “home” no longer really existed for many Germans and almost all Jewish survivors after the war, Petzold noted.

The director, 54, was born well after the war. It took a new generation of Germans to face reality and, in the 1960s and ’70s, rise against their fathers and hold them accountable for the war and the Holocaust, he said.

In large part, the consciousness of the extent and guilt of the Holocaust came from the impact of documentaries by French-American director Marcel Ophuls (“The Sorrow and the Pity”) and the American TV miniseries “Holocaust,” Petzold noted.

“Phoenix” opens in theaters July 31.

Crowds gather for anti-Islam demonstration outside Phoenix mosque

More than 200 protesters, some armed, berated Islam and its Prophet Mohammed outside an Arizona mosque on Friday in a provocative protest that was denounced by counter-protesters shouting “Go home, Nazis,” weeks after an anti-Muslim event in Texas came under attack by two gunmen.

The anti-Muslim event outside the Islamic Community Center of Phoenix was organized by an Iraq war veteran who posted photos of himself online wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Fuck Islam” on it and waving the U.S. flag.

As the event got under way on Friday, demonstrators on both sides screamed obscenities at each other as police in riot gear swiftly separated the two groups, each with about 250 people, using police tape and barricades.

“This is in response to the recent attack in Texas,” organizer Jon Ritzheimer wrote on his Facebook page announcing the event at a mosque targeted in part because the two Texas gunmen had worshipped there.

More than 900 people responded on the event's Facebook page that they would take part in the demonstration, and by 6 p.m. local time (0100 GMT on Saturday) police were expanding their presence in anticipation of growing crowds. Officers with riot helmets and gas masks formed a cordon for several blocks.

Among the anti-Islam protesters, some of whom called Islam a “religion of murderers,” more than a dozen men in military clothing carried semi-automatic weapons. Others waved copies of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad drawn at the Texas event.

Depictions of Mohammad, which many Muslims view as blasphemous, have been a flashpoint for violence in Europe and the United States in recent months where those displaying or creating such images have been targeted by militants.

Meanwhile, anti-Muslim groups have been active in the United States, buying ads and staging demonstrations characterizing Islam as violent, often citing the murderous brutality of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.


The Phoenix mosque targeted on Friday has condemned such violence, and held a series of sermons at Friday prayers last year by an imam who criticized militant Islamist groups such as Islamic State, al Qaeda and Nigeria's Boko Haram.

The president of the center had urged worshippers not to engage with the demonstrators.

“We should remind ourselves that we do not match wrongness with wrongness, but with grace and mercy and goodness,” Usama Shami told worshippers during Friday prayers.

While some counter-protesters outside the mosque responded to the anti-Islam protest with obscenities, others followed his advice and chanted “Love your neighbor.”

In January, gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in anger at the magazine's cartoons featuring the Prophet, and a similar attack was foiled in Texas on May 3.

The pair of gunmen who opened fire near Dallas outside an exhibit of cartoons featuring Mohammad were shot dead by police without killing anyone. Leaders of the Phoenix Muslim community confirmed both gunmen had attended the Phoenix mosque targeted in Friday's demonstration.

Todd Green, a religion professor at Luther College in Iowa who studies Islamophobia, said that the brutal acts committed by Islamic State and other militant groups have colored many Americans' impressions of Muslims.

“Almost two-thirds of Americans don't know a Muslim,” Green said. “What they know is ISIS, al Qaeda, and Charlie Hebdo.”

U.S. officials are investigating claims that the Texas gunmen had ties to the Islamic State, but said they had not established a firm connection.


The Department of Homeland Security has been in touch with state and local law enforcement authorities, and was monitoring the situation in Phoenix, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“Even expressions that are offensive, that are distasteful, and intended to sow divisions in an otherwise tight-knit, diverse community like Phoenix, cannot be used as a justification to carry out an act of violence,” he told reporters.

Ritzheimer, the main organizer of the demonstration, said the point of the demonstration was “to expose the true colors of Islam.”

“True Islam is terrorism. Yes, the ones that are out committing these atrocities and stuff, they are following the book as it's written,” Ritzheimer told CNN.

Ritzheimer was a staff sergeant in the Marine Reserve and was deployed to Iraq twice, in 2005 and 2008, the Marine Corps said.

Anti-Islam activist Pamela Geller, who organized the Texas event, said she was not involved in the demonstration in Phoenix.

The mosque is a former church near the city's international airport that can hold some 600 worshippers. The Phoenix area is home to tens of thousands of Muslims.

The event is part of “an epidemic of anti-Islamic sentiment” that goes beyond protesting against extremism, said Imraan Siddiqi of the Arizona chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Don't mistake that, they're not saying they want to rid America of radical Islam, they are saying they want to rid America of Islam,” Siddiqi said.

When Holocaust truth is stranger than fiction, do we need fiction?

At the age of 5, Moshe Tirosh’s main concern was keeping his younger sister quiet as they lived in isolation at a subterranean hideout under the feet of Nazi troops stationed at the zoo of occupied Warsaw.

His extraordinary account of surviving the Holocaust came back to me on Sunday, along with other amazing accounts from that period as I exited a screening of “Phoenix,” a new German film about the postwar years.

Set in the bombed-out streets of West Berlin, “Phoenix” tells the astonishing story of a young Jewish singer attempting to reclaim her life and husband after suffering, in a concentration camp, a gunshot wound to the face that rendered her unrecognizable. After successful reconstructive surgery, she locates her non-Jewish husband — who may have betrayed her to the Nazis — and attempts to re-enter his life without revealing her true identity.

Unlike Tirosh’s story, the plot of “Phoenix,” directed and co-authored by Christian Petzold, is fictional. Ignoring the limitations of plastic surgery in general and in the 1940s especially, it compromises its credibility on this and a number of other points to discuss its main theme: the effects of emotional, physical and even social trauma on one’s identity.

The film, which is of course hardly the first fictional film to deal with the Holocaust, conducts that discussion in a subtle, comprehensive and engaging manner, largely thanks to what many film critics have praised as excellent acting by the lead actors: Nina Hoss, Nina Kunzendorf and Ronald Zehrfeld.

But walking out of the film Sunday, my mind wondered back to the story of Tirosh and other eyewitnesses to real-life events during the Holocaust.

People like Johan Van Hulst, the 104-year-old wartime savior of dozens of Jewish children who fixed me a cup of coffee at his Amsterdam home before recounting his actions in fine detail. And my own grandmother, who fell through the Nazi death machine’s cracks thanks to a series of incredible twists of fate.

As these witnesses quickly disappear from our lives, I wonder about the merit of a fictional film about the genocide — itself subject to revisionism — with a plot so extravagant that it rivals the works of Pedro Almodovar and his Spanish stream of fancy.

Obsessed with documenting the Holocaust through testimonies, the journalist in me has reservations about films like “Phoenix” or “Ida,” a Polish, Oscar-winning production, whose fictional plots are almost realistic enough to pass for plausible in the sea of unlikely but authentic survival and rescue stories.

But another part of me is prepared to see slippage in accuracy in Europe’s ongoing debate about the Holocaust, if it comes with the deep reflection and observations about European societies and their Jews demonstrated in films like “Phoenix” and “Ida.”

Jewish school in the desert closes

The only Jewish day school (K-5) between Los Angeles and Phoenix officially closed on June 30 due to lack of funds and an anticipated drop in enrollment for the upcoming school year. The last day of school was June 13.

The Jewish Community School of the Desert (JCSD), a nondenominational Jewish school located on the grounds of Temple Sinai in Palm Desert, needed to raise at least $150,000 to guarantee that it could stay open for the entire 2013-14 academic school year, said Sandy Banner, school board president. 

“This school has, for 21 years, been a jewel in the desert,” Banner said. “The children left this building with a sense of commitment to Judaic values as well as having academic secular skills.”

In May, The Jewish Federation of Palm Springs and Desert Area decided to cut its regular $175,000 annual grant to the school, and that proved too big a hit to the school’s budget — which was just under $500,000 for the entire year — for it to survive, according to Banner.

Federation’s CEO, Bruce Landgarten, declined to comment. An open letter sent by Federation to the local Jewish community on June 5 stated that “a lower-than-expected enrollment projection for the coming school year is compelling the school to close.” Earlier that day, JCSD’s board sent an e-mail stating that it voted to close the school.

Miri Ketayi, JCSD’s head of school, said that 41 students were enrolled in the school year that just ended. But only 25 students were signed up for next year, a significant drop, especially considering that most of those 25 students were slated to be on financial aid, according to Banner.

According to the school’s Web site (, 2012-13 tuition was $8,190 for full-day kindergarten and $9,437 for grades 1-5. Federation wrote in its letter that at the school’s anticipated 2013-14 enrollment, it would have had to subsidize each student to the tune of $3,725. 

“When numbers like that came to our attention,” the letter stated, “we found that not to be sustainable.”

Banner thinks that the school may have been able to enroll five to 10 additional students, but, she added, “I understand their concerns about declining enrollment and the expenditure of money for so few children.”

Banner said that one factor hurting enrollment numbers is that local public schools will be offering full-day kindergarten in the fall, which was a draw for some JCSD families.

Founded in 1993, JCSD has been for two decades the only Jewish day school in a region that Federation estimates is home to about 20,000 Jews. Laura Friedman of Indian Wells, Calif., a mother of two JCSD graduates and one current student, said she will have to send her youngest son, who is entering third grade, to public school following JCSD’s closure. The Jewish education and the small class sizes will be missed, she said.

“He was getting a Jewish education,” Friedman said. “By being in a Jewish school, he will identify much more strongly with his religion, heritage and traditions.”

Dana Brown of Indio, Calif., is a parent of two daughters who have attended JCSD, including one, Sophie, who just graduated from fifth grade. She said that she was “shocked” when she heard about JCSD’s closure. Sophie added that at this year’s graduation, some of the students were crying because of the school’s closure. 

Brown’s other daughter, Halle, also attended JCSD. She just graduated from Palm Desert Charter Middle School, where Sophie will be in the fall. Halle said that had she not attended a Jewish day school she might not have wanted to have a bat mitzvah. Not attending JCSD, she said, “would have impacted me as a person and as a Jew.”

“I wouldn’t have been as proud of my Jewishness as I am now.”

Even though Jews in the desert likely won’t have a day school for the upcoming school year, Banner said the JCSD board will not dissolve the entity, leaving open the possibility that JCSD will one day reorganize and reopen. For that to happen, though, enrollment would have to increase.

Ketayi, the school’s principal, hopes that the desert Jewish community will find a way to re-establish a day school that, like JCSD, will emphasize Jewish identity and connection to Israel.

“Hopefully one day something will reopen here,” Ketayi said. “There is a need in this community.”

Case of murder-suicide of Jewish Phoenix family develops

While it has not been officially determined as such, police are convinced the case of James Butwin and his family was a carefully planned murder-suicide, the Tucson Citizen reported.

A charred SUV was discovered 35 miles in the desert outside of Phoenix, said to contain the bodies of James Butwin, his wife Yafit Butwin and children Malissa, 16; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 7. Evidence uncovered in the investigation showed that the Butwins were in divorce proceedings, and James Butwin was battling a brain tumor.

The family were active members of the Jewish community in Tempe, Arizona. “He was totally soft-spoken and a devout Jew. He was very peaceful like that, very even-keeled,” said Steffani Meyers, a lawyer who handled Butwin’s business deals from 2001 until 2007 according to theTuczon Citizen. “He was like, ‘Oh, it will work itself out.’ I never saw a flash of anger from him.”

Phoenix-area Jews shocked, grieving over apparent murder-suicide

The Phoenix-area Jewish community is grieving after hearing of the suspected murder-suicide of a local Jewish family that was active in Jewish life.

Evidence suggests that James Butwin, a resident of the Phoenix suburb of Tempe, Ariz., burned himself and his family to death in the family’s SUV on Saturday—though according to The Associated Press, police have not confirmed Butwin as a suspect. Police found a charred SUV in the desert 35 miles south of Phoenix still smoking from the fire but still have not confirmed the bodies as those of the Butwins. They say, however, that the family’s SUV matches the burned one.

Butwin, 47, was a board member of Temple Emanuel, a Reform congregation in Tempe, and his children—Malissa, 16; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 7—had attended the local JCC summer camp. Butwin’s wife, Yafit, 40, also was an active community member.

Butwin and his wife were going through divorce proceedings but still lived together with their children.

Sal Caputo, a board colleague at Temple Emanuel, described Butwin as “mild mannered, well spoken, pretty focused and funny. He had a dry sense of humor.”

“He seemed like a fine dad,” Caputo added. “He didn’t snap or anything like that. He was just very active in our synagogue and the synagogue board.”

Emanuel held a memorial service for the family on Wednesday night. The local Jewish Family & Children’s Service dispatched a crisis response team to the synagogue and the JCC, providing counseling for the community and children at the camp. Psychologists, therapists and other professionals with counseling experience comprised the volunteer team.

“A lot of questions come up, especially from children,” said Dvora Entin, the crisis response team leader. “Everyone has a different pattern of grief. We will be providing continuous support for the parents, as well as for the staff of the synagogue.”

The AP reported that early last week, James Butwin sent his business partner detailed instructions on how to run the business without him. AP also reported that the James and Yafit Butwin were fighting in court over their assets, which caused tension. Neighbors of the Butwins also said that James had a brain tumor, according to reports.

Susan Gordon, Temple Emanuel’s immediate past president, said that even with its problems, the family was still involved in the synagogue.

“They were very active members of our congregation for many years and loved by all of us,” Gordon said. “For our congregation this is really a tragic loss and we’re going through a lot of grief.”

Phoenix Rises – Milken JCC Readies for Big Splash

The New JCC at Milken in West Hills, which was damaged but not destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, has survived another peril and is looking toward a brighter future and a recovery of lost members.

Negotiators for the Jewish Community Center at the Bernard Milken Community Campus and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles confirmed Monday that they had reached full agreement, following nearly two years of frequently tense discussions.

The agreement’s key provision calls for a cost-sharing arrangement in the future operation of the four-acre Milken campus, which, besides the JCC and its recreational facilities, also houses offices of The Federation and its agencies.

Starting in 2010, the JCC will pay a rising percentage of the Milken campus budget, hitherto borne entirely by The Federation, leveling off at 65 percent by 2013. Projections for the total annual budget range from “well over $1 million” to $1.6 million.

Steve Rheuban, chairman of the Milken JCC board, and Richard Sandler, The Federation vice chairman, both declared the agreement a win-win solution.

The Federation, which owns the campus property, will be relieved of much of its financial burden.

The Milken JCC, in turn, is assured of its continuing tenancy as the “primary occupant” of the campus, as long as it pays its share of the cost, and can plan for the future on that basis.

Perhaps no one welcomes the resolution with greater joy than the young campers and the mature seniors who have been deprived of the JCC’s Olympic-sized swimming pool, shut down two years ago during an impasse between the two sides.

Following reconstruction of some of the facilities, the pool is scheduled to open in the early summer, said Paul Frishman, the JCC executive director.

When that happy day arrives, it will also reverse the precipitous decline in JCC membership, Rheuban hopes.

With the closing of the pool and uncertainty about JCC’s future, membership dropped from a peak of 1,500 to a current figure of 350, he said. In parallel, nursery school enrollment dropped from 125 to 70.

The roots of the Milken JCC go back to the West Valley JCC, which was founded in 1969 and bought the Milken campus, then a horse ranch, in 1976.

Subsequently, the site was deeded to The Jewish Federation, which put up $15 million to build up the campus, completed in 1987, and came up with additional funds to restore the buildings after the 1994 earthquake.

At one point, the protracted negotiations seemed near a breakdown, when the JCC was facing a $250,000 deficit but rejected a one-time bailout offer of $350,000 from The Federation.

Both JCC leaders and members balked at a condition of the bailout that they would have to surrender JCC’s right to remain as the major tenant of the campus.

But on Monday, both sides were eager to forget the past and look ahead to happier days.

“This outcome is a triumph for the community as a whole,” Rheuban said. “Both sides treated each other with respect, and I am pleased that we were able to get together.”

Sandler observed that “During some of the negotiations, you could hear horror stories from both sides, but that’s in the past. Now everyone wins and the best interests of the community are served.”

Frishman is busy planning for the future. He is aiming for an eventual membership of 2,000, including 100 nursery school kids in the fall.

With the pool in shape and new equipment for the fitness center, he anticipates an enrollment of some 200-300 kindergarten to eighth graders for the 10-week summer camp.

A major attraction for the summer camp will be the swimming school, conducted by Olympic gold medalist Lenny Krayzelberg.

Some 150-200 seniors, whom Frishman refers to as “active adults,” visit the JCC daily and consider it a second home. Frishman hopes to expand their activities, which include trips, musicals, discussion groups and card playing.

He envisions an upswing in the participation of young couples, as well, with the parents dropping off their toddlers at the nursery school and then heading for a workout at the fitness center.

Frishman also plans a further outreach, to involve the Russian and Israeli communities in JCC’s activities.

Abramoff receives new four-year sentence, Phoenix community leader murdered

Abramoff Receives New Four-Year Sentence

Jewish lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison. Abramoff had pleaded guilty to corruption and tax offenses related to influence peddling involving Republican congressmen and midlevel Bush administration officials, some of whom were convicted.

The prosecution noted Abramoff’s cooperation in helping to build cases against some 10 other officials in recommending that he be given a reduced term, largely to motivate others to cooperate with investigators.

However, on Sept. 4, Judge Ellen Huvelle of the U.S. District Court in Washington sentenced Abramoff to nine months more than the 39-month term suggested by prosecutors, citing the erosion of the public’s trust in government that Abramoff’s activities generated.

Wearing a yarmulke, Abramoff offered a wrenching apology to the court, saying, “I have fallen into an abyss,” according to the reports. “My name is the butt of a joke.” Abramoff currently is serving a two-year prison term in an unrelated fraud case.

Prominent Jewish Activist in Phoenix Slain

A prominent Jewish activist in Phoenix, Irving Shuman, 84, was murdered at his office on Sept. 2.

Shuman’s body was found Tuesday evening at his real estate office after he failed to show up for a dinner appointment, according to the Arizona Republic. His car was also stolen.

Shuman, who was active in Jewish organizations and pro-Israel lobbies, had received several honors, including the Tree of Life award by the Jewish National Fund in Arizona and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix’s Medal of Honor.

“Irv Shuman was a man of exceptional values,” said Rabbi Ariel Shoshan, who studied with Shuman and other Phoenix executives on Thursdays, according to the Republic. “He lived for causes like the well-being of Israel and the furtherance of Jewish education and was an active supporter of over 100 charities.”

Shuman’s gold Lexus was recovered in San Bernardino this week.

Suspect Indicted in Murder of JDL’s Krugel

Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”

Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.

“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix, Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.

Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other. “My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”

At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.

Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.

He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.

Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.

A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.

His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets. Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.

His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.

Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.

Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.

“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”

The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”

Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.

“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”