Prosecution of an elderly man accused of killing his wife, a Holocaust survivor, becomes complicated when it is learned that he may have been a Jew who worked with the Nazis in Poland during World War II.


(as Ed Sherin)


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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Elizabeth Olivet (credit only)
David Steinmetz
Reizl Bozyk ...
Mrs. Liebmann
Mr. Green
Mara Feder
Danny Maseng ...
Rabbi Dworkin


Briscoe and Logan investigate the death of an elderly holocaust survivor who apparently took her own life using her husband's prescription medication. The woman was ill and dying and it seems legit. Until they hear that she had recently become very concerned about news reports of a Nazi enforcer who was convicted in Europe of war crimes in absentia. The police quickly learn that she had become convinced that her husband is that man. ADA Stone charges the husband, David Steinmetz, with her murder but realizes that proving him to be the man convicted of war crimes will be a major challenge. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

3 February 1993 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Based on the John Demjanjuk (a.k.a. "Ivan the Terrible") case. John Demjanjuk (born Ivan Mykolaiovych Demianiuk; was a retired Ukrainian-American auto worker, a former soldier in the Soviet Red Army, and a POW during the Second World War. John Demjanjuk was accused being Ivan the Terrible, the nickname given to a notorious guard Ivan Marchenko, at the Treblinka extermination camp during the Holocaust. The moniker alluded to Ivan IV, also known as Ivan the Terrible, the infamous Tsar of Russia. Iin 2011 he was accused of war crimes as a different guard named Ivan Demjanjuk who served at the Sobibor extermination camp. Already in 1944 a cruel guard named "Ivan", sharing the distinct duties and the extremely violent behavior with a guard named "Nicholas", is mentioned in survivor literature (Rok w Treblince by Jankiel Wiernik, translated into English as A Year in Treblinka in 1945); however, very little is known about Ivan Marchenko. See more »


David Steinmetz: Heinrich, an SS officer, came into our house with cake, we barely had bread. He said if I could talk the neighbors into cooperating, we would be spared. I was 19, if I hadn't done it, someone else would've. Anybody who wasn't there can never understand.
Executive A.D.A. Ben Stone: Your wife was there, Mr. Steinmetz, she understood very well what you did. That's why you killed her.
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Featured in Law & Order: The First 3 Years (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

Polka around the point.
29 December 2010 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This is as good as any of the early episodes. It follows the template faithfully: the detectives pin down the perp, then legal complications arise, and the prosecution usually wins, but not always. But I'm beginning to notice, running these episodes seriatim, that while the stories may be "ripped from the headlines" and may raise questions of current concern, they rather easily slide into the usual Manichean image of just plain good versus an only slightly mitigated evil.

In this case, Brisco and Logan find an old lady dead on the floor of her apartment. She'd been suffering from MS and evidently had overdosed on CNS depressants. In the middle of their nosing around the flat, her elderly husband, Nehemiah Persoff, stumbles in and confesses to aiding in her suicide by helping her take the pills. Then, unable to watch her die, he went out and walked around the neighborhood.

So far, so clear. Loving husband helps dying wife end her misery. Both are holocaust survivors. Ben Stone is sympathetic but decides reluctantly to prosecute because, after all, you can't have people assisting the suicide of others. But the detectives find the body has a recently broken nose and, in the closet, there's a pillow with a corresponding blotch of the old lady's blood. It becomes clear that Persoff "helped" his wife die in a more active fashion than he has revealed.

And here's where it turns formulaic. Persoff may be a holocaust survivor, but he was a Jew who worked more than enthusiastically for the Nazis. He was given to sadism, beating others to death in the camps, whether needed or not. He and his wife had been arguing fiercely lately, the neighbors testify, and she had been threatening to expose his identity as a camp guard.

A couple of implausibilities here. Knowing who and what Persoff was, his wife had still lived with him for more than forty years? But the main point is that there is no longer a moral conundrum about assisted suicide in a case of terminal illness. It's a case of good versus evil, just as in any muscle man action movie, only without the wisecracks. Any ambiguity is eliminated. Persoff deserves what he gets. He's a mass murderer who killed his wife to shut her up. And what began as an adult treatment of a modern social concern has devolved into a familiar pattern.

This happens frequently in "Law and Order." There are simulations of all sorts of controversial cases from history, but in the end they're often simplified into the kind of contest we see here.

Not to denigrate the series. Sometimes the moral equipoise isn't so easily resolved, and sometimes the prosecution loses -- and in any case the story is always believably done.

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