Los Angeles police are investigating a bombing early Wednesday at the Northridge home of a retired high school teacher who has argued that the Nazis did not kill millions of Jews during World War II.
The blast destroyed the double front doors to the home of George Ashley, 57, who said he received phone calls from people identifying themselves as members of the Jewish Defense League and claiming responsibility for the bombing. The letters "JDL" were spray-painted in dark blue on the walkway leading to the doors.
But JDL leader Irv Rubin accused Ashley and the Los Angeles Police Department of planting the bomb as part of a "broad conspiracy" to paint the JDL as a violent organization.
"We certainly didn't bomb Ashley's home," Rubin said. "But it's too bad that Mr. Ashley wasn't blown up. We consider him a hard-core Nazi."
Damage Limited to Door Area
Detective Michael Strong of the Police Department's criminal conspiracy section said that police had found evidence of an "improvised explosive device" at Ashley's home. There were no injuries and damage was limited to the door area, he said.
"We don't know who did it at this point. We're working on it," Strong said.
Strong said police investigating the bombing found no evidence of a JDL link aside from the lettering on the walkway. Strong said that Ashley in the past has turned over to police telephone message-machine recordings of threats Ashley said came from the JDL.
Ashley alleged that the bombing was part of an effort to pressure him to testify in a well-publicized lawsuit filed by in 1981 by a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp against the Institute for Historical Review, a Torrance-based group that claims the Holocaust never happened. Ashley is a member of the organization's board of directors.
Ashley said that, although he is not a defendant in the Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed by Melvin Mermelstein of Long Beach, Mermelstein's attorney wanted him to give a deposition in the case.
'Trying to Subpoena Me'
"Those guys are trying to drag me down there to testify, so they are trying to subpoena me this way," Ashley said, pointing to splintered wood and broken glass that littered the entrance to his home.
"They want to depose me because they want to harass me."
Ashley said he was asleep in a bedroom over the front door of his house when the bomb exploded about 2:30 a.m.
Mermelstein's lawyer, Michael Maroko, said he had tried to subpoena Ashley to appear at a deposition, but that seven attempts to serve the subpoena at Ashley's home had been unsuccessful. Maroko said the deposition, originally scheduled for Wednesday, had been rescheduled for June 7.
Rubin, who describes himself as national chairman of the JDL, said that, although the organization is not involved in Mermelstein's suit, "We support it 100%." Rubin said he lives in the San Fernando Valley, but would not say where.
Rubin alleged that Wednesday's bombing was an attempt by Ashley and police to discredit the JDL because of another lawsuit.
A Superior Court judge in Santa Monica is scheduled to hear a motion today by the City of Los Angeles to dismiss a suit filed by the JDL last year against the city, Police Chief Daryl F. Gates and Larry Winston, who is identified in the suit as a member of the Police Department. According to Roger Diamond, an attorney for Rubin, the suit contends that the police used Winston between 1979 and 1984 to infiltrate the JDL and provoke it to acts of violence.
The suit alleges that Winston used the alias of Joel Kohen while in the JDL and tried unsuccessfully to convince the group to blow up an office on Wilshire Boulevard used in Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign in March, 1984. As part of its argument in the case, the city has neither admitted nor denied the existence of a Larry Winston or the incidents Rubin describes, according to Deputy City Atty. Linda Lefkowitz.
"It's clear that this bombing of Ashley's home is an attempt by the city to kill our lawsuit by showing us in an unfavorable light," Rubin said.
In the Mermelstein suit, the concentration camp survivor is asking for $17 million in damages from the Institute for Historical Review. The suit alleges that members of the institute inflicted emotional distress on Mermelstein by sending him a letter in November, 1980, challenging him to prove that Jews were gassed to death at Auschwitz. The institute offered him a $50,000 reward if he could do so.
Mermelstein responded to the challenge with affidavits from himself and other concentration camp survivors and said he was prepared to testify orally to an impartial tribunal. The institute refused to convene such a tribunal, Mermelstein's attorney said.
Maroko said that Mermelstein, who recounted his experiences in a book called, "By Bread Alone," watched the Nazis take his mother and sister away to the gas chambers.
On Wednesday, Ashley called Mermelstein a "Holocaust maniac" and asked, "If he's a death camp survivor, how could it have been a death camp?"
Maroko said he will continue trying to subpoena Ashley.
Ashley, a former history teacher at North Hollywood High School, said he has been home every night recently and that no effort was made to subpoena him.