Lawyer compares Nazi death camp doctor, mutilation case
Detroit – A lawyer compared parents charged in the nation’s first female genital mutilation case to Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele.
The comparison outraged attorneys involved in the landmark case, saying the Nazi reference is bigoted, inaccurate and amounts to Holocaust denial.
Mengele was an infamous Nazi doctor at the Auschwitz death camp who carried out horrific medical experiments on prisoners. He was never captured and died in 1979.
“By comparing what Mengele did to a controversial religious practice, no matter what you think of it, is basically denying the Holocaust,” famed constitutional law scholar and attorney Alan Dershowitz told The Detroit News in an interview.
Dershowitz is working as a consultant for an international religious organization that oversees a small sect of Shia Muslim mosques, including one in Farmington Hills embroiled in the mutilation case.
“This trivializes the Holocaust and supports Holocaust deniers,” he said.
The comparison was made last month in an Oakland County Circuit Court filing by lawyer Karen Gullberg Cook. She was appointed to represent the daughter of Dr. Fakhruddin and Dr. Farida Attar, the Farmington Hills couple accused of conspiring to mutilate the genitals of prepubescent girls.
Gullberg Cook made the comparison while arguing the Attars should not be allowed to live with their daughter. Michigan Child Protective Services officials are trying to terminate the Attars’ parental rights.
“What the parents allegedly did...is reminiscent of Josef Mengele the doctor of death, in Hitler’s regime,” Gullberg Cook wrote in a June 18 court filing.
“When discovered, civilized people were horrified as are civilized people today who cringe when discovering what is involved in female genital mutilation,” she wrote. “Whether perpetrated by a Nazi or a member of a Muslim sect, a religious practice that condones the serious physical abuse of a child by mutilating her genitals is unacceptable in the United States of America (or) in any country.”
Defense lawyers involved in the case have said girls did not undergo female genital mutilation. The girls underwent a benign religious procedure, the lawyers said.
Fakhruddin Attar’s lawyer, Mary Chartier, criticized the Nazi reference.
“The inflammatory comment demonstrates a lack of understanding of the facts of this case and an appalling lack of historical knowledge,” Chartier wrote in an email to The News. “For any attorney to make such a comparison in this case shows a prejudice that has no place in our courts.”
Farida Attar’s lawyer, Matt Newburg, plans to take his complaint about the Mengele reference to Oakland County Circuit Judge Victoria Valentine, who is handling the Attars’ parental rights case.
“I’ve been doing criminal defense work for a majority of my legal career and this is, by far, the most offensive comment placed in any pleading I have ever seen,” Newburg said.
Gullberg Cook should be fired and no longer receive court appointments, Dershowitz said.
“It’s outrageous and demeaning to victims of the Holocaust,” Dershowitz said. “I lost family in the death camps. I lost family to people like Mengele and how dare a lawyer make that analogy. She should visit Auschwitz and see what happened there and then let her make that comparison.”
Gullberg Cook defended the Mengele reference.
“Mr. Dershowitz needs to butt out. I really don’t give a darn what he thinks,” she said. “If they’re feeling guilty that they’re representing people that maim little girls for life, that’s their issue, not mine. Religion does not give you a license to abuse or maim children.
“I am not a Holocaust denier,” Gullberg Cook added. “I have grandchildren who are part Jewish. (Dershowitz) can go to hell.”
The Mengele reference is unbelievable, said Birmingham defense attorney Mayer Morganroth, who is working with Dershowitz.
“Somebody could make a mistake and say something off the cuff, but this was in a brief, which is prepared and then edited and then filed in the court. I don’t know how anybody could make that kind of comparison,” said Morganroth, whose father-in-law survived the Nazi death camps. “The whole thing is inappropriate.”
The Attars and four others are indicted in an alleged genital mutilation conspiracy.
An indictment last month widened the nation’s first female genital mutilation, alleging six girls – including four from Michigan – underwent a medical procedure practiced by members of a small Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra.
The Associated Press contributed.