2007-04-11 15:30:12 UTC
The New York Times
Sept. 21, 1972
p. 1 col. 1
Professor Slain In Mugging Here
Witnesses See Three Youths Stab Dr. Friedmann Near the Columbia Campus
By Emanuel Perlmutter
Dr. Wolfgang G. Friedmann professor of international law and director
of international legal research at Columbia University, was robbed and
stabbed to death yesterday afternoon three blocks from the campus.
The police, responding to an anonymous phone call, found the body of
the 65-year-old scholar and refugee from Nazi, Germany in front of
Public School 36 on Amsterdam Avenue between 122d and 123d Streets.
His gray shirt and blue blazer sports jacket were bloody. His wallet
was missing, and his attaché case was lying at his side.
Witnesses told detectives they had seen three youths between 15 and 17
years old wrest a wallet from Dr. Friedmann's pocket. They said that;
his assailants had tried to seize his wristwatch and that the
professor had resisted. A struggle ensued in which he was stabbed near
the heart and then the youths fled, the witnesses said.
Mayor Lindsay issued a statement last night in which he expressed
outrage at the crime and announced that he had directed Police
Commissioner Patrick V. Murphy to start a round-the-clock hunt for the
Dr. Friedmann once before was attacked, but he was successful in
fighting off his assailants. In 1956. he was walking through Riverside
Park on his way home from classes when two youths attacked him. One
punched him in the eye, but the professor fought back, punching and
wrestling with1 the two youths and throwing one to the ground. Then
his: attackers fled.
Last night three youths picked up by the police at the scene of the
crime were taken to the West 126th Street police station for
questioning. The [*p. 39 col. 4] police would not sa whether the
youths were being questioned as witnesses or suspects.
Dr. Friedmann, who was born in Berlin on Jan. 25, 1907, was a Jew who
fled Germany after the Nazis came to power. In World War 1f he served
with the political intelligence department of the British Foreign
Office and with the Allied Military Government from 1944 to 1947.
He was the author of numerous works on international law, legal
aspects of foreign investment, world politics, social change and
finance. His home was in North Salem, N. Y.
Deputy Chief inspector Jules Sachson arrived at the scene at 5 P.M. to
take charge of the investigation. There was only one stab wound in the
body, which was taken to the Bellevue Hospitai morgue at 6:30 P.M. for
It was the second assault against a faculty member of Columbia in the
last two months. On July 25, Henry S. Coleman, dean of students at
Columbia College, was shot and seriously wounded in his office by a
former student who was seeking readmission following his dismissal for
bad grades. The student is still being sought.
Dr. William McGill, president of Columbia University, said: "I was
shocked and saddened by the death of Professor Friedmann. It produces
feelings beyond expression. He was not just an eminent scholar of
international law. He was my friend and colleague."
And Michael L Sovern dean of the Columbia Law School, said "I grieve
for him, for us,
and for a world that violently carries off its men of peace." He said
that the time and place for a memorial service to Dr. Friedmann would
be announced shortly.
David Kern, a Columbia stu- dent and a friend of one of Dr.
Friedrnann's four sons, recalled last night that the slain scholar
frequently spoke about the! days when he had been a judge in Germany
before the war.
On one occasion, according to Mr. Kern, Nazi storm troopers came into
Dr. Friedniann's court demanding sterner penal- ties for accused
criminals. The judge ordered them out of his courtroom, Mr. Kern said.
In a brief news conference held last night at the· scene, Detective
Capt. Martin Kost said that the police had con- ducted an intensive
search in the area but had found no weapon. He said that nobody had
gone to Dr. Friedmann's aid during the assault.
In his statement last night, the Mayor said that he had spoken to the
professor's widow, May, to convey his "deepest and most heartfelt
sympathy" to her and her four sons, Anthony, John, Peter and Martin
Friedmann. He said he had also expressed shock to Dr. McGill.
"I have assured Mrs. Friedmann and President McGill that no effort
will be spared to apprehend those responsible," Mr. Lindsay said.
"I call on all citizens who have any information pertaining to the
murder to help the police in this highest priority investigation.
Anyone with - information should call 663-9500 or 663-9501."
Dr. Friedmann obtained his law degree from the University of Berlin in
1930. He received graduate law degrees later from the University of
London and the University of Melbourne and was admitted as barrister-
at-law in Middle Temple, London.
In addition to Columbia, he had been on the law faculties of the
University of Toronto and the University of Melbourne. He delivered
the Carnegie Lectures at the Hague in 1959 and, was a visiting
professor at the University of Paris in 1969.
His best known books were "Law and a Changing Society," published in
1959 and "Changing Structure of International Law," published in 1964.
Tribute was paid to Dr. Friedmann in the spring 1971 issue of the
Columbia Journal of Transitional Law. In addition to praising him for
having been the journal's "spiritual guide and financial guardian,"
the editorial continued:
"Few men in our generation have written authoritatively on such a wide
spectrum of issues. Even fewer have equalled Professor Friedrnann's
perseverance in the search for new ideas and in the quest. for their
The journal said that Professor Friedmann was not only respected as a
jurist, scholar and humanist, but that he had also demonstrated
courage and willingness to condemn "unconscionable" use of force by