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Catching the Eagle
Catching the Eagle 
 

Julius Wachtel

 

Julius ("Jay") was born in Italy.  Two weeks later he and his parents, both Holocaust survivors, moved to Buenos Aires.  A decade later the family emigrated to the U.S. and settled in Los Angeles.  His mother’s liberation by Soviet troops led Jay to develop an interest in Russia.  Solzhenitsyn’s zeks captured his imagination.  Seas of the oppressed slogging through the Gulag, the victims of a soulless machine, struggling to retain hope despite unimaginable hardships.  A disturbing yet inspiring example of the resilience of the human spirit.

After serving in Vietnam Jay embarked on a career in Federal law enforcement.  Along the way he took a break to earn a Ph.D. in criminal justice at the State University of New York at Albany.  Now retired from the government he enjoys a second calling, as a lecturer in criminal justice at California State University Fullerton.

Jay’s inspiration for Stalin’s Witnesses came while designing a course in Soviet justice.  He was intrigued by the 1937 Moscow Show trial, where five “witnesses” were forced to corroborate the defendants’ false confessions.  One witness captured his imagination.  In 1934 Vladimir Romm, a Soviet intelligence officer, came to America as Izvestia correspondent to Washington.  Romm, the scion of a distinguished publishing family (the famous film director Mikhail Romm is one of its descendants) was born in Vilna, same as Jay’s mother.  He became the central character in Stalin’s Witnesses.

Jay and his wife Linda live in Southern California.  Their daughter, Jennifer, is a senior at NYU.