Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The long answer to a comment

This pillar is next to, but not part of, the Supreme Court Building.
The Hebrew on its top says Nizkor, meaning We will remember.

Historian/artist/blogger Abraham Lincoln asked me about the trials of Nazis in Israel.
Some information I found is so interesting I'd like to share it with you all.
Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was captured in Argentina by Mossad agents in 1960 and was brought to Jerusalem for trial.
The only public place big enough for such a trial back then was Binyanay HaUma, the convention center.
He was found guilty of "crimes against the Jewish people" and "causing the killing of millions of Jews." Eichmann was executed by hanging.
The death penalty is reserved only for such special cases as his.
In fact Eichmann is the only one ever put to death by an Israeli court.
The second crimes against humanity trial was when John (Ivan) Demjanjuk was extradited from Ohio to Israel in 1986.
The court found him guilty in 1988 and sentenced him to death by hanging.
He was placed in solitary confinement during the appeals process that followed.
But in 1993, five Supreme Court justices (sitting as the High Court of Justice) overturned the guilty verdict because new evidence had become available after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
This is the trial from which Abe Lincoln remembers seeing parts of our new Supreme Court Building on American TV.
The Israeli Supreme Court's 405-page ruling read:
"The main issue of the indictment sheet filed against the appellant was his identification as Ivan the Terrible, an operator of the gas chambers in the extermination camp at Treblinka . . . By virtue of this gnawing [new evidence indicating mistaken identity] . . . we restrained ourselves from convicting the appellant of the horrors of Treblinka. Ivan Demjanjuk has been acquitted by us, because of doubt, of the terrible charges attributed to Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka. This was the proper course for judges who cannot examine the heart and mind, but have only what their eyes see and read."
They also added: "The facts proved the appellant's participation in the extermination process. The matter is closed — but not complete, the complete truth is not the prerogative of the human judge."
I find this remarkable, what the judges said!
And they refer to the Hebrew Bible references, e.g. Jeremiah 11:20, that have God examining our "heart and kidneys," usually translated as "the heart and mind."
The combination heart and kidneys is a Hebraism for the inmost part of the person .
Meanwhile, Demjanjuk returned to America, was stripped of his citizenship, and in May 2009 was extradited to Germany. His trial is now going on in Munich.

I don't like to recommend anything written about Israel by the BBC, but they do have a brief slideshow explaining the various trials of Demjanjuk.


Chuck Pefley said...

A fascinating story. I applaud the honesty of the Hebrew judges for rendering the verdict they did as well as acknowledging the ultimate judge of this man.

moneythoughts said...

I remember when they caught Eichman in 1960, I was in my first year of college. A history prof I had for Western Civilization was very upset about this, and came up to me yelling at me about what he thought in light of all of the American aid given to Israel. I looked at him and said, what does this have to do with Israel's right to try Adolph Eichman? He shut up. I only wish that Israel could have captured more Nazis, but those of us who read know who the parties were that helped these men get away and financed their disappearance.

Cloudia said...

Hatred will always be blind the the virtues of those it targets.

ShAloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. First time hearing about the first trial in Israel. I hope justice is served in Germany.

LeAnn * ~ See Great Things said...

Very interesting to read. I am familiar with this man, he seem so frail like he might not make it through the process. I will check out the link. Thanks for sharing. ~

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I remember reading about Eichman's capture. I believe they eventually proved his identity when he brought home a bouquet of flowers on his wives "true" birth date.

The judges were wise to rule as they did. Hanging old frail men?

Suzanne said...

Thanks Dina for this post. I've never seen that pillar before.

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis», as do most of us in the 'Baby Boomer' generation, remember the Eichman case, but had forgotten about the Demjanjuk case.

A remarkable ruling by the judges...

«Louis» absolutely agrees with you about your reluctance to post anything about Israel from the BBC.

Pietro said...

Very interesting post. I agree. I think no adequate human justice can be done about Nazis considering the immense hugeness of the crime: only God can do, and I really can't imagine how He manages it.
Thanks very much for your appreciation of my works, Dina.

VP said...

Great post, I hope that the everybody's appreciation for the deserved end of Adolf Eichmann does quantify even as solidarity against the contemporary nuts, much better armed that Nazi Germany and with the same declared goal.
I don't remember well, but I'm quite sure that there was another death sentence in Israel, for treason. Probably was given by military courts or in the pre-state period.

Dina said...

Thanks Chuck, glad you thought so too.

Moneythoughts, good for you for answering him well, even as a freshman.
More Nazis on trial here? I don't know, it is very hard on everyone.

Shaloha Cloudia. Blind hatred. Good point.

Gigi, you were just too young then.

LeAnn, I half think he is faking his pain and weakness.

PA, I didn't know that about the birthday flowers. Funny how everyone remembers another part of that story. I can still hear Eichmann's voice saying time after time, "Nicht schuldig."
Yeah, I'm glad we were spared the execution of Demjanjuk.

Suzanne, the pillar is not on the group tourist route. It is actually a memorial for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs people who fell while in service to the country. The MFA brought the old pillar when they moved to their new building near the Supreme Court.

Dina said...

Louis, I'm glad you appreciate the ruling. I thought it remarkable.

Pietro, i think not even God can manage this one.

VP, oi veh, imagine if Hitler had had atomic bombs.
You are right! Thanks for the tip. I just found the story about how poor Meir Tobianski was falsely accused of treason and was executed by a firing squad in June 1948, during the war.
The officer who did this was still in the mindset and tactics of the underground movements like Lehi.
It was a "drumhead court martial," not a real trial.

But yes, treason during wartime can be punishable by death. But I am sure no court would do this in our day and age.
A short entry in Wiki:

Kay said...

Wow! This is really fascinating, Dina. Such cruelty... most never get the justice they deserve.

VP said...

You are right, thanks for finding out who was the poor guy!

Anonymous said...

I am glad my question sparked the post. I think we all need a refresher course in history no matter who is touches or how grave the issues.

I remember both of these people and their trials. I was not aware that Demjanjuk was on trail now so will have to look that up.

I remember when he was first arrested and before he was first taken abroad to face the charges. Nobody here knew about his crimes then and we saw this portly old grandpa being taken away from his grandchildren. I really think most people felt sorry for him until they heard the rest of the story.

I don't know what makes people do the things the Nazis did to fellow human beings and some of them were more brutal and inhumane than others.