On Demjanjuk and the freeing of terrorists

Would anyone suggest freeing 104 Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs?

By TOBY KLEIN GREENWALD
August 3, 2013 23:45
Convicted Nazi war criminal John Demjanjuk [file]

John Demjanjuk 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Michael Dalder)

The High Court of Justice must be petitioned to void the decision of 13 members of Israel’s cabinet to release 104 cold-blooded murderers.

In the Cleveland Jewish News of August 27, 1993, I reported that on August 20, distinguished Israeli attorneys, international civil rights advocate and law professor Irwin Cotler (today a Canadian MK and former justice minister) and two ordinary men dressed in sandals, shortsleeved striped shirts and knitted kippot stood shoulder to shoulder around the horseshoe table before the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem, representing more than 20 organizations and individual petitioners in a petition against the release of Ivan (John) Demjanjuk.

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Israel’s Supreme Court found reasonable doubt that he had been Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka (overturning the earlier conviction) on July 29 of that year. Petitions that he be tried for crimes at Sobibor, Trawniki and elsewhere had been denied on August 18.

Cotler, one of the petitioners appearing on the part of InterAmicus, an international human rights organization, argued that the Supreme Court had stated Demjanjuk was a war criminal, and “international law says you must bring that person to trial – or you are weakening the whole corpus of international human rights law.”

In the audience were also youngsters, who had given up the last days of their summer vacation to be present. I described them as “the children of the third generation who had come to watch the second generation demanding justice for the first generation.” And they had high hopes that in that imposing, high-ceilinged, light-filled marble courtroom, the due process of Israeli law would not fail them.

But their petitions were denied, and Demjanjuk went free to fly back to Cleveland, my hometown.

On May 12, 2011, Demjanjuk was ultimately convicted in Germany as an accessory to the murder of 27,900 at the Sobibor extermination camp. However, he died before the appeal, which, according to German law, meant he died technically innocent.

At the time Demjanjuk’s original conviction in an Israeli court was overturned, I spoke with survivor and witness for the prosecution Josef Czarny, who was badly shaken.

“The community in Cleveland has been following this from the beginning. Please say something to them,” I asked. He looked in the direction of Demjanjuk and said emotionally, “History will judge him! History will judge him!” (July 30, 1993, CJN).

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, author and spiritual head of the Ohr Torah Institutes in Israel, said, “If Demjanjuk is not tried for Sobibor, and leaves Israel a free man, for me it will be a fast day [day of mourning]” (August 6, 1993, CJN).

Author Aaron Appelfeld told Yediot Aharonot, on the court’s decision, “Sometimes it is preferable that a murderer will walk among us, the mark of Cain on his forehead, and that we will know he is walking. There can be one whom we can point to and say, yes, there was a Holocaust and you were the hangman.”

But Mishael Cheshin, one of the three justices who, on August 18, denied the first petitions to retry Demjanjuk on the basis of Sobibor, concluded his contribution to the High Court’s decision with these words: “To the injured and to those who left behind them, there, parts of their bodies and souls, this will be no comfort. But let us all know this. The sun that warms our bodies and our hearts will not warm his body or heart. The tears that have poured forth in our salty land will not mix with his tears.

We will expel him from among us, he will go wherever he may go, and we will remain in our place. And our dwelling place will be holy.”

What is different and what is the same about this current prisoner release? The United States, Israel and Germany took the case of Demjanjuk seriously. They took the blood of his victims seriously. Millions of dollars were spent, collectively, by those three countries in order to bring one Nazi war criminal to justice.

The 104 terrorists who 13 Israeli ministers voted to set free, in blatant opposition to 85 percent of the Israeli population (according to a Smith Research poll, reported in The Jerusalem Post), are responsible for the brutal and cruel deaths of hundreds of infants, children, women and unarmed men.

If they go free, they will return to the Palestinian Authority to a hero’s welcome.

But unlike Cheshin’s statement about Demjanjuk, these vile creatures will share the same sun, the same salty land and they will pollute our holy place. It is not enough to wait for history to judge. It is not enough to declare a fast day. And no, we do not want them walking among us.

What can be done? Rise up and petition the High Court of Justice, as happened following the decision to free Demjanjuk, to prevent the obscenity. The petitioners should represent international organizations as well as individuals. To release these individuals is a crime is against morality and humanity.

According to the Israel Resource Review, “There is a ‘security risk’ form that the Israel Prison Service must submit concerning each convict... which is binding upon the decision as to whether or not a convict can be released....

If the convict does not pass the test... Israeli law will not allow the convict out of jail.” This avenue must be explored and promoted among ministers and the public.

Demonstrations should be held not only in Israel, but worldwide. Would anyone suggest freeing 104 Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs? Write letters and blogs of protest. Call your MKs, senators and congressmen and women.

Ministers Limor Livnat and Silvan Shalom abstained, but their slates are not clean. The Gemara (Sotah 11) tells us that three men were part of the consultation when Pharaoh said, “Let us deal wisely with them [the Israelites] lest they multiply” (Exodus 1:10). Bilaam advised him (and Pharoah ultimately followed his advice) to have the male babies thrown into the Nile, as a result of which he was killed. Jethro ran away and his children sat in the Sanhedrin. Job kept silent and he was subjected to terrible suffering.

Hanging on my wall is a poster I purchased in the Washington, DC, Holocaust Memorial Museum. It says, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality” (Dante).

Do not remain silent.

Next time, they may come for you.

The writer is a journalist, educator and editor-in-chief of WholeFamily.com. The opinions expressed are her own.


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