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.
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)
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.”
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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”
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.