All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Justice At Last?

I have vivid memories of Pesach 1987.

As usual, our family was staying in the Grand Beach Hotel in Tel Aviv, enjoying the luxuries being offered to us by the then manager, a very amenable chap called Benny who had befriended my parents.

My dad bought the Jerusalem Post every day and I read the biggest news in Israel at that time - the ongoing trial of John Demjanjuk, under charges that he was Ivan the Terrible, a notorious SS guard who had committed the most indescribable savage atrocities at the Treblinka Concentration Camp between 1942 and 43. I'm not exaggerating that Israel was gripped by the events. This being before the onset of the first Intifada that December. It was without a doubt, the biggest news story of the day.

This was the closest experience I could have of an Eichmann type trial, seeing that I hadn't been born when the former took place. I read the reports, watched the TV footage of the proceedings and continued to follow events when I got back to London and in fact returned to Israel that Summer.

The way it was played out, although the evidence was compelling, there was a lingering doubt that Israel had got the right man. Eichmann never denied what he had done, whilst this man feigned innocence admitting that yes, he had been a guard at a camp, but he was not the notorious Ivan.

The case dragged on and eventually, Demjanjuk was found guilty and sentenced death. Fait accomplit.

Except that it wasn't.

In 1993, Israel's Supreme Court overturned the decision, citing "reasonable doubt" that he was indeed the said butcher.

Like many others, I was angered by the decision, but it hindsight, I am extraordinarily proud of the Israeli legal system, which once again proved that we Jews have an incredible innate sense of justice, despite the scurrilous views of our enemies.

Demjanjuk returned to America, had his US citizenship reinstated and looked forward to spending the rest of his miserable life in Seven Hills, Ohio.

Justice though works in mysterious ways, because soon after his return, a new case was opened against him, levelling charges about his activities at the Sobibor Camp. Not under the name of Ivan The Terrible, but as "John Demjanjuk"

The wheels of justice work slowly, but Divine Providence insured that he lived long enough to find himself in German custody yesterday, accused of war crimes.

Yes, I did feel a sense of pleasure and satisfaction. Maybe after all these years of troubled existence, this man will finally get his just desserts. He might be the last war criminal to be tried, but, for the victims of the Shoah, particularly in light of the despicable comments of Ahmedinjad and his ilk, this trial could not come too soon.

Could it be that the good Lord above helped to postpone events, so that the true nature of what this man did would come to light, exactly at the same time as Ahmedinejad was peddling his Holocaust denials?

I can't presume to know what G-d is up to, but whatever the outcome, the world's media will be focusing once more on remembering the events that went on during the Holocaust, which is never a bad thing.

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