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March 07, 1986 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-03-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

24 Friday, March 7, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

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NEWS

Demjanjuk

Continued from preceding page

from the United States.
"It was one thing to satisfy Is-
raeli courts of our right under
international law to bring
Eichmann to trial here. It was
another thing, though, to per-
suade a foreign court that Israel
should try a man who is not an
Israeli national, whose offense
was not committed in Israel and
whose victims were not, at the
time, Israelis.
"We argued that Israel has a
special interest in bringing Nazi
criminals to trial and that the
Jewish state now represents the
victims."
Six Israeli survivors testified
at Demjanjuk's denaturalization
hearings in the U.S. According
to one survivor, Demjanjuk was
in charge of packing victims
into the gas chambers.
"He used to fill the chambers
by shoving the people through
the doors, clubbing them until
they were all inside ... He used
to pull the pretty girls out of the
lines and rape them. I saw this
many times," said the survivor.
"And after he raped them, he
would take them outside and
shoot them."
"I'm not an expert on the Nazi
era," said Gouldman. "I became
aware of gaps in my knowledge
of the Holocaust which I have
had to fill in. And naturally I
have deep personal feelings
about it. I am a lawyer, but I
am a human being first."
One of the difficulties facing
lawyers involved in preparing
the case against Demjanjuk is
the scarcity of witnesses. There
are believed to be only 10 sur-
vivors in Israel who can give
eye-witness accounts of life —
and death — in Treblinka.
"Few people survived," said
Gouldman. "Treblinka was a
death camp, where up to 15,000
people a day were murdered.
They arrived on the trains, were
stripped and shaved, then• forced
to run through a corridor
straight to the extermination
chambers.
"There were, only a few bar-
racks for the Jewish slaves, who
took the bodies from the gas
chambers, pulled out any gold
teeth and burnt the corpses in
huge pits. The slaves themselves
rarely survived for more than a
few months."
But in all the accounts of sur-
vivors, one name recurred: "Ivan
the Terrible." His slaves told
how the tall, powerful Ukrai-
nian tortured them, nailing
their ears to the wall, whipping
them mercilessly and killing
men with his bare hands.
They, and lawyers in the U.S.
and Israel, are convinced that
"Ivan the Terrible" and John
Demjanjuk are one and the
same man.
Shortly before Demjanjuk's
arrival, Israel's Foreign Minis-
ter, Yitzhak Shamir, declared
that the occasion was a matter
of "historic justice."
Demjanjuk's trial, he said,
was important for the education
of all young people: "If there are
other Nazi criminals in the
world, all of them will be
brought • to trial here in
Jerusalem," he said. "Humanity

has to know that it is the call of
destiny to bring all such crimi-
nals to trial."
But the prospect of Demjanjuk
on trial in Jerusalem has not
won universal approval in Is-
rael.
According to Dr. Yitzhak
Raveh, one of the three judges
who sentenced Eichmann to
death, there is no longer any
educational, legal or historical
value in putting Nazis on trial
in Israel, "unless we are talking
of criminals who held senior
positions during the Holocaust
and against whom there is real
proof."
In an apparent reference to
the Demjanjuk case, he added:
"The Eichmann trial was right
on target, but I wouldn't touch a
low-level Nazi."
Haim Cohn, a retired Sup-
reme Court judge who now
heads an Israeli civil liberties
group, was also critical of the
pending trial: "The world today
will not understand why Israel
is putting Nazi war criminals on
trial two generations after they
committed their crimes," he
said. "It is likely to see this as
an attack on human rights.
"The questions are hard, but
one thing is clear: we should not
put the small fish among them
on trial."
But Dr. Gideon Hausner, a
former attorney-general of Israel
and chief state prosecutor in the
Eichmann trial, remains con-
vinced of the necessity of bring-
ing suspected Nazi war crimi-
nals to trial in Jerusalem: "The
crimes of the Nazis are so horri-
ble that they should never be
forgiven or forgotten," he told
me.
The Germans themselves are
not doing enough to expose Nazi
war criminals who are still liv-
ing in Germany: "They owe
themselves a process of self-
cleansing and on the whole they
are performing this process. But
it is inadequate and unsatisfac-
tory.
"When I heard that a Nazi
criminal who was responsible
for sending thousands and
thousands of Jews from the
ghetto in Lodz (Poland) to the
gas chambers received a sen-
tence of just three years in jail, I
asked myself, 'What's the use?'
"One could calculate in terms
of seconds the punishment for
taking away a human life."
Nor does Gouldman have any
reservations about the forthcom-
ing Demjanjuk case: "We have a
duty to bring these people to
trial. The Holocaust is of enor-
mous importance in human his-
tory and is just now being fully
understood."
Eichmann and Demjanjuk, he
said, represent the two sides of
the Nazi coin: "Demjanjuk could
never have treated a Treblinka.
And . Eichmann, who was the
brains of the 'Final Solution,'
could never have carried out his
policy'alone.
"He needed the .hundreds,
thousands of thugs and sadists
like Demjanjuk who were given
terrible powers and who excelled
at their duties and enjoyed the
job."

,

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