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June 03, 1988 - Image 116

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-03

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116

FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 1988



n January, 1987, when
Dov Levin set his eyes on
John Demjanjuk for the
first time, he saw before him
only "an accused — as any
other accused. He was an
elderly man with glasses and
a long face, someone heavily
built. But'there are other per-
sons like that. Other than
that, I had no impression of
the accused."
Fifteen months later, Levin
and the two other members of
the tribunal in Jerusalem
that tried Demjanjuk, ruled
that "the accused" was no
mere "elderly man with
glasses," but "Ivan the Ibrri-
ble," a gas chamber operator
at the Nazi death camp of
Treblinka where some 870,000
Jews were killed in 1942 and
1943. At Demjanjuk's trial,
Treblinka survivors testified
that he had zestfully whipped
and slashed terrified, naked
prisoners as they went to the
gas chambers.
As Judge Zvi 'Pal said when
sentencing to death Demj an-
juk, a 68-year-old native of
the Ukraine, "The crimes he
committed cannot be forgiven
either in the letter of the law
or in the hearts of men."
Originally, Judge Levin,
who was in the United States
under the auspices of
the Zionist Organization of
America, estimated the Dem-
janjuk trial would take be-
tween eight and 12 months.
But the court proceedings ex-
tended until April 26, when
Demjanjuk was sentenced,
partly because of the com-
plexities of the case, partly
because of recesses, including
one to interrogate witnesses
in Europe, another to allow
one of the tribunal judges to
recuperate from an illness and
a third to allow the defense to
restructure its case after
Demjanjuk dismissed his
original lawyer and hired a
new one.
Levin was circumspect in
discussing the Demjanjuk
case in an interview with
The Detroit Jewish News.
Since Demjanjuk is appeal-
ing the tribunal's ruling to
Israel's supreme court, Levin
cannot discuss the verdict,
the sentence or most other
details of the case. But he did
say the trial had an enormous
educational value for the

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Dov Levin: Justice for all.

Israeli public.
"It caught the attention
and the emotion of all the
people of Israel," he said.
"They started to study the
Holocaust. More time was
given in schools to the honors
of the Holocaust. This is
important for Jews. It is im-
portant for non-Jews. It is im-
portant for humanity."
"But even if no one in the
public was interested in the
case, we would have gone
ahead with the trial. If the
people were interested, then
all the better."
Levin, usually one of the 12
judges on Israel's supreme
court, was appointed to serve
on the tribunal with two
judges from Israel's district
court. Such a tribunal was
mandated under an Israeli
law enacted in the early 1960s
for cases in which the defen- _
dants were Nazis or Nazi col-
laborators who had allegedly
committed crimes or genocide
against humanity or the Jew-
ish people. The law also pro-
vided for the possibility of the
death sentence.
Previous to-the Demjanjuk
trial, the death sentence had
only been imposed once be-
fore in Israel, when Adolf
Eichmann was hanged for
Nazi war crimes in 1962.
Levin, who was born in 'Ibl
Aviv in 1925, said the current
generation of Israelis are "not
less eager" than previous
generations of Israelis to
wrestle with issues promul-
gated by the Holocaust,
"they are more eager."
Levin, who said he knew of
no plans by Israel to pro-

secute other Nazi war crim-
inals, enumerated the dif-
ficulties in bringing such men
to trial: Searching for them,
acquiring sufficient evidence
for extradition, and then fil-
ing for extradition. Successful
extradition can take years:
Demjanjuk's extradition
from the U.S. took seven
years.
Further, suggested Levin,
culpable Nazis or their col-
laborators may either be dead

Treblinka survivors
testified that he
had zestfully
whipped and
slashed prisoners.

or too feeble to withstand a
trial.
"You are taking into ac-
count events that may have
occurred up to 48 years ago,"
he said. "Some Nazis were
then 35 or 40 years old — or
more."
Levin ranked as "slander
against the state of Israel"
criticism that Israel ad-
ministers justice to Nazis,
but not to residents of the
West Bank or Gaza.
"Nothing is being done in
Israel that is not according to
law," he said. "Every Pales-
tinian, even the most terrible
terrorist, has his day in court
and is tried in accordance
with normal procedures and
normal laws before judges
and justices. Deportation is
done in accordance with Jor-
danian law, which is enforced
in the territories."



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