Patrick J. Buchanan   Los Angeles Daily News   07-Jul-1993   Cruel farce in Jerusalem

Seeking truth in the trial of Demjanjuk

Pat Buchanan, Reagan Communications Advisor

Patrick J. Buchanan

For four years, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, falsely accused of betraying French military secrets, rotted in prison, victim of an injustice that forever stained the name of all who had a hand in it.

Dreyfus' only defense was the pathetic if ineffectual, "I am innocent," and it was not until four years after the gross perversion of justice that the way was opened toward a rehabilitation of the now classic victim of anti-Semitic prejudice....

The memory of the Dreyfus affair has now been revived, in reverse as it were, by the affair of the Ukrainian John Demjanjuk, who was sentenced on a charge of having been the commandant known as "Ivan the Terrible" of the Nazi extermination camp at Treblinka.  He was sentenced to death by the Jerusalem district court on 26 April 1988, after a trial lasting 14 months....

When the death sentence was passed, the Jewish Chronicle stated "that under Israeli law there is an automatic process of appeal ... likely to take several months, although not the 14 months that the trial lasted."  In fact the appeal is now in its fifth year.

The paragraphs quoted above were written by [?] C. Aronsfeld, eight months ago, in Midst cam [?], a monthly put out by the Theodor Herzl Foundation.  Today, Demjanjuk's appeal of his conviction and death sentence as the mass murderer of Treblinka is in its sixth year.

What is taking place is all too clear.

The Israeli Supreme Court wants Demjanjuk to die in prison, so it may evade its duty, and wash its hands of complicity in the death by hanging of an innocent man.  Writes Aronsfeld: "It seems to me that the learned judges of the Supreme Court are finding themselves on the horns of a cruel dilemma.  Either they hold Demjanjuk guilty which must go against their grain and conviction and will one day face a charge of judicial murder, or they set Demjanjuk free as their consciences must direct them and will face, apart from worldwide humiliation, the force of the popular feeling with which the death sentence was received in 1988."

Yes, conscience doth make cowards of us all.  On display in Israel, and the United States today, is naked moral cowardice.  Men are letting an old man rot, hoping he dies, to spare themselves the duty of standing up and saying, "God help us, we made a terrible mistake.  For 20 years, we prosecuted, and almost put to death, an innocent man.  We were wrong."

Last week, a federal judge ruled that U.S. prosecutors, in their zeal, ignored evidence that they had the wrong man, and withheld evidence from the defense that "casts a substantial doubt on Mr. Demjanjuk's guilt."  But the judge could not find those prosecutors guilty of deliberate criminal or ethical misconduct.

But the U.S. prosecutors, exposed as fools for having trusted the Soviets who we now know were sitting on 15,000 documents about Treblinka, including dozens of depositions naming the guard Ivan Marchenko as "Ivan the Terrible" are irrelevant.  What is relevant, what is critical, is that the Israeli court act, now.

If Israel's high court believes Demjanjuk was rightly convicted as Butcher of Treblinka, then, damn it, hang him.  If it believes, as almost everyone now believes, Israel convicted the wrong man, have the courage to let him walk free after 15 years in hell to live out his days with the family that has stood by him.

But if the Israeli court believes Demjanjuk, though not Ivan the Terrible of Treblinka, is "Ivan the Bloody" of Sobibor the latest fallback position of his desperate accusers then indict him, prosecute him, and prove it.  Isn't that the Western way of justice?

If justice delayed is justice denied, this man has been denied justice.  Where are the thundering editorials in America's mighty free press, demanding that Demjanjuk, who lived among us 30 years, receive justice?  Were John Demjanjuk an African-American man convicted falsely of raping and murdering white women with proof of his innocence as massive as is the proof of Demjanjuk's all America would be ablaze with indignation, rage and protest.

Why are they silent?

Last year, Aronsfeld spoke out.  In 1991 in England, The Jewish quarterly, Manna [?], warned in its editorial, A Grave Miscarriage of Justice: "The Demjanjuk Affair must not degenerate into another Dreyfus Affair.  It would be a deadly blow ... to the standards of justice by which all Jews and their institutions must be bound."

Some men don't fear truth.  But it is remarkable the lengths of self-deception to which others will go, rather than face the truth that they were profoundly, tragically, wrong.  It takes moral courage the only thing that can save John Demjanjuk now.  Give him justice, or give him death.

But end this cruel farce in Jerusalem.

Patrick J. Buchanan writes a column distributed by Tribune Media Service.