Prosecution star witness
Israeli Supreme Court judge
|"The Levin-led attempt to win acceptance of a mistranslation demonstrates that your praise of the Israeli judiciary was either ignorant or duplicitous." — Lubomyr Prytulak|
11 September 2001
Daraufhin stürzten einige Leute in die
Baracken der ukrainishen Wache, wo unter anderem auch der
Ukrainer Iwan schlief und erschlugen die Ukrainer mit Schaufeln.
After this, some of the people ran into the
barracks where Ukrainian guards were sleeping, among them was the
Ukrainian Ivan, and killed the Ukrainians with shovels.
H.J. LEVIN: Now please translate the passage read out from the witness's statement. [Judge Levin is apparently addressing prosecution translator Mrs. Frost, who proceeds to mistranslate — one must assume according to instructions that have been given her earlier — the critical excerpt from Rosenberg's 1947 deposition as follows.]|
"And then a number of people attacked and burst into the barracks on which the Ukranian guards were sleeping and amongst these was also the Ukranian Ivan. And they beat them with shovels."
H.J. LEVIN: What is your question?
SHAKED: I have one request to Mrs. Frost. With al due respect, to translate as literally, word for word, I will read it word for word. [From what is said later, it appears to be prosecutor Michael Shaked who here offers his own stand-up mistranslation, without first presenting his qualifications as an expert in the German language, and without taking the stand as an expert witness. Perhaps Shaked obtrudes himself in this way in order to protect Mrs. Frost from cross-examination which would reveal that she knows that erschlagen means "to kill".]
"Following which some people burst into the barracks of the Ukranians, of the Ukranian guards, where amongst others, there was also the Ukranian Ivan asleep, and hit them with shovels."
SHAKED: [Addressing Rosenberg. Friedman is Tuvia Friedman, who according to Rosenberg took his deposition.] This is something that you said to Mr. Friedman. Would you please explain. How did you come to acount this part. What had actually happened?
SHEFTEL: [Defense attorney Yoram Sheftel has consulted the existing official Hebrew translation of Rosenberg's deposition, and corrects the mistranslation that Judge Dov Levin, translator Mrs. Frost, and prosecutor Michael Shaked are trying to substitute for the correct translation.] According to the translation, it says, the translation that's before the defence, into Hebrew, it says they did not beat them, but that they killed them.
H.J. LEVIN: [Levin pretends that the oral mistranslation being offered is somehow in compliance with a defense request.] We are reading from the German as you wanted. [Incessant audience interference in the proceedings, as I documented for you in several letters, occasionally calls forth from the court a snarl as toothless as it is pro forma.] Silence in Court.
O'CONNOR: [Mark O'Connor is miffed that when he had the floor on behalf of the defense, Yoram Sheftel nevertheless made an objection without consulting him. Possibly O'Connor has not yet received a translation of Sheftel's Hebrew into English, and so as yet doesn't understand the reason for Sheftel's objection, and instead of concerning himself with finding out what is happening, prefers to vent his petulance.] Very important, when my Honorable colleague gets up to make an objection and I am not aware of it, do it slowly, please.
H.J. LEVIN: Yes, what would you like to say?
SHEFTEL: I do not speak German well, Your Honor. I have a translation of this passage that was just read out by Mr. Shaked. It is the Defence's document. The final sentence of that passage says, "they did not beat them, hit them, they killed them."
H.J. LEVIN: [Levin here elbows Shaked aside to assume the role of prosecutor, demonstrating his committment to convicting John Demjanjuk — Levin insists that the off-the-cuff mistranslation being offered by the prosecution be accepted, as if it was somehow in compliance with O'Connor's request.] Your learned friend, Mr. O'Connor, requested that these statements be read from the German version. The German source text. Now we have read out from the German source text, and a word for word translation of this was done into Hebrew. In accordance with the request of Mr. O'Connor we rely on what has been translated in court here. Now if there is a difference between the German as it was translated in Court into Hebrew, as against what you have in the Hebrew version of the German in your possession. We are now working according to the translation into Hebrew in court here. And prefer it.
O'CONNOR: We have a Hebrew translation provided by the State of Israel to the Defense, Your Honor. We rely on that.
SHEFTEL: Your Honor, I do know some German, but I am not proficient to express an opinion on the translation. I am not an expert on the German language, to the point where I can be proficient. I simply have to go by the Hebrew translation of the text that is said to come from the German and which was provided by the Government. And that is where it said they were killed and not just beaten.
H.J. LEVIN: [Levin will not quit. He continues to insist that he is only following O'Connor's wishes, and that the proper thing to do is to start again with the original, and produce a fresh translation on the spot. O'Connor himself is not insisting on any fresh, on-the-spot translation, and possibly is unaware that Judge Levin is doing so on his behalf. It is understood that since nobody on the defense team is proficient in German, this on-the-spot translation is going to have to come from the prosecution.] Your learned colleague, Mr. O'Connor, requested that we put before you the German passage. And just as any request of Mr. O'Connor's is being honored by me, so I honor this one as well and therefore, Mr. Shaked will take the German version, put it before you.
Have you got the original?
SHAKED: [However, at this point even prosecutor Michael Shaked realizes that the scheme of on-the-spot mistranslation — now being pursued more tenaciously by Judge Levin than by himself — is not going to work, and so he attempts to put an end to it by acknowledging the correct translation.] Yes, Your Honor, but I am trying to solve this problem. In my humble opinion to erschlagen in German means to kill. And that is why the translation into Hebrew had better be the Hebrew word killed.
H.J. LEVIN: [Incredibly, though, Judge Levin won't stop. He insists on going ahead with the plan that the original German be consulted, and that an on-the-spot mistranslation be accepted in preference to the existing official translation into Hebrew provided earlier by the State of Israel. O'Connor — possibly with only a dim understanding of what is going on — is expected to continue playing the stooge who requested this on-the-spot mistranslation.] Don't jump from one subject to another. Mr. O'Connor has asked to see the original source text in German. So please put the original before Mr. O'Connor. [Mercifully, Levin's insistence that the on-the-spot mistranslation be accepted seems to be dropped at exactly this point. Note that in Yoram Sheftel's absence, a trick that could have been played on O'Connor would be to translate erschlagen into Hebrew as "to beat", but to translate into O'Connor's earphones that that Hebrew was equivalent to the English "to kill", thus providing the judges with the tailored evidence they wanted on the official Hebrew transcript, while keeping the defense in the dark, at least until the verdict was published.]
State of Israel vs John Demjanjuk, 25-Feb-1987, pp. 1057-1059. Errors and irregularities can be assumed to be in the original trial transcript, as for example, "with al due respect" "acount" and "Ukranian".
It is a credit to the Israeli judiciary that it rendered so thorough a judgment and performed so professional a job in the context of such barbarous crimes against so many victims.
Alan M. Dershowitz, Chutzpah, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Toronto, and London, 1991, p. 169.