Show Trial for a Scapegoat

The kangaroo court in Munich is now in session. John Demjanjuk, 89, in a wheelchair, half-conscious, and with no eye-witnesses testifying against him, is on trial in Germany for crimes alleged to have happened in Poland 66 years ago.

The chief question is whether the German state, in an illegal invasion of Poland, captured Demjanjuk and forced him to become a guard at Sobibor concentration camp. It is not the German state that is on trial, or even any Germans. It is not even alleged that Demjanjuk killed anyone. All of the 27,900 counts against him are for accessory to murder. By being a guard at the camp, he kept people from escaping so that Germans could kill them – in Poland, of which he is neither a citizen nor has he ever lived other than under the control of the German army.

The German are really grasping at straws to find non-Germans to prosecute in Germany for crimes perpetrated by a German government.

I made further observations back in April during the extradition proceedings.

Advertisements

Quadruple Jeopardy

John Demjanjuk ought to be left alone. For the last 32 years, this 89 year old man has been fighting allegations that he was a Nazi collaborator and prison guard. First it was US federal prosecutors. When they couldn’t make it stick, the Israelis had a go. When that didn’t work, the US authorities had another shot. Now he is being sent to Germany.

In 1977,  Demjanjuk was accused by the federal authorities of having been a guard at Treblinka, after being identified as “Ivan the Terrible” in a photo during an investigation into someone else. After four years, they eventually could only get him for lying on his naturalisation application, so they stripped him of his citizenship. When he appealed and they couldn’t get rid of him, he was extradited to Israel. Under their Nazi-hunter law, the Israelis have entitled themselves to take anyone from anywhere in the world and put them on trial for their life.

An Israeli special tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death. It took seven years, but fortunately the Israeli Supreme Court overturned that in a 400-page ruling. After he was returned to the US, the Court of Appeals ruled that federal prosecutors had deliberately withheld evidence and they gave back his citizenship. A little thing like prosecutorial misconduct that’s not going to stop the Justice Department, so they turned around and made new allegations. It took another five years, but they got him stripped of his citizenship again. This time they tried to deport him to Ukraine, since that’s where he was born. He’s been fighting that since 2005.

Now the Germans have filed 29,000 counts against him for being a guard at Sobibor, a prison camp that closed 66 years ago, run by a regime that ceased to exist 64 years ago, on soil that it occupied illegally, and of which he was not a citizen. The basis of their jurisdiction is that he briefly lived in Munich – not at any time when any offense is alleged to have occured. He just lived there once. He is being deported this week and will be held in prison awaiting trial, unless he is too ill, in which case he will be held in a clinic. It is expected to take several months after his incarceration before his trial begins.

As trial courts seem very willing to convict Demjanjuk, even with prosecutors who have no qualms about doing whatever they have to do to get that conviction, there will no doubt be a lengthy appeal process. He could be well into his 90s before this round of prosecution is resolved, though obviously the chances of him surviving it are slim.

This once again highlights one of the problems with current developments in international law, the over-extension of criminal jurisdiction. Nations feel free to pass legislation saying that even non-citizens can be prosecuted for acts committed outside that country. This has most recently been used by the US  to detain people at Guantanamo Bay and by the British to stop sex tourism in Thailand, though it was also used by Spain to arrest Pinochet in Britain for things he did in Chile as president of Chile. The justification is that these are bad people, so it doesn’t matter how you get them, as long as you get them.

The only country that should be trying anyone for anything done at Treblinka or Sobibor is Poland. Both were on Polish soil, both then and now. If the Poles aren’t interested interested in pursuing quadruple jeopardy againt Demjanjuk, the whole thing should be left alone.

Germany Legally Invades Britain

The case of Dr Gerald Toben is extremely disturbing. Dr Toben is accused of publishing materials “of an anti-semitic and/or revisionist nature”. This is a crime in Germany. The only problem is that Dr Toben wasn’t in Germany at the time.

Actually, another problem is that Germany has a law like this at all. Free speech or a free press are not particularly valuable commodities with the Germans. While I have no sympathy with Dr Toben’s views concerning the Holocaust, I have less sympathy with the Germans, who say that any discussion of history which suggests anything other than the officially approved story must be punished with imprisonment. Dr Toben already did a nine-month stretch in 1999 for being a denier.

Now he has been arrested in the UK and is being held – not for anything done in the UK, but simply for passing through Heathrow Airport on his way from the US to Dubai with a German warrant for his arrest, issued for being a Holocaust denier outside of Germany. That’s the impact of a 2003 agreement signed by EU member states.

In essence, this means that any law passed by any EU country can create a crime that can be committed anywhere in the world which has to be enforced by any member state. Theoretically, the Reichstag Bundestag can pass a law that any criticism of Germany, at any time in any place, is illegal and every other member of the EU will have to be on the lookout for anyone crossing its borders to deport them to Berlin.

It is just me, or does this disturb anyone else?

History That Matters

I’m covering American involvement in the First World War with my Year 10s. Thursday I was showing a map of Europe in 1914 to demonstrate the changes in boundaries after the War (particularly as they relate to Wilson’s 14 Points) when I drifted over to the Ottoman Empire. I explained how all the countries in Middle East – Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and what would eventually become Israel – were all created out of the break up of the Ottoman Empire after the war.

Then, speaking of the Ottoman Turks, I mentioned the Armenian Genocide. At that point I reached a crossroads: I could either get back to the lesson plan, the scheme of work, and the exam syllabus, or I could give substantive time to the horrors of 1915. Modern pedagogy said to stick to the syllabus. If it’s not on the exam, they don’t need to know it. Teach the exam. Obviously, I went the other way. Two hours the other way.

None of my students will remember the 14 Points in five years time. Don’t get me wrong – they are still going to learn them and about the Lodge Reservations and how it all relates to Isolationism of the 1920s. But they won’t remember. However, if they learn about the Genocide – if they see the pictures and read about the atrocities – they may remember it.

But more importantly, they may leave school with an understanding of the sort of place the world is. They may appreciate the place they have found themselves in time and space and what a valuable thing it is to live in a peaceful corner of the world. Later they will learn about the Jewish Holocaust – you can’t get out of school without learning about that – but now they will understand that this isn’t just a thing that happened to Jews during the Second World War. It happens to Christians and it continues to this day in both the Genocide denial of the Turks and the systematic obliteration of the Armenian past in eastern Anatolia.

I may not have time or opportunity to cover the Ukrainian Holodomor of 1932-33 or Cambodia or Bosnia or Rwanda, but I can a least do my part to see that the Armenians are not forgotten. If I can inspire one student to aspire to see that others are not forgotten, I will have done something worthwhile.