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The Wanderer
August 12, 1993


Demjanjuk, Israel and The Holocaust


THE Israeli Supreme Court has finally acquitted John Demjanjuk of the charge of being "Ivan the Terrible," the Treblinka guard who is said to have killed and tortured countless Jews. The acquittal is also a vindication of Pat Buchanan, who led the calls for the old Ukrainian's release.

It has become increasingly obvious that Demjanjuk was framed. A US appeals court has ordered that he be readmitted to this country because of the underhanded way the sadistic Immigration and Naturalization Service arranged his deportation to Israel in 1986: Among other things, evidence that would have exonerated him was suppressed.

Meanwhile, the Israelis have decided to detain him for a few more days while they decide whether to try him on another charge, which contradicts the charge that he was "Ivan the Terrible": namely, that he was a guard at Sobibor. If that one falls through too in a few years, they can probably produce witnesses to swear he was a guard at Belsen or Buchenwald.

The Zionist lust to convict this poor man is incredible. If he wasn't Ivan of Treblinka or Sobibor or Buchenwald or Somewhere-or-Other, maybe the Israelis will finally just try him on the charge of having been named Ivan. With any luck, Demjanjuk, now 73, could be home in time for his 90th birthday.

Many Zionists fear that Demjanjuk's acquittal could cast doubt on the whole story of the Holocaust and play into the hands of the Holocaust revisionists. No doubt that is true, but whose fault is it? And should the old man have been convicted, though innocent, just to prove a point?

Israel is one strange country, when you stop to think of it. The standards of jurisprudence by which it claimed the right to try Demjanjuk at all are alien to Western notions of justice and fair procedure. (As are some of the INS practices.) He was tried in one country for crimes committed in another country, at a time when the country trying him didn't even exist. This is a big advance on traditional ex post facto laws. His fate was decided, nearly permanently, 40 years after the crimes were committed, by hysterical witnesses who had been coached or had changed their stories.

In short, it was a show trial. Its purpose was to drive home the Zionist version of "the lessons of the Holocaust, " and the Israeli government gave it maximum publicity toward that end. Now it has backfired, creating overdue skepticism about the official history - the victors' account - of World War II. Someday it will be possible to ask soberly what really happened.

I suspect that the official version will turn out to have a great deal of truth, because a lot of it is undisputed or checks out, even when you discount American and Zionist propaganda: but that when the full truth is known, and exaggerations are trimmed away, what is now suppressed will make the whole picture look very different.

Chiefly in this: The whole war was an unprecedented war on the innocent - on both sides. I have seen an appalling statistic: whereas civilian deaths in World War I were about 17 percent of the total, the percentage in World War II was about 70. It was the policy of both sides to bomb cities, and both sides were trying to develop the atomic bomb, whose whole purpose was mass murder. If you think Hitler has a monopoly on race hatred, watch some videos of American propaganda about "the Japs" and "the Nips" with their "grinning yellow faces." (At least two of the demonically brilliant Why We Fight series are easily available at low prices.)

But for the time being, there are intense pressures against any independent view of that war. The legitimacy not just of Israel but of the American political establishment depends on the standard version. Even many conservatives now accept the heroic mythology of Roosevelt and Truman.

These questions are not merely speculative. They nearly cost John Demjanjuk his life. And it's daunting to reflect that if Pat Buchanan hadn't had the courage to endure smears for defending him, Israel might have killed him. (Ironically, some of the most bitter abuse of Pat came from the "Anti"-Defamation League.)

No apologies were forthcoming from the Amen Corner, whose party-lining and concerted smearing would do Stalin's old fellow-travelers proud; nor from the Amen Corner's amen corner, those servile conservatives who hope the Zionists and liberals blacken Buchanan's name. Luckily, Demjanjuk's fate didn't depend on their honesty or courage, or he'd have been a goner.

The Corner swung into action the same week as Israel bombed southern Lebanon, killing hundreds and driving 200,000 or so people from their homes, in retaliation for the killing of seven Israeli soldiers. The soldiers were killed not in Israel but in Lebanon - yet the Israelis called the acts "terrorism." The word "terrorism" has legitimate uses, but it hardly describes the killing of invaders; it would be more apt as a description of what Israel did to the entire civilian population of southern Lebanon. Of course we don't call it terrorism when it's done from the air; the word is used by countries with air power to condemn the tactics of their enemies who don't have bombers and have to commit their mayhem on the ground.

Even if Israel can be defended for avenging the soldiers' deaths, its response was immoral and widely disproportionate. Its explicit purpose was to punish civilians, and the carnage inflicted was completely unjustifiable. So much for hopes that the labor government would be more "moderate" than the Likud. Of course there will be no war crimes trials for the Israeli atrocities.

Israel wants to have it both ways. It wants to be accepted as a model democracy, "an integral part of the West, " as Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu put it. But it also claims exemption from the normal obligations of a state - to treat people justly and equally, for example.

Its real purpose, of course, it to provide a privileged existence for Jews. All Gentiles, including Christians, are second-class citizens at best. (A Jew who becomes a Christian can forfeit the privileges of a Jew). This is played down by Zionists, but it is perfectly obvious to anyone who examines Israel even cursorily.

This is why the Holocaust is so important to Israel. It helps legitimate acts that would other-wise seem plainly barbaric. Any normal state would be roundly condemned for doing what Israel does to its minorities and neighbors, but Israel can always do it in the name of "survival" - an excuse that lets the consciences of its Western Christian servitors off the hook, as they ignore the plight of their fellow Christians under Israel rule, occupation, and air assault. Armed with nuclear weapons, Israel can insist that it perpetually faces the threat of extermination.

A state that can always claim to be in a state of crisis can literally get away with murder. The duty of a normal state is to maintain peace and justice. But an abnormal state can do nearly anything, however violent and disproportionate, in the name of national security. It can define anything it pleases as a threat to its existence, and act accordingly. Everything becomes a matter of "defense." Granting itself continuing emergency powers, the state can do away with all the limitations that protect personal liberty. The memory of the Holocaust - and the supposed prospect of another one - prevents Israel from beingjudged by ordinary standards applied to states.

World War II, in its received version, also helps legitimate the US government as we now know it, and is invoked to justify American military intervention everywhere. Without the war's mythology, it would be very hard to claim that American "vital interests" are at stake around the globe and that every little despot is a new Hitler.

But eventually the habit of intervention becomes so strong that it sheds its rationale like a snakeskin. We have armed forces in Somalia now, and nobody thinks our own face is at risk there. It's odd that we always talk of "preparedness" for war, but nobody imagines for a moment that the next war will be here. ...


Joseph Sobran is a nationally-syndicated columnist and lecturer. This essay originally appeared in the August 12 issue of The Wanderer, a Roman Catholic weekly. A former senior editor and critic-at-large of National Review, Sobran's relationship with that magazine was terminated in early October in the wake of a column by him that was critical of NR founder William Buckley.

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