In the initial stages of the newly launched Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to stop Ernst Zundel from making his dissident thoughts known to the world on the Zundelsite, a fellow named Ian Binnie, attorney for the Canadian Human Rights Commission, proved himself extraordinarily responsive and obliging to the wishes of the powerful, inside and outside of government.
Binnie was the one who cross-examined me in May of 1997, and I remember him as very smooth and slick - a career goy par excellence who knows which side his bread is buttered on.
For instance, he was the lawyer for the government that argued that it was okay for Justice Department War Crimes Department officials to intervene behind-the-scenes with the Chief Justice of Canada's Federal Court to prevail on justices in war crimes cases to speed up cases etc.
Binnie found nothing wrong with that - and neither did Canada's Supreme Court in the end. Binnie himself was appointed by a grateful Mr. Chretien, Canada's Prime Minister, to this very Supreme Court. Some people speculate that Binnie can be expected to continue to display his philanthropic charity on behalf of the powers that be.
These were the salient points I was contemplating when I read the article below. It is extraordinarily instructive of how political power, along with its perks, fortifies itself within the so-called "democratic" system.
This article refers to the well-known political witch hunt that brutally victimized the Ukrainian John Demjanjuk for years, and which was recently reactivated on some flimsy immigration matters - this after an ordeal that almost cost the poor old peasant his life at the end of an Israeli hangman's rope.
The article was originally published in the Israeli daily "Ha'aretz" of November 14, 1997. Its author is Yossi Melman, and the title is WHO LIED ABOUT DEMJANJUK?", subtitled Criticism of Jewish groups costs judge Supreme Court appointment."
"If it were not for the Demjanjuk affair," writes a frequent ZGram contributor who sent me this missive, "(Judge) Gilbert Merritt would probably be a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. (In the article below), Yossi Melman traces the career of the judge who ruled in 1985 that John Demjanjuk was, in fact, Ivan the Terrible, and ordered his extradition to Israel."
Here is a fascinating look into how global power works:
Aside from John Demjanjuk, who endured a tortuous eight years of legal proceedings . . . and his close family members, the most prominent victim of the Demjanjuk case was Gilbert Merritt. He is the federal judge who in April 1985 upheld the ruling - years later proven to be incorrect - that Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible, the notorious, sadistic guard who operated the gas chamber at the Treblinka death camp in Poland, and ordered Demjanjuk's extradition to Israel.
At the time, the rulings by Judge Merritt were acclaimed by major Jewish organizations in the United States. However, after the Israeli Supreme Court found Demjanjuk innocent of the charges against him in 1993, Judge Merritt expressed remorse for his erroneous decisions. He also sharply criticized the Jewish organizations. His expression of regret and critical remarks ended up costing Merritt the highest position that an American jurist can hope to reach.
Before Demjanjuk, Merritt's star had shone bright. He had extensive experience and a sterling reputation, and was a Democrat with a liberal world view. Yet, despite his prodigious judicial and civic skills, Merritt was never offered the sought-after appointment. His friends, including Judge George Paine of the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Nashville, explain that Jewish organizations, and primarily B'nai Brith, the Anti-Defamation League, the World Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, carried out a lobbying campaign in Congress and the White House against his elevation.
They hinted that Merritt was anti-Semitic and was not suited to the position of Supreme Court Justice. President Bill Clinton buckled under the pressure of the Jewish lobby and opted to appoint Ruth Ginsburg to the post four years ago.
You wonder on what planet Judge Merritt lived not to know that "they" would not forgive him for his Christian charity in trying to at least in part atone for a wrong he had inflicted on Demjanjuk by allowing himself to be misled.
(By the way, no Canadian judge ever apologized to Ernst Zundel after the Supreme Court ruled in his favor after nine years of grueling litigation.)
I met Gilbert Merritt, now 61, two weeks ago in his office in Nashville, Tennessee. In spite of his disappointment, he is not bitter. "I am just a lot more sober," he says. What provoked the Jewish reaction was Merritt's statements denouncing the American Department of Justice, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Jewish organizations, all of whom had insisted that John Demjanjuk was Ivan the Terrible. Today, Merritt feels that what began in the early 1980s as an inquiry by the Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations (OSI) eventually snowballed into a conspiracy against Demjanjuk.
According to Merritt and others familiar with the affair, the OSI, which was set up to bring [Nazi] war criminals living in the United States to justice, was at the time subjected to heavy pressure by Congress and senior Justice Department officials. The office had been criticized as being inefficient and unable to fulfill its tasks. OSI directors were told in no uncertain terms to "deliver the goods": either expose Nazi war criminals and collaborators who had found refuge in America, or lose some or even all its budget. This was the background for the accelerated investigation against John Demjanjuk, an American citizen of Ukrainian descent who lived in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The investigation showed that after World War II Demjanjuk had entered the United States on false grounds, having failed to reveal the truth about his past on the immigration questionnaires. Based on that, American authorities stripped him of his citizenship.
Jerome Brentar, a Cleveland travel agent and Zundel witness, proved an angel of mercy, searching out witnesses and documents for Demjanjuk's defense which would ultimately free Demjanjuk. Brentar incurred huge debts which just about bankrupted him. The Demjanjuk family never paid back the money spent by Brentar during his global search.
Simultaneously, Jewish organizations and the OSI began to place heavy pressure on the Israeli government - through Ephraim Zuroff, the OSI representative in Israel at the time, who is now director of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem - to request Demjanjuk's extradition to Israel. The national unity government of Shimon Peres was not delighted at the prospect, but the pressure finally paid off and Justice Minister Moshe Nissim filed for the extradition of John Demjanjuk.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals met in Cincinnati to hear the petition. Judge Merritt headed the panel. Representatives of the OSI and the Justice Department introduced documents apparently indicating that Demjanjuk was in fact Ivan the Terrible from Treblinka. Judge Merritt and his colleagues were convinced, and in April 1985 the court ruled for Demjanjuk's extradition. Demjanjuk was brought to Israel, found guilty of the crimes of which he was accused in the Jerusalem District court, but in 1993 was cleared on appeal by the Supreme Court of the charges against him.
The case made worldwide headlines for years, damaging the Germans' reputation with the most fiendish cruelties alleged by perjuring Jewish witnesses who told of blood-curling atrocities allegedly committed by Demjanjuk and the Germans - fake stories and out-and-out lies all vomited into the public by an uncritical media indulging in another anti-Nazi feeding frenzy. In the end, the Israeli Supreme Court justices did not believe these witnesses - yet no one was ever charged for lying under oath.
"Today we know," says Merritt, "that they - the OSI, the prosecution in the case and the State Department - lied through their teeth. Even then they knew without a doubt that Demjanjuk was not Ivan the Terrible, but they hid the information from us. I am sorry that I did not have the information at the time. If I did, we would never have ruled in favor of his extradition to Israel."
Merritt claims that what happened in his courtroom was "nothing short of a witch hunt. In retrospect, it reminds me of the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts 300 years ago. The prosecution, counseled by the OSI, presented documents and witnesses whose testimony was based on emotions and hysteria, but not hard evidence. To my regret, we believed them. This instance is a prime example of how justice can be distorted."
This admission comes a little late - but at least Judge Merritt has the decency to admit he was led by the nose. When will we hear the same about the "eye witness" testimony in the Nuremberg Trials, or the bizarre testimony in the Zundel trials about different colored smoke being caused by the cremation of Jews of different ethnic backgrounds?
Despite the disdain and rage Merritt feels for the prosecution, the OSI and the State Department, he is full of praise for the Israeli judicial system, and especially the prosecutor in Demjanjuk's trial, Michael Shaked. "Your prosecutor was brave and honest enough to admit to the doubts that arose regarding Demjanjuk's identification as Ivan the Terrible. It was these doubts that eventually resulted in freeing Demjanjuk from the hangman's noose. And the credit for this goes to your prosecutor, who I consider to be a noble man with the highest principles, quite unlike our own liars."
As for the allegation that Demjanjuk was in fact a collaborator of the Nazis who worked as a guard in a different camp, Merritt responds, "Yes, I heard about that and it might even be true, but so long as evidence has not been introduced to the court, it's impossible to find him guilty of other crimes. A person can only be guilty if convicted of the crime of which he is accused. Demjanjuk was put on trial for being Ivan the Terrible, but it became clear that he was not Ivan the Terrible."
How about the Germans accused at Nuremberg and convicted of the most hideous crimes based on confessions obtained under extreme torture - like Hoess's confessions of "gassings" at Auschwitz, which, we know today, never took place?
How about the seven Germans hanged for the Katyn massacre based on over 4,000 fraudulent affidavits? The Soviets under Gorbachev finally admitted it was they who killed those Jews - more than 4,000 fraudulent affidavits later!
Once the truth emerged at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, and word of it reached Judge Merritt in Cincinnati, he filed a complaint and demanded an investigation of the OSI and its director at the time, Allan Ryan, on suspicion of violating the constitutional rights of John Demjanjuk. The judge's claim was backed up by findings brought to light by the Demjanjuk family and their legal advisers, who searched through trash bins near the OSI offices in Washington and unearthed documents which indicated that the prosecution in the original Cincinnati trial did not provide the defense with all the material in its possession, as is required by law. (Says Judge Merritt): "My moral and legal obligation, as a human being and a judge, is to the constitution and rule of law. This was also the obligation of the officials in Washington - to submit all the information they had to the court."
No one at the OSI was ever fired, much less prosecuted for these illegal actions and despicable activities to this day.
The investigation of Judge Merritt's complaint is still underway. Gilbert Merritt's curriculum vitae is impressive, to say the least. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1936, he took his bachelor's degree at Yale, and then attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He later completed a law degree at Harvard. After being accepted to the bar, Merritt became a law school lecturer and worked as a lawyer at one of the largest firms in Nashville. In 1966, at the age of 30, Merritt was appointed a public prosecutor in Nashville, becoming the youngest federal prosecutor in the United States. In this position, he waged legal fights to enforce the federal equal rights and civil rights laws to improve the situation of the black minority of one of the most racist southern states.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed him to the federal District Court in Cincinnati, and in 1989 he was promoted to chief judge of the court. This fast-track judicial career path seemed to be leading toward a Supreme Court appointment, an opinion that was shared by President Clinton and the Democratic Party. But the Jewish community could not forgive him.
"Various Jewish organizations attacked me for lodging my complaint and my demand for an investigation," he dryly notes, his voice devoid of emotion. "They accused me of anti-Semitism. I never imagined what power these organizations could have."
Thought for the Day:
"Even our pronouns are now policed."
Back to Table of Contents of the July 1999 ZGrams