TORONTO (May. 17)
A Canadian lawyer depicted Jews as a “dangerous enemy” in wartime Hungary and claimed the hardships they endured as slave laborers in a Nazi-run brickyard were no worse than the discomfort experienced by people whose vacation goes sour.
Those and similar observations were made by defense attorney Douglas Christie, in the course of his three-day summation to a jury of five men and seven women hearing the case of Imre Finta.
Finta, 77, was an officer in the Nazi-controlled Royal Hungarian Gendarmerie, responsible for the Jewish ghetto in Szeged, a city in southern Hungary.
He has been tried on eight counts, including theft of personal property, kidnapping, manslaughter and forcibly confining 8,617 Jews deported from Szeged in 1944.
Two survivors from Israel, Meir Schweiger and Mordechai Schnitzer, told of being confined to boxcars for days, Schweiger was sent to Birkenau and Schnitzer to the Strasshof camp in Austria.
According to Christie, the Hungarian officials did not wish to put Jews in boxcars, but how else were the Jews to be transported and where else were they to be sent? he asked.
The deportations were justified, he said, because Jews were considered an “internal security threat.”
They were believed to be linked to Communism and in sympathy with the Red Army, which was advancing on Hungary.
In the 1944 climate, Jews were considered “the enemy” and “dangerous,” Christie told the jurors. It is a defense tactic he used during the course of the trial. He dismissed the looting of their property by Finta as a form of tax collection.
The Hungarian-born former restaurateur from Hamilton, Ontario, is the first accused war criminal brought to trial under a 1987 amendment to the Criminal Code, which allows Canadian courts to try war crimes suspects for offenses committed on foreign soil.
Christie would up his summation with an appeal to the judge. “As we judge, so will we be judged,” he said, “and that will be the judgment you get from God and history.”
Christie, who has been called Canada’s “right-wing William Kunstler,” has a long record of defending anti-Semites and neo-Nazis in Canada. His clients have included Jim Keegstra, John Ross Taylor, Malcolm Ross and Ernst Zundel, all of whom publicly proclaim that the Holocaust was a Jewish hoax.
His defense of Finta rests on two arguments: that the Nazi collaborator acted on orders and that the 19 Holocaust survivors from many countries who bore witness against him were motivated by revenge. He also challenged their memory and accused Jewish witnesses of lying.