The Eulogizer: Eichmann trial judge Moshe Landau and Holocaust survivor Henry Markstein


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at Read previous columns here

Moshe Landau, 99, Eichmann trial presiding judge

Moshe Landau, the Israeli Supreme Court justice who presided over the trial of Adolph Eichmann 50 years ago, died at 99 on May 1, the eve of the country’s Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Landau, who remained a key player in historic Israeli events for decades after the Eichmann trial, that "the people bow their heads in expressing honor and deep appreciation for his life works and character.”

President Shimon Peres said Landau’s rulings “are the foundations of Israeli democracy.”

Landau, a Supreme Court justice from 1953 until his retirement in 1982, had been on the high court for eight years when he was selected to head the three-judge panel for the Eichmann trial. Time Magazine’s ongoing coverage of the trial frequently reported terse and testy exchanges between Landau and Eichmann.

“After an Eichmann foray into the minutiae of the Nazi bureaucracy’s workings, Judge Landau snapped: ‘You were not requested to give lectures. Asked a specific question, give a specific reply,’ " Time wrote at the time.

Time described Landau’s similarly succinct delivery of the guilty verdict against the Nazi leader: “The crowd expected to hear first a detailed, legalistic defense of Israel’s right to try Eichmann. Instead, Presiding Judge Moshe Landau (like his two colleagues a refugee from Nazi Germany) ordered Eichmann to attention in his glass, bulletproof cage, and bluntly told the accused: ‘The court finds you guilty.’ "

Former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak said that Landau was objective and stately in the Eichmann trial.

"Landau was one of our greatest judges," Barak said. "He was among the founders of Israeli law."

After the Eichmann trial, Landau served on the Agranat Commission, which investigated Israel’s lapses in the run-up to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and later chaired a commission, originally kept secret, into the practices of Israeli security services. The Landau Commission’s findings in 1987 were that the security agencies not only used physical force while interrogating prisoners but routinely lied at subsequent trials.

At the same time, the commission approved the use of a “moderate measure of physical pressure” in cases of hostile terrorist activity — a finding that brought condemnation from international bodies and was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court 12 years later.

The next year, in a rare interview, Landau denied that the commission had sanctioned torture and said even that Yitzhak Rabin had told him the procedures permitted by the commission would be insufficient. Landau said the security services continued to exceed his committee’s recommendations and exploited them.

“We saw how the twilight zone really corrupted the Shin Bet," he said. Landau went on to say that "There was the written code — the Landau Commission — and another oral code in the field. And this is a terrible thing. Because, within the security service, there must be an absolute truth. If this truth falls apart, woe be it to the service to whom the state has entrusted such a vital function and woe be it to all of us."

In that same interview Landau, then 88, warned against overly enthusiastic efforts at peacemaking, and said he did not believe that Israel had any peace partners in the Arab world.

"We have fine, naive people who see Muslim officials as some kind of partners in dialogue. But from Islam’s point of view, the Jews are a nation whose sovereignty cannot be recognized in any part of the lands that Islam claims for itself," he said. Landau added that "There may be rivalries between Arafat’s regime and Hamas and the other Islamic factions, but they’ll act in concert against Israel.”

He described himself as a moderate and as a Zionist.

“Zionism is the only one of the great ideologies of the 20th century that has proved its veracity," Landau said. "That’s why I find it odd to see it now being pushed into a situation in which it must defend itself.”

Landau was born in Danzig, Germany (now Gdansk, Poland), where his father was a leading member of the Jewish community. He received his law degree in 1930 from the University of London School of Law and then moved to prestate Palestine. Landau became a judge in 1940 and served the Israel Supreme Court from 1953 until his retirement in 1982.

Landau was a member of the International Court of Justice, and chairman of the World Zionist Congress tribunal, the Commission for Recognition of Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem and the board of directors of the Technion. He received the Israel Prize in 1991.

Henry Markstein, 75, Holocaust survivor in Northampton, England

Henry Markstein, one of the last-known Holocaust survivors in Northampton, England, died at 75 on April 7. Markstein was 3 years old when he fled Austria with his family through Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Markstein said in a 2010 interview that the Holocaust was "carried out by a people who were looked up to for their culture." He added, "Hate the Germans’ grandfathers and great-grandfathers for what they did, and never ever forget it … but do not tar the present generation with the same brush."

Markstein worked for the family’s wallpaper business in Northampton, a city of about 200,000 with a Jewish population of 300. His wife, Cynthia, said that "it was important to him that everyone knew about the Holocaust so it could be prevented from happening again." Northampton’s one synagogue, the Northampton Hebrew Congregation, said Markstein was a "valued member who had a very powerful story to tell.”

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