It was like a sequel to the Mel Brooks farce The Producers. A pair of Lithuanian nonagenarians, both 92, now bed-ridden and gravely ill, were being tried as Nazi war criminals. 1
A new circuitous law had enabled the Lithuanian court to try the accused via short-circuit TV in his sick bed in the hospital ward, while his lawyer pled his case in court.
Thus, the lawyer for accused Nazi war criminal Kazys Gimzauskas argued that his client was unable to participate in his trial on any meaningful level.
Gimzauskas stood accused of sending scores of Jews to their deaths as a police officer in Vilnius during the 1941-44 German occupation of Lithuania.
At the same time, the case of 92-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, another alleged Nazi war criminal, was also being heard to gauge whether it could resume. The Lileikis case was first heard in 1998; the accused, wheelchair-bound and sporting a neck brace, began gasping for air after pleading not guilty to the charges levelled at him; then was rushed to the emergency ward at the hospital.
Jewish groups, like the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who really aim to put the PR show in Shoah, are hitting a lot of speed-bumps with all these latter-day, show-trial theatrics. So it will likely be with the coming trial of John Demjanjuk in Germany.
The accused, who is very ill, will hardly look the part of a cigar-store Nazi. It will be harder to identify him with radical evil. And, who knows, perhaps he may unwittingly -- or wittingly, this is, after all, Demjanjuk’s second trial -- do things that will defeat that very purpose.
At the start of his first trial in Jerusalem in February 1987, on the charge of being “Ivan the Terrible” of Treblinka, Demjanjuk, about to enter (or to exit -- I can’t recall which) the paddy-wagon that ferried him to and from court, paused and looked over in the direction of the world's TV cameras. He waved genially, and with a disarming bonhomie declaimed, “Hello, Cleveland!”
You would’ve thought he was just a tourist in the Holy Land, or an out-of-towner, footloose in Donald Trump's Big Apple, excitedly greeting folks back home via the medium of the “Good Morning America” (GMA) TV show.
Anything but a Nazi ghoul, who stood accused of having gassed to death roughly one in six of the Six Million Jews typically alleged to have died in the Holocaust.
1. “Lithuanian Court Reopens Nazi Trial,” AP-NY-04-25-00 1035EDT.