Eichmann, Demjanjuk and Me

Here I am, in the glass booth. Beside me sit two police officers, across from me are three judges. It’s a large room, filled with people. I’m not entirely sure how I got here, but in the minutes during which the final preparations are being carried out for what I assume to be my trial, I reconstruct the events of the past few days. It’s a bit choppy, but I remember the most important parts. 

Published in Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-eichmann-demjanjuk-and-me-1.7536315 

It was around 8 P.M. Someone attacked me outside, near my home. I fell down and was shoved into a parked car. There were four people in the car. They laid me down, bound my wrists, covered my mouth and blindfolded me. After that it gets blurry. I’m not sure whether the handcuffs, the detention cell and the interrogations were real or a dream. I’m positive, though, that right now an important man is standing in the room, pointing at me. It appears to be the attorney general. “When I stand before you here, judges of Israel, to lead the prosecution of David Stavrou, I am not standing alone“, he says, “With me are 6 million accusers”.
What terrible thing did I do, I ask myself. I’m a regular guy. Maybe not the greatest mind of my generation, certainly not without my faults, but even if I made mistakes here and there, I can’t come up with a single thing that would justify this kind of commotion. This is no ordinary criminal trial, I grasp that immediately. After all, I’m not a thief, a rapist or a murderer. There’s something broader here, something dark. The longer the speech continues, the more confused I become. The prosecutor’s tone grows harsher and it becomes clear that I, to my disgrace, pose a threat to the entire Jewish people.
At this stage, I must admit, I give up. What the hell do they want from me? Despite not observing all 613 commandments (truth be told, occasionally I trample rudely on some of them), I was sure that overall I do at least the minimum: I served in the military and I paid my taxes; in my humble family we speak Hebrew, hold a seder at Passover and light Hanukkah candles. We have Friday-night dinner at home and on Memorial Day we stand for the sirens. True, some of my clothes are shatnez, containing the prohibited blend of wool and linen, and there have been occasions when I have carried objects on Shabbat in an area without an eruv, but with all due respect that’s not exactly incest or idol worship.
And then, just as I’m about to give up, I have a light-bulb moment. It’s all her fault, she's why I'm here. We met 25 years ago, when she was a volunteer on the kibbutz where I lived. You know how it is. One thing leads to another. She wasn’t Jewish, but we were happy together and without giving it too much thought, seeing as I’m a simple, shallow man with little sense of history and lacking a deep national consciousness, I fell for her charms. Over time our relationship deepened and eventually we even raised a family. What a terrible mistake!
Now, as the prosecutor reaches the stage of calling the expert witnesses, an internationally known witness takes the stand. I know him. I’ve read about him in the newspaper here and there, and I’m almost thrilled by the idea that a person of his stature is taking the time to testify at my trial, even if it’s for the prosecution. It’s the Israeli minister of education. When he begins to speak his words are crystal-clear. I grasp my head in my hands and am filled with guilt feelings.
Six million Jews were lost as a result of assimilation and mixed marriages among Diaspora Jews, he says. The audience’s jaws drop as one, and I realize that my irresponsibility and lack of moral backbone have turned me into a Nazi war criminal. “Assimilation,” says the expert witness in summation, “is like a second Holocaust.”
He is followed by additional witnesses. One, I think the minister of agriculture, also speaks about the assimilation Holocaust. Another, I’m told he’s the deputy minister of religious services, laments the silent Shoah. I began to comprehend my place in the history of Israeli law: Eichmann, Demjanjuk, Stavrou.
I admit that when I waited for the verdict, I was still angry. I was suspicious about the motives of the witnesses. That gradually passed. I came to understand that trivial matters such as love, family ties and deep, true relationships cannot excuse violating the boundaries of race and Jewish religious law. I cause a Holocaust, therefore I am a Nazi, a danger to the Jewish people. Fortunately, the education and agriculture ministers are protecting the chosen people by combating Nazism with the help of race laws, which prohibit mixed marriages and strip inferior races of political and human rights.
At first I was still confused and suspicious, but a friendly prosecutor explained the background of their policy to me. As it turns out, the education minister solved all the problems of the education system and now, when Israel’s schoolchildren enjoy an excellent, free education, and the schools are brilliant campuses of academic excellence and values education, he has turned his attention to solving the problems of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora. It took time, but eventually I understood, and I lovingly accepted the necessary verdict. I have sinned. I have transgressed. All I can do is to hope that on my execution day an enormous crowd will welcome me with jeers and curses.


David Stavrou דיויד סטברו

עיתונאי ישראלי המתגורר בשוודיה Stockholm based Israeli journalist

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