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Israel Tries Holocaust Survivors as Nazi Collaborators


Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-674-98814-9
Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

An exploration of Holocaust survivors who collaborated with the Nazis, a history that shows “the spectrum of possible types of victims in the Holocaust.”

These are stories of those who served on Jewish councils and police set up by the Nazis and the kapo, a prisoner who supervised other prisoners. Porat (Education/Hebrew Univ.; The Boy: A Holocaust Story, 2010) cites so many instances of the search for scapegoats and the gray zone between the perpetrators and the oppressed that one wonders why it took so long to uncover the full details of these “kapo trials.” The author shows how the trials went through phases, from an initial assessment of Jewish functionaries as equivalent to Nazis to a final perception of them as victims. To deal with accusations and disputes at the end of the war, displaced-persons camps set up honor courts. These courts had no law or statute to rely on and focused on morality and general principles of jurisprudence. Beginning in 1944, there was increasing violence across Palestine, with calls for a court. Police could arrest someone who was accused but were often forced to release them due to lack of a relevant law, and Israel couldn’t prosecute for crimes committed in another country. That situation continued until 1950, when the Knesset passed the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law, which served as the basis for the Eichmann trial. In addition to chronicling the history of the kapo trials and their aftermath, Porat deals with the concept of Israelis as eternal victims and victimhood being used to define their psyche. The author explains the philosophies and procedures involved in a way that encourages readers to see all sides. “As the cases of Jewish functionaries demonstrate,” writes Porat, “the camps contained not only victims and perpetrators but also those who lived in the gray zone.”

A pragmatic scholarly study that fills in some gaps in the Holocaust literature.