Shouting for Justice
The Journey of a Jewish Journalist Across the Century of Hitler and Israel
by Herb Brin. Copyright © September 2002. All rights reserved.
Chapter Fourteen: Schindler's List
The distinguished historian-biographer Neil Baldwin noted that the Ford Motor Company recently made television history when it became the sole sponsor of the film Schindler's List over NBC.
The occasion was Feb. 23, 1997.
Earlier, he had written in his book, Henry Ford and the Jews, that Ford had alienated American Jews to such an extent that "on the edge of World War II... they had virtually stopped buying Ford products in the most complete boycott of automotive vehicles by any group in American history."
I agree, the Ford Motor Co. today is not the same Ford Motor Co. that reflected the Jew-hatreds of its founder. Henry Ford devoted a part of his bitter lifetime to the destruction of the Jewish people.
But the name's the same. God help us all.
The nefarious Dearborn Independent and its publication of the bastard "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" reflected the worst of the flivver giant.
I must admit that Ford's sponsorship of Schindler's List was a brilliant ploy by the latter day Ford Motor Co. But, then, NBC should have known better. Indeed, there was no one around to ask what Henry Ford had done with his Hitler medals. The war in Europe had long since ended. How many of us are left to ask key questions?
Who is left to ask a lot of delayed and delayed questions of Henry Ford? Of Charles Lindbergh? Of Thomas Watson?
Lucky Lindy, we knew.
We knew Tom Watson, the robber baron founder of International Business Machines. IBM.
When the Hitler regime declared war on the United States after Pearl Harbor, Watson had the decency to send back his medals to Hitler.
But Tom Watson had already done his worst. His system of card cataloguing had already supplied Adolph Hitler with the names and addresses of virtually every Jew in Europe.
Men, women and children.
§ § § § § § § § § §
Why this tangent piece about the sponsorship of a movie, Schindler's List?
Because I wrote Schindler's List!
It was early in the 1980s that I received a phone call from Rabbi Jacob Pressman. Would I come to his study to meet with a congregant named Leopold (Paul) Page?
"He has a story about the Holocaust and wants to tell it to you," said the rabbi, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Am of Beverly Hills.
I dropped everything and headed for Beth Am.
I had never heard of Paul Page, as the rabbi referred to him.
But as the rabbi was a friend, you do things when such a friend calls.
"Paul's been trying to get someone -- anyone! -- interested in a story about a nazi who single-handedly saved the lives of some 1,300 Jews from the death camp at Auschwitz," Pressman said.
"Nobody wants the story," Page cut in. "He saved my life and I've got to tell it."
Rabbi Pressman noted that Holocaust stories had acquired a "kiss of death" quality and nobody would touch them.
The rabbi looked deeply within me. "What can you do, Herb?"
I took down the story from Paul Page. It was a bizarre tale I heard for some two hours. I took down the details of a whiskey-drinking womanizer named Oskar Schindler and his determination to save his Jewish workers at an enamelware factory near Kracow, Poland -- on the outskirts of Auschwitz.
It was a strange story about a nazi and of the humanities reborn in him.
"Run it in your Heritage," the rabbi said. "Something might happen."
Which I did. Ran it serial fashion for three weeks as my cover story in Heritage.
The story got a lot of attention in Hollywood. Howard Koch of MGM called me three times, wanting the rights to the story. I turned every caller over to Leopold Page, who assumed to handle film production on behalf of all the Schindler survivors in California.
But Page was unable to conclude a deal with any of the MGM callers.
Page made copies of my story and had them on display at his handbag repair shop in Beverly Hills. Promoting the story to anyone who might come along to read it.
That's how he came into contact with a visiting Australian novelist, Thomas Keneally.
Page offered him a copy of Heritage's Oskar Schindler story and the Aussie writer extended the story into book form. Schindler's List was an immediate, surefire success.
It was only at this point that Steven Spielberg came into the picture and produced one of the most notable films of all time.
Not once did Spielberg discuss the role of Rabbi Pressman in calling me to write the story. Not once was I contacted by Spielberg.
I let the word out in Hollywood that I would make no issue of the original story which I had written at the behest of Leopold Page, the true promoter of the story. Page did get portrayed as a major character in the movie.
One doesn't make an issue over a Holocaust story.
Chapter Fifteen: Fighting Hate
Reporters often encounter strange events in history. As editor and feature writer for a small newspaper serving Jewish communities of Southern California, I had a ball encountering hatemongers operating in areas served by Heritage Southwest Jewish Press.
(Hatemongers -- the tiny handful of mongers who hate Jews and/or other people.)
When I left the Times. the single most important monger I came upon in Southern California was a guy known as Gerald L. K. Smith.
Smith was a sinister minister and pastor from Shreveport, Louisiana -- an ally of the political kingfish Huey Long. He was also associated with a gent called William Dudley Pelley, head of America's native Silver Shirt Movement.
And he was a pal of Father Charles E. Coughlin, described by the Anti-Defamation League as the Jew-hating "radio priest."
ADL charged that "Smith had been teacher, mentor or associate of most of the important anti-Jewish propagandists of the mid-century years."
Gerald Smith had an assistant "pastor" who was founder of a church called The Church of Jesus Christ Christian. His name: Wesley Swift.
Swift begat two assistants of his own -- Richard Butler, a Lockheed engineer who later founded the brutal Aryan Nations movement, and Col. William P. Gale, an aide to Gen. MacArthur and founder of a hare-brained group call the Posse Comitatus.
Nice guys, all. They bred killers at Hayden Lake, Idaho.
Only Gerald L. K. Smith had what might be considered a sense of humor. Somewhat.
It took a guy like Gerald Smith to buy a Victorian home and some 167 acres of land in Arkansas to arrange for the erection of a seven-story concrete monument to himself at Eureka Springs. The monument was a huge figure of Smith, his arms stretched out in a gigantic cross.
"Christ" in concrete.
All these guys were to become my pigeons for the next two decades.
§ § § § § § § § § §
Gerald Smith's bitterness against the Jews of America ended when it came to visiting Jewish-owned antiques stores in Beverly Hills. Jewish antique dealers sadly-sadly found him to be an excellent customer. His purchases were regularly trucked to his home in Eureka Springs.
Wesley Swift offered a highly unusual perspective for his own church philosophy. He insisted that his Christian Identity Movement was dedicated to proving that Christian members of the church were the true descendants of the Biblical Israelites and that modern Jews were not Jews at all but descendants of the devil.
To assert that premise took some talking by Wesley Swift. Which, of course, steamed him up. When he spoke at the Embassy Auditorium near downtown Los Angeles, Swift would stride from side to side in the manner of small boys trying to repress the urge to go to the bathroom.
To many viewers he came to be known as "Shifty Legs" Swift.
When Swift died, Richard Butler reverend-ized himself and moved the church to a 34-acre compound at Hayden Lake, Idaho.
Col. Gale absorbed the remaining Swift members as part of his newly-created Posse Comitatus.
Two killer gangs emerged.
§ § § § § § § § § §
Gerald Smith's reach embraced a leading California haberdasher, one James Oviatt.
Oviatt, in the post war years, was gung ho for a group known as the John Birch Society.
The haberdasher was also a patron of Wesley Swift. From his elegant store in the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel, Oviatt mailed packets of hate literature to his store's clients, including materials based on the historic fraud of anti-Semites: The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion."
The material I had on Oviatt was unassailable.
Wrote about it at length in Heritage.
My references to James Oviatt were picked up by TV personality Paul Coates and radio commentator Bill Stout.
Oviatt promptly filed three lawsuits, one against Paul Coates for $10,250,000, one against Bill Stout in the same amount, and one against Herb Brin. The action against me sought $20,500,000.
I called an old friend, Frank Mankiewicz, a key staffer of the Anti-Defamation League, to take on our legal defenses.
"I ain't got no $20 and a half million bucks," I said to Frank.
The Oviatt family got together and took over the case from James Oviatt. Dropped it. Closed the store.
So you see...
§ § § § § § § § § §
Frank in time introduced me to Bobby Kennedy and to the staff of Bobby Kennedy for president - including the utterly brilliant, and charming, Mary Jo Kopechne.
Frank was to be Bobby Kennedy's press secretary.
# # # # # # # # # #
A Note From Those Nearby
For lack of time, Herb Brin left out some of the most colorful moments from his long career as a vigorous and outspoken public figure in the Los Angeles area.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Brin campaigned for liberal causes, championing the presidential efforts of Robert Kennedy in 1968. (See the following chapter.)
An early opponent of the Vietnam War, Herb supported the presidential bid of George McGovern. He also was among the first to prod the city's Jewish leadership into endorsing the mayoral candidacy of Tom Bradley, the nation's first African American mayor of a big city.
In 1979, Brin mobilized community opposition to the decision by CBS to cast actress Vanessa Redgrave, an avowed supporter of the most extreme elements of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as Auschwitz survivor Fania Fenelon in the biographical television film Playing for Time. Fenelon participated in some of Brin's protests, which culminated in his picketing the 1979 Academy Awards at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Redgrave, who received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, used her acceptance speech to castigate the protesters as "Zionist hoodlums."
Also in the late 1970s, Brin began to take positions that alienated some of his friends on the left. He endorsed the Proposition 13 'taxpayers revolt,' supported the settlement policies of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and opposed the reelection of Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Yet, any notion of a turn to the right was soon shown wrong. Some of the Jewish community's wealthy leaders were deeply offended when he reported that Cedars-Sinai hospital, a chartered 'charity hospital' built entirely with donated funds, would not accept MediCal patients. His public campaign almost single-handedly brought that august institution back to its roots of generosity and public-spirited service.
And there were other fights... other windmills to face. Back to Herb's own words.
Chapter Sixteen: Bobby... and other martyrs
When Bobby Kennedy ran for president in 1968, in my view he was the superior presidential candidate of any party that year.
His campaign was strong, cultured and trustworthy.
Frank Mankiewicz, as director of the campaign, assured that on many levels.
It was not unexpected that many of the Heritage staff would join me to volunteer our support for Bobby Kennedy. Indeed, we were gung-ho for him. We detected a sense of decency in this campaign.
To help Bobby capture the electoral votes of California seemed to be the least we could do to express our gratitude for his unwavering support for the State of Israel.
I worked side by side with his press secretary, Mary Jo Kopechne, in Bobby's Wilshire Boulevard office only blocks from my own Heritage office.
As expected, I was invited on election night to attend Bobby Kennedy's victory party -- should he win in California.
For the event, the Kennedy entourage took over the well-known Embassy Auditorium in the Ambassador Hotel. It was a free and open party and it seemed that anyone interested could attend.
It was inevitable that whiskey freeloaders would easily hustle their way into the throng. Also, an intense, coatless guy who just wanted to look around was let inside by the doorkeeper.
I'm not sure that I saw Mary Jo Kopechne on the rostrum when Bobby gave his speech thanking California voters for the powerful bloc of votes he'd won in the startling election.
"Let's go on now and win all the other states," Bobby told the gathering. He looked for all the world like the next president of the United States.
Bobby was led off the rostrum by Frank Mankiewicz and directed into a pantry through the auditorium's kitchen. This, to avoid the milling Kennedy supporters in the main auditorium.
I watched as the intense, coatless "foreign" young man followed the Kennedy party toward the hallway. Roosevelt Grier celebrated football star, made up the rear of the Bobby Kennedy party.
I had been content to sit on the rostrum only about 20 feet from the doorway, waiting for a band to start playing.
It was a happy party that entered the hallway. But the party's voices were suddenly punctuated by a series of five or six gunshots.
Women screamed, "Oh my God!"
A woman came rushing out of the pantry with an ice pail in hand.
"We need ice! We need ice!" she shouted.
I was stunned. "Who needs ice?" I wanted to ask.
She dashed off to where she presumed was the bar.
I tried to enter the kitchen doorway but was kept out by the football star, Rosie Grier.
The huge football player, his head hanging down, had subdued and captured the would-be assassin, Sirhan Sirhan.
The mortally wounded Bobby Kennedy was rushed by ambulance to the nearby Hospital of the Good Samaritan.
It was impossible for reporters to get close to Bobby as he was carried out of the hotel for transport to the hospital.
The football star embraced me and sobbed into my shoulder. Then he broke away muttering: "I coulda killed him! I shoulda killed him!"
He broke away and grabbed a large lobby chair and hurled it into a water fountain in the lobby of the hotel.
His shoulders shook, sobbing. He was led away.
I was stunned beyond belief. How could this have happened to the nation's first family, twice?
Maybe Bobby will come through. Maybe he'll come through.
For many of us it was a sleepless night. I wanted very much to speak with Mary Jo or Frank Mankiewicz.
I left the Embassy Auditorium for my home. I never returned to revisit the scene of the tragedy.
§ § § § § § § § § §
But I did return several hours later to join in what had become the death watch for Bobby.
How could Sirhan Sirhan have happened? But he did.
Pundits at the hospital suggested that if Bobby lasted to midday, he would stand a good chance of making it.
All hopes, however, were dashed when the press was collected and told to go the hospital auditorium to hear a report from Mankiewicz about Bobby's condition.
Bobby Kennedy had expired.
Tragedy had once again found the Kennedy family.
§ § § § § § § § § §
But hardly not the last time.
For Mary Jo Kopechne, Bobby's take-charge secretary, had taken ill at a dinner party near her home and was placed in the back seat of a car charged out to Senator Edward Kennedy.
Edward would drive her home.
The car got out of control, he later told state troopers, and tumbled off a bridge and into the waters of Chappaquidik.
Ted Kennedy said he managed to push open the front door of the car and he swam and made it to shore.
The waters overwhelmed Mary Jo on the back seat and she perished.
These things happen in life.
Chapter Seventeen: Israel and More
There was this rule in the kingdom of Jordan that if you try to use your American passport to cross into Jordan, that passport had better not have more than one or two Israeli consular stamps.
I had long felt that this rule was harmful to the rights of any American citizen. And so I was determined to check it out.
Boy, I got told.
Was it a crime that one Herb Brin, an American journalist became embroiled diplomatically while trying to achieve a brave new dimension in international travel, one that would allow him, me, to visit Amman, Jordan, with my friend Chet Opal who was now the American consul general in Amman?
If they'd let me in, wouldn't the world be a more beautiful one?
Those were the halcyon days when all the world knew that Israel had achieved a spectacular feat when it captured a guy named Adolph Eichmann in Argentina and flew him to Jerusalem as newspapers proclaimed: The Beast is in Our Hands!
It was a hot, sizzling spring day when I boarded a city bus in Jerusalem heading for Jericho and its well-known Allenby Bridge over the River Jordan.
Indeed, I hadn't planned to go to Saudi Arabia at all. I hoped to pop in to visit with Chester Opal, the American consul general in Amman -- the gent who had me fired at City Press because I wasn't tough enough as a journalist.
I figured it would be a piece of diplomatic cake to return to Jericho from a visit with Chet.
What would King Hussein of Jordan want with me? After all.
Jordanian bus authorities had other plans however.
The bus to Mecca rolled on in the afternoon sunshine.
I was told to run after it shouting: "Hey, wait for me!"
The bus dropped me off however, stranded, inside Jordan -- some three or four miles within King Hussein's domain. Stranded. But stranded! Under a hot sun.
I was told by a bus attendant that one of the buses returning from Mecca to Jericho might have a standing-room only spot for me. If I held on. Patient.
They were giving me the business. Ha-ha!
Three hours later, I launched my trek back to Jericho. By foot. No taxis in sight on this lonely road.
I learned that Chet Opal laughed to read my account of Herb Brin's invasion of Jordan.
Elie Wiesel, the great poet of the Holocaust, laughed so much that he submitted my piece to a contest for Jewish journalists named for Boris Smolar the veteran editor of the Jewish Daily Forward in New York.
It won the first Smolar Award of the Council of Jewish Federations ... considered the "Pulitzer Prize" in Jewish journalism.
O.K., I didn't make it that time to visit with Chet Opal in Amman. But I did return to Jordan, first class, some 10 or 15 years later as formal peace was established between Israel and Jordan.
Artist David Rose and I managed to be on the second bus that officially left the Israeli port city of Eilat for Amman. Along the way we visited the great city of Petra that was carved by an early civilization into the red rocks overlooking the Jordan Valley.
David and I rode into the beautiful capital city of Amman, Jordan, in style.
And there was none of this nonsense to fake it by way of a "pilgrimage" to Mecca.
I felt that by now I was too old for that sort of child's play.
But, alas, Chet Opal had left his diplomatic post in Jordan. I never did get to see him as the Chicago journalist who went straight.
He'd laugh at this story. Probably would mumble: "Herb, you're still too soft as a reporter for City Press."
§ § § § § § § § § §
For my way of thinking, "Hank" is a very doggone masculine sounding name.
Hank is supposedly a derivative of the name Henry.
(When I was born "Henry" was the name given to me on my birth certificate. But everybody and his mother called me "Hymie". And later, Herb. NOT Herbert!)
Two of my best friends were named Hank.
Hank Watchman was the toughest fighter for Israeli causes on the American scene. Collected more than a dozen shrapnel wounds in the fighting on Saipan in the South Pacific.
Hank Greenspun, of Las Vegas, was the other one. He was an aide to Gen. Eisenhower in Europe. (He found time to court his beautiful Barbara in Ireland. But that's a story for Barbara to tell.)
Talk to either Hank and you'd have met the gentlest of folks on earth. One did not, repeat -- did not! -- cross them on a matter of honor or the decent treatment of the memories of those who were haunted by Hitler and his German murder gangs.
Anyway, got a call from Hank Watchman some time in the late 1950s.
"Herb, Bobby Briscoe's coming to San Diego and called to say he wants to meet you."
"The Bobby Briscoe?"
"Yeah, Bobby Briscoe, mayor of Dublin," Watchman added.
Now, that's making it big time.
O.K., the three of us met in the El Cortez, that sexy San Diego hotel that invented outside elevators.
Briscoe had somehow learned of my journalistic exploits in reports published by the London Jewish Chronicle.
Guess I was making it big time. In Europe.
But I was more interested in Bobby Briscoe.
How did a nice Jewish boy in Ireland make it to become lord mayor of Dublin, no less?
Bobby minced no words. "I ran guns for the IRA." Translated: He was perhaps the prime gun runner for the Irish Republican Army.
How did Hank Watchman fit into the picture? Bobby Briscoe was Hank's cousin. An incredible family, the Watchmans.
Then there was all the world but only Hank Greenspun, publisher of the Las Vegas Sun. The greatest gun runner of them all. Shimon Peres, as prime minister of Israel reborn, told me of the enormous debt the Jewish people owed to Hank and the American veterans who gathered around Hank Greenspun.
That's how I met Hank.
In 1948, Jewish veterans of the fighting in the South Pacific and Europe went out on a hunt for weapons. The group I was with was headed by Sid Levine, father of Mel Levine, who was later to become a congressman representing portions of Los Angeles. Heading the national effort were Shimon Peres and Teddy Kolleck, who was to become the legendary mayor of Jerusalem.
Barrels of weapons were collected for shipment to Israel. But a huge stack of machine guns and airplane motors assembled at Wilmington Harbor required special treatment for delivery to the embattled Jews of Palestine, the fragment of Holocaust survivors who fought to keep the new Jewish state alive.
The questions was -- would the machine guns arrived in time to help the Jews to fight off seven Arab armies coming in on them from all side?
Jews of California leased a large yacht, the Idelia, which was loaded down to its portholes with surplus equipment.
Hank Greenspun and an assistant made their beds atop the machinery. Hank and his helper were off to Acapulco, Mexico.
Owner of the Idelia came by to cancel leasing of his yacht. I'm told it was an ugly scene, but the Idelia shoved off.
The seas became rough, and somewhere west of San Diego, the Idelia's motor stopped. Needed recranking.
Look, Hank wasn't the greatest navigator.
But how to start it up again?
Hank pulled the starter motor out to examine it. Seemed to work all right. Holding the starter motor in his bare hands, he thrust the motor into its place with his bare hands. The yacht's engine somehow kicked in. The Idelia was off and again running.
The word had gone forward at Acapulco Harbor that the Mexican army was awaiting this shipment of military equipment. A number of Mexican trucks were waiting for the shipment, to be delivered to a Mexican contingent at Vera Cruz on Mexico's east coast.
Hank made it to Vera Cruz.
While the shipment was being loaded aboard an awaiting freighter, it was being picketed by Jews of Mexico who were told the machinery was being shipped to Arab forces.
When the freighter's captain refused to leave the Mexican harbor, Hank pulled out a revolver and the captain somehow understood the necessity to take his vessel out into international waters.
Arab groups in Mexico learned too late that the military equipment was actually intended for the Jews of Palestine. They began picketing the ship even as the Jewish pickets disappeared.
Hank came back to Las Vegas to face felony charges for violation of the Neutrality Act.
He took on to himself all charges that were intended for all others involved in the escapade.
I came into the picture tenderly.
Having been appointed national deputy director of Jewish War Veterans of the United States, I wrote to President John Kennedy requesting a pardon for Hank Greenspun.
The pardon was granted.
Shimon Peres, as prime minister of the state of Israel, said the arms shipment brought in by Hank Greenspun came at a most critical time in Jewish history.
"Hank Greenspun is a hero of the Jewish people," Peres told me.
There were a number of Hank's friends who were hoping for Frank Sinatra to take on the voyage of the Idelia as a film topic. Someone still can do it. It was a voyage of sheer bravery.
No better friends came out of historic events than Hank Greenspun and Herb Brin.
Hank insisted that Heritage needed its own newspaper press. Found one in Wallingford, Conn. Suggested that I go out and look at it. The press turned out to have a remarkable history. It had been used to print the Yale Review.
Like it? Buy it, ordered Hank Greenspun.
I paid him back to the last shining nickel.
Of course, that press kept Heritage alive for a long, long time.
§ § § § § § § § § §
When Hank passed on, his wife, Barbara, herself of a fine Irish Jewish family, insisted that I ride at her side as Hank was taken to the Jewish cemetery in Las Vegas and laid to rest.
There must be something special about the Jews of Ireland.
But then, there must be something special about the Jews. Especially about those named Hank.
Chapter Eighteen: The Adolph Eichmann Trial
In the spring of 1961 got a call from Nick Williams, managing editor of the Los Angeles Times. He'd read in Heritage of my plans to go to Israel to cover the impending Eichmann Trial. Would I also consider covering the trial for the Times?
Frank Haven, foreign news editor of the Times, asked me to come in and discuss coverage of the trial and anything else that might come along while I was there. Thus, while I was accredited by the Israelis to cover the trial for Heritage, there was dual accreditation for the Times.
For some two and a half months I sent daily reports to the Times. In turn, Times copy editors helped Heritage to stay afloat on the Los Angeles scene by actually editing the paper.
That operation was in effect the creation of the Times Middle East Bureau.
In Jerusalem. I was placed in a small pension hotel where the entire defense staff of Eichmann was assigned. At the trial, I found myself seated only 10 feet away from the defendant. Once, only once, did Eichmann try to stare me down. When he did, his face turned red. He looked away.
Attending the trial were people like Elie Wiesel, Hank Greenspun. E. Z. Dimitman (Philadelphia Inquirer) and correspondents for all the great newspapers and radio networks.
It was in Jerusalem that I learned from the publisher of my first book of poetry -- Wild Flowers -- that the book was to be printed. It became a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.
I never did win that award, but it kept me working away at my poetry.
After sitting through an exhaustive trial sesssion, I'd make it back to my room at the pension to grind out reams of copy on the Corona typewriter I had brought along from L.A. For other journalists, the trial perhaps marked the end of mechanical typing as I knew it. Modems and computer equipment were already gleams in the eyes of folks like Steve Wozniak and Bill Gates.
I remember a motto used by the Chicago Tribune: "Hew to the line. Let the chips fall where they may!"
Well, I hewed the line: breakfasts and dinners with the staff of Dr. Robert Servatius, Eichmann's defense lawyer.
Once when his secretary and I were strolling aimlessly in the gardens of the pension, she called me over to say that after hearing some of the testimony at the trial, she would never again trust the words of the older folks in Germany. And she began to sob bitterly.
That was the day that witnesses testified that Eichmann had told them not to approach his desk while pleading for the lives of French children.
The air he breathes must not be contaminated with Jewish breath.
I asked Servatius if Eichmann would answer but one question from me.
"What is the question?"
"The question is: 'Why?'"
At dinner, Servatius called me over to say that Eichmann, in answer, insisted that he was merely a cog in Hitler's machine.
"For that he collected millions of Jews from all over the continent for delivery to the death camps?"
"That was his answer to your question..."
It was his only comment to a journalist.
§ § § § § § § § § §
Adolph Eichmann was given every opportunity to defend himself by a modern legal system.
It was a Jewish legal system. The Star of David was everywhere in evidence during his trial.
Not one of his victims had been given the opportunity for a human defense.
On his conviction he could plead for mercy to a Jewish judge. To a Jewish president.
He was hanged under an Israeli law that permits execution only for crimes against humanity.
His ashes were scattered far out to sea.
§ § § § § § § § § §
As the trial ended, Foreign Minister Abba Eban dedicated the huge, awesome Yad Vashem structure built of rock and concrete which memorialized ashes of the victims of the Holocaust.
Yad Vashem, built atop Jerusalem's holy Mountain of Remembrance, is where all dignitaries of the world who come to Israel to pay their respects to victims of the Holocaust find it necessary to visit.
After the heat of that long trial, I traveled to Switzerland to thaw out. In my book, Ich bin ein Jude, I recount the difficulties I faced in covering Eichmann's proceeding. It is a travel story, describing my journeys over the same rails that Eichmann used to transport Jews from all over Europe to Auschwitz for their destruction.
Ich bin ein Jude.
I Am A Jew.
UNTER DEN LINDEN
I saw a changing of the guard
Unter den Linden
Tall men, Nordic men
Bearing guns, presenting arms
About face, stiff, deliberate
Automatons, raising legs
Goose-step Unter den Linden
It seems I saw a multitude
Unter den Linden
The master race, men, women
Screaming, chanting, euphoric
That tomorrow will be their's
And the tomorrows of tomorrow.
The Yellow Star upon the breast
It seemed it was again
Unter den Linden
Beside die Komische Oper
And Mack the Knife
Cavorting for Jenny
And the black freighter going out to sea
And aboard her was me
In an idiot's delight.
I saw Anne Frank Unter den Linden
In a museum for German history
And I alone to contemplate the bronze
For who is there to care
Unter den Linden
Where legs goose-step their terror
Through my heart
Beneath the Yellow Stars?
Humboldt University sits astride
Under the Lindens
The same von Humboldt of my childhood park
Where I dreamed idyllic dreams
And attended Talmud Torah
Beside von Humboldt School
Where Jewish childhood danced.
But never mind.
They offer restitution
To make it good again
Marks, for breathless gas
And ovens bearing symbols of Mercedes
Babies rising to the skies on vapored wings.
Give me back my children
From that black freighter
But speak softly now
To me, Unter den Linden.