Trying Those who Cannot be Tried - Collaborator Trials in Israel
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As part of the purification and self-cleansing atmosphere in the newly liberated countries of Europe following the end of World War II, dozens of Jews were put on trial for their actions during the war, and some were even convicted. This dispensation of justice did not pass by the young Jewish state. In 1950, the 'Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, 5710-1950' was passed in Israel. Although the law was supposedly intended to bring to justice Nazis, in fact the majority of defendants were Jews. Until the beginning of the 1960s, close to 40 Jewish survivors of the holocaust who were accused of collaboration with the Nazis, were put on trial under this law. Most of them had been prisoners with special duties in Nazi camps, which were known by the collective name, 'Kapo'. However, the trial which was most closely associated in the public eye with the issue of the Jewish leadership and Jewish collaboration with the Nazis during the holocaust was not conducted under this law. In 1954, the State of Israel sued Malchiel Greenwald for libel, after he accused Israel Kastner - then the spokesman for the Ministry of Trade and Industry and one of the most prominent members of the 'Aid and Rescue Committee' of the Zionist movement in Hungary during the holocaust - of abandoning the majority of Hungarian Jewry, in exchange for salvation for a few notables. Greenwald's attorney though had a political agenda, and in his attempt to turn the trial into the trial of the Zionist leadership during the war, he succeeded in turning Kastner into the de-facto defendant. The trial had significant political implications, as well as tragic consequences for its main character - Israel Kastner.
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