In 2009, Harper's Magazine sent war-crimes expert Lawrence Douglas to Munich to cover the last chapter of the lengthiest case ever to arise from the Holocaust: the trial of eighty-nine-year-old John Demjanjuk. Demjanjuk’s legal odyssey began in 1975, when American investigators received evidence alleging that the Cleveland autoworker and naturalized US citizen had collaborated in Nazi genocide. In the years that followed, Demjanjuk was twice stripped of his American citizenship and sentenced to death by a Jerusalem court as "Ivan the Terrible" of Treblinka—only to be cleared in one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in legal history. Finally, in 2011, after eighteen months of trial, a court in Munich convicted the native Ukrainian of assisting Hitler’s SS in the murder of 28,060 Jews at Sobibor, a death camp in eastern Poland.
An award-winning novelist as well as legal scholar, Douglas offers a compulsively readable history of Demjanjuk’s bizarre case. The Right Wrong Man is both a gripping eyewitness account of the last major Holocaust trial to galvanize world attention and a vital meditation on the law’s effort to bring legal closure to the most horrific chapter in modern history.
Lawrence Douglas is the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College. His books include The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust and The Vices. His work has appeared in leading publications such as the New Yorker, the Times Literary Supplement, and Harper's. He lives in Sunderland, Massachusetts.
"The case of [Demjanjuk] the death camp guard turned autoworker, related with authority and clarity."--New York Times Book Review
"Douglas relates with authority and clarity the story of these complex legal processes. . . . [He] does justice to both the story's factual complexities and its moral and political conundrums. . . .The Right Wrong Man, from its summary title to its thoughtful postscript is an impressive work, as well as a timely one in its demonstration of the power of legal systems to learn from past missteps."--Anthony Julius, New York Times Book Review
"A masterful account. . . . Douglas deftly delivers disquisitions on nuanced legal questions as if they were plot points in a thriller, making his demanding book a pleasure."--Wall Street Journal"A tour de force owing to Douglas' piercing analysis of all the legal complexities."--Foreign Affairs"[An] admirable book. . . . Douglas's narrative and analysis of this convoluted legal odyssey [is] extraordinarily impressive."--Christopher R. Browning, Times Literary Supplement
"[M]asterful. . . . [D]eftly delivers disquisitions on nuanced legal questions as if they were plot points in a thriller, making his demanding book a pleasure even for readers unschooled in the particulars of international law."--The Wall Street Journal
Table of Contents:
1 The Beginning of the End of Something 17
2 John in America 26
3 Ivan in Israel 68
4 Demjanjuk Redux 109
5 Demjanjuk in Munich 137
6 Was damals Recht war . . . 161
7 Memory into History 194
8 The Trial by History 216
9 The Right Wrong Man 247