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
"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."--New York Times Book Review
"[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
"As Holocaust historian Lawrence Douglas has written, the Eichmann proceedings were the ‘Great Holocaust Trial,' an unparalleled reckoning with the universal moral burden of the Nazi regime and its crimes. But what came--what could possibly come--after Eichmann? This is the question that guides Douglas's new book, The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial. . . . By Douglas's account, the Demjanjuk affair was a tumultuous encapsulation of much of the post-Eichmann politics of international justice, shaped as they were by the wax and wane of European communism, the creation of a nascent global architecture of legal accountability for atrocities perpetrated both during the Holocaust and elsewhere, and the global process of coming to terms with Europe's violent past."--Daniel Solomon, The New Republic
"An excellent legal-minded elucidation of the long trail toward the conviction of a notorious concentration camp guard."--Kirkus
"[A] story that needed telling."--Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
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