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 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.
"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 "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 "Sophisticated and suspenseful, the book provides a trenchant analysis of the legal and moral dilemmas surrounding trials for genocidal crimes against humanity."--Glenn Altschuler, Jerusalem Post "[A] tour de force."--Foreign Affairs "The Right Wrong Man is an important read about the accountability those who do wrong ultimately face."--San Francisco Book Review "Formidable ... a thoughtful treatise."--Cleveland Jewish Star "In his indispensable history of the Demjanjuk case, Lawrence Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought at Amherst College, delivers a reader-friendly history of this controversial case that provides a valuable understanding of how German law evolved from eschewing the legal principles established by the Nuremberg Tribunal to the 2011 Demjanjuk case, which marked the first time a German court had ever tried, let alone convicted, 'one of the thousands of auxiliaries who served as foot soldiers of Nazi genocide.'"--Jack Fischel, Jewish Book Council "A perceptive and thought-provoking analysis... The story told by Lawrence Douglas in The Right Wrong Man is a vital part of that narrative of barbarism [and] a remorselessly fascinating account of the longest trial of any defendant accused of Nazi crimes."--Oliver Kamm, Jewish Chronicle "[A] thoughtful treatise."--Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star "Lawrence Douglas's immensely readable book absorbs the reader in the twists and turns of the Demjanjuk saga, helping us understand both why justice required prosecuting Demjanjuk for his 'egregious moral complicity,' and how the job got done."--Kevin P. Spicer, Commonweal
Introduction 1 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 Postscript 258 Acknowledgments 261 Notes 263 Sources 299 Index 321