The dangers of Right-wing populism are best exemplified in the anti-Semitic ravings of Pat Buchanan. Take his column in the latest issue of Human Events, in which Buchanan complains about how the Nazi war criminal, John Demjanjuk, has been ordered deported to Germany to stand trial as an accessory to the murder of 29,000 Jews at the Sobibor concentration camp in Poland. “How many men in history,” he asks rhetorically, “have been so relentlessly pursued and remorselessly persecuted?”
Calling this monster an “American Dreyfus,” he blames Demjanjuk’s persecution on the acceptance by his persecutors of false evidence forged by Andropov’s KGB, which supposedly orchestrated the attack on him beginning back in 1979. Arrested and tried in Israel in 1988 for being a guard at Treblinka known as “Ivan the Terrible, ” Demjanjuk was cleared of the original charges and released by Israel’s Supreme Court. But now the Office of Special Investigations at the Justice Department, according to Buchanan, has brought up the phony charge that he actually was at Sobibor, and is still guilty of genocide. But, argues Buchanan, he was never there.
The end is that he will be tried as a “sacrificial lamb whose blood washes away the stain of Germany’s sins.” Since Germans voted themselves amnesty in 1969, (more on this false claim later) they need such pawns, and they took a conscripted Ukrainian and made him into a camp guard. Who is to blame? For an answer, take a look at Buchanan’s last sentence:
“The spirit behind this un-American persecution has never been that of justice tempered by mercy. It is the same satanic brew of hate and revenge that drove another innocent Man up Calvary that first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.” Whom might that be, Pat? I don’t think we have to guess too hard to figure out whom he is talking about.
For those who think Buchanan has a case, must reading comes today from Reason magazine’s Michael Moynihan, who goes through the case in great detail. As he notes, Demjanjuk was”the right man on the wrong charge,” which is why Israel released him after a jury had originally found him guilty. Buchanan now recycles an old 1993 column and dredges up his old arguments, although they were answered long ago. Moynihan notes that American investigators found documents in German archives proving that Demjanjuk had been stationed at Sobibor and Flossenberg camps where Jews were liquidated, and their evidence did not depend, as Buchanan claims, on KGB forgeries accepted by the Justice Department.
Moynihan, moreover, reveals that Buchanan got information on which he based his claim that Demjanjuk was innocent from a leading American holocaust denier, Jerome Brentar, of the now defunct Journal of Historical Review. And, he notes, Germany did not vote an amnesty for itself on war crimes in 1969, as Buchanan claims. What he most probably is referring to is a 1968 modification of the German penal code which made prosecution of Nazi war criminals more difficult, and gave shorter sentences to those involved in lesser war crimes, such as so-called desk killers who did not act out of anti-Semitic motives. As Moynihan notes, Germany is today trying a leading Wehrmact officer, Josef Scheungraber, for war crimes. This would not be possible if Buchanan was correct about a so-called amnesty on war crimes trials.
Much of this is not new. Many years ago, Josh Muravchick wrote about Buchanan’s anti-Semitism in Commentary. His article may be found here. Later, Muravhcik wrote another article attacking Buchanan on his claims about Demjanjuk. That one may be found here. Isn’t about time that responsible conservatives stop giving him any credibility?