“Revenge is for them”

23 December 2009 by Hermione Gee

Isaac Fransman: born in Amsterdam July 23 1898, deceased 9 April 1943 in Sobibor; Rachel Fransman-Lochem: born in Amsterdam July 7 1900, April 9 1943 deceased in Sobibor.

“In all these years,” says Rob Fransman, “the names of my father and mother have never been mentioned in any courtroom. I’ve often said the Kaddish [but] I’ve never specifically said it for my parents. The way the judge read out the names this afternoon was a prayer. He said Kaddish for me. How ironic - a German judge in Munich.”

Fransman is one of 22 co-prosecutors at the trial of John Demjanjuk in Munich, Germany. They are all family members of people murdered at the Nazi death-camp in Sobibor, Poland, during World War II. Both of Fransman’s parents died at Sobibor.

Demjanjuk, 89, is charged with accessory to the murder of 29,700 Dutch Jews at Sobibor where he allegedly worked as a camp guard in 1943. |

What’s does it mean for you, to be in the courtroom and see Demjanjuk on trial?
I try to examine my own feelings. In the trial, my seat in the courtroom is less than 3 meters from the bed where he is laying. So if I stand up, I can touch him. I can do something to him. But I don’t have that urge at all. He’s not a symbol of evil for me. He’s John Demjanjuk, and he’s there, and he plays the role of victim now.

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now

Related articles

19 February 2007 by Laetitia Grotti

One year ago on January 6, 2006, the 17 members of Morocco's Equity and Reconciliation Commission (IER) were closing up shop after submitting their final report to King Mohammed VI. The Moroccan truth commission had received a flood of compliments from the international community praising the recommendations in its report, especially those advocating legislative and constitutional reforms. One year later, however, the results have been rather mixed.

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

23 October 2006 by Christine Chaumeau

China is keeping a polite distance from international criminal justice. Beijing is hardly disinterested, but China does want to make sure that these new global mechanisms are not going to infringe upon its sovereignty by delving into particularly sensitive cases such as Tibet. 

United Nations Operation in Burundi disarms rebel forces in Mbanda in February 2005 (Photo: Flickr/UN Photo/Martine Perret)
03 June 2015 by Janet H. Anderson, The Hague (The Netherlands)

Over the last month, Burundi has hit the headlines as the president put himself forward to be elected for a controversial third term, resulting in street protests, thousands of refugees who fled instability and an attempted coup. Behind the issues of elections and constitutionalism are also those of justice following Burundi’s long-running civil war. The international community supported an intensive process of negotiation and the signing of the Arusha Accord in 2000. But in the decade and a half since, its provisions on justice have been debated though never fully implemented.

06 November 2006 by Pierre Hazan

France's attitude towards international criminal justice is marked by ambiguity. Paris subscribes to a vision of the world in which international humanitarian law is considered a way to curb violence against civilian populations, but at the same time it is wary of an unchecked judicial system that could end up prosecuting French soldiers engaged in areas where it has old and deep-rooted interests.