|"Elizabeth Loftus," a central subject in this false "memory" article,
rang a bell. Here's what we've got about her and the John Demjanjunk case
at our chapter on the Holocaust at When Victims Rule (Demjanjuk was extradited from the U.S. to stand trial in Israel as
"Ivan the Terrible." It could not be proven that he was this Ukrainian "Nazi,"
so the prosecution of him failed -- although there are still efforts to
deport him out of the U.S. again).
During the trial [of Demjanjuk] itself, Sheftel [his Israeli lawyer] had difficulty finding a Jewish scholar willing to ignore widespread Israel opprobrium to testify in Demjanjuk's behalf about historical aspects of the case. "Because of the public campaign against the defense," says Sheftel, "I was determined that at least one of our expert witnesses be Israeli. I contacted several Israeli professors of history, directly and indirectly, but all rejected the idea out of hand. There can be no doubt they feared the media would attack them, and one of them told me frankly, 'If I agreed to appear as a defense witness, I will no longer be invited to be interviewed as a historian on television.'" [SHEFTEL, p. 148] (He eventually did find one).
Jewish predilection to Demjanjuk's guilt, worry for their careers and their tarnished credibility as dedicated Jews if associated with him, and their resultant reluctance to contribute to a fair trial, extended to America. Asked to be an expert witness in the psychology of photographic interpretation and memory for the Demjanjuk defense team, a Jewish professor of psychology in Seattle, Elizabeth Loftus, explained in Newsweek that she could not participate because her family and friends opposed her involvement in Demjanjuk's defense. They had, of course, already decided him to be guilty by the accusations they had heard in the news. True, she could obliquely testify in Newsweek that "research has shown little or no relationship between a witness’s confidence and his or her accuracy of recall ... [but] in the eyes of many [my testimony for the Demjanjuk defense] would be seen as an attack on the handful of people who miraculously survived Treblinka and now wished to be believed. They would not understand that a questioning of one part of memory does not necessarily mean a denial of all such memory. Thus [my] testimony would be seen as an unmitigated assault on the only memories we have of Treblinka." [LOFTUS, p. 10-11]
Afraid then to give offense (and cause herself problems) to the monolithic wall of Holocaust Memory (whatever it is, accurate or not), Loftus shamefully withheld her crucial testimony as a Jew (her replacement was not Jewish and served to reinforce the largely sectarian nature of the prosecution/defense polarization), claiming solidarity with a higher moral allegiance than truth: the dictate of Holocaust survivor sensitivity and emotionalism. And their sacrosanct unaccountability. "From a scientific point of view," noted Debbie Nathan and Jan Haaken in a Jewish magazine years later, "there was every reason for [Loftus] to help Demjanjuk's defense, and none to justify refusing. Yet she did refuse, in a dramatic illustration of the conflict between the disinterested pretensions of science versus the fervid politics of recovered memory -- a politics that can affect even scientists ... [NATHAN, p. 30] ... Elizabeth Loftus is Jewish, and although not religious, she could hardly have remained isolated from the forces driving the Demjanjuk prosecution ... [NATHAN, p. 94] ... Personal ties and fears of ostracism can create both strong solidarity and repressive silence. In Loftus' case, both combined with guilt and the desire to make things right at any cost. Eventually, these politics would override science ... Loftus' fear of once again betraying her Jewishness led her to rationalize her refusal to testify." [NATHAN, p. 95]
So Loftus, the dedicated Jew, for reasons of allegiance to the emotions of the Tribe refused to be part of a scientific, rationalist challenge to Holocaust Memory as evidenced, for example, in the testimony of Holocaust/Treblinka survivor Eliahu Rosenberg. Early in Demjanjuk's trial, in high court drama, Rosenberg walked up to Demjanjuk to inspect his face closely. "The courtroom," noted Yarom Sheftel, "erupted with shouts of murderer! He should be killed!" [SHEFTEL, p. 47] "Beyond a shadow of a doubt -- it's Ivan the Terrible from the Treblinka gas chambers," declared an emotional Rosenberg, "The man I'm looking at. I saw the eyes, those murderous eyes." [SHEFTEL, p. 46] "Murderous eyes -- merderische oygen,," says Sheftel in underscoring the deeper, ages-old Jewish contempt for Ukrainians (and others) in the case, "is a common Yiddish expression used of goyim by Polish Jews. Rosenberg knew that the eyes he saw were not the murderous eyes of Ivan the Terrible. One could say, however, that he said this under the influence of a show-trial being staged by the prosecution with the full court's approval." [SHEFTEL, p. 46]
A rather significant footnote to Rosenberg's testimony here was the declaration written in his own handwriting that turned up later, found in a Warsaw Jewish archive; Rosenberg had testified in 1945 that he had witnessed the killing of Ivan the Terrible during an uprising. [WAGENAAR, p. 105] (Cross-examined about this document, the Holocaust survivor claimed that he had really only meant in 1945 that he had heard that Ivan had been killed, and there in the courtroom the real Ivan sat before him). Testimony from Treblinka survivors riveted Israeli attention and was treated as irrefutable. Tom Teicholz noted the court testimony of Yehiel Reichman, for example: "'While I was washing [prisoners' extracted] teeth ... with Finkelstein ... this demon Ivan' -- Reichman pointed spontaneously at Demjanjuk -- 'came with a drill ... He turned it into the buttocks of Finkelstein ... [He] was seriously wounded." [TEICHOLZ, p. 152]
"Throughout this account," observed Tom Teicholz, "Demjanjuk was slowly shaking his head no." [TEICHOLZ, p. 152]