Welcome to 70 Faces of Israel. To celebrate 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, we’re looking at 70 people whose remarkable stories have changed our country and the world.
Name: Moshe Landau
Date of Birth: 29th April 1912, Danzig, Germany (now Gdansk, Poland)
Date of Death: 1st May 2011, Jerusalem, Israel
Claim to Fame: Presiding Judge at the Eichmann Trial
In 1961… Landau presided over the infamous Eichmann trial
German-born Landau was the son of a prominent doctor and member Danzig’s Jewish community. He finished high school in 1930, then attended the University of London School of Law. When Landau graduated in 1933, Hitler was rising to power in Germany. Instead of returning home, Landau immigrated to British Mandate Palestine.
Moshe Landau joined the Bar of Palestine in 1937. In 1940, he became a judge in the Haifa Magistrate’s Court, and in 1948 joined the District Court. In 1953, Landau was appointed as a Supreme Court judge. He served the Supreme Court for close to 30 years as a justice, the Deputy President, and finally as President.
Landau presided over several highly publicised cases and participated in many important commissions. These included the Agranat Commission, an investigation into Shin-Bet procedures, and a Criminal Court of Appeals case examining Kafr Qasim. However, no case gained as much attention as the infamous Eichmann Trial.
Adolf Eichmann was a prominent Nazi. He was the architect of the Final Solution which saw the extermination of millions of Jews within German reach. After the war, Eichmann seemed to disappear: in 1960, Mossad agents captured him in Argentina and extricated him to Israel. There, he stood trial for crimes against humanity.
Renowned as a fair and focused judge, Landau hurried through testimony about the Holocaust as a whole. He wanted to trial to focus squarely on Eichmann’s crimes. Landau ensured that Eichmann’s heinous acts were described to the court from thousands of pages of testimony. The Nazi was found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against specific groups, and also of belonging to three criminal organisations. On 15th December 1961, the court sentenced Eichmann to death. He was hung in June 1962.
As well as serving Israel’s Supreme Court, Landau held a number of other prestigious positions. He served on the International Court of Justice, the UN’s principal judicial organ based in The Hague. Landau also chaired the World Zionist Congress tribunal, and advisory commissions working to reform criminal procedure and other laws in Israel. Additionally, Landau was Chairman of the Commission to recognise Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem. He also served as chairman of the board of directors at the Technion University in Haifa.
Landau received an honorary doctorate from the Technion in 1980, and from the Hebrew Union College in 1997. In 1991, he won the Israel Prize – the country’s highest national honour – for law.
Previously: 1960: Shabtai Rosenne
Up next: 1962: Hillel Slovak