WJC 85th Anniversary - World Jewish Congress
A Message from WJC President Ronald S. Lauder

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder


Menachem Z. Rosensaft

The Jewish Right to Equality

Judge Julian W. Mack

The World Jewish Congress during World War II

Gregory J. Wallance

The Re-enfranchisement of the Jew

Rabbi Stephen S.Wise

Nuremberg and Beyond: Jacob Robinson, a Champion for Justice

Jonathan A. Bush

The State of World Jewry, 1948

Nahum Goldmann

Gerhart M. Riegner: Pioneer for Jewish–Catholic Relations in the Contemporary World

Monsignor Pier Francesco Fumagalli

The World Jewish Congress and the State of Israel: A Personal Reminiscence

Natan Lerner

The World Jewish Congress, the League of Nations, and the United Nations

Zohar Segev

From Pariah to Partner: The Jews of Postwar Germany and the World Jewish Congress

Michael Brenner

Diplomatic Interventions: The World Jewish Congress and North African Jewry

Isabella Nespoli, Menachem Z. Rosensaft

Bourguiba’s Jewish Friend

S. J. Goldsmith

Soviet Jewry: Debates and Controversies

Suzanne D. Rutland

Advancing the Best in Jewish Culture

Philip M. Klutznick

The Struggle for Historical Integrity at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Laurence Weinbaum

New Directions and Priorities, 1985

Edgar M. Bronfman

Fighting Delegitimization: The United Nation’s “Zionism Is Racism” Resolution, a Case Study

Evelyn Sommer

Navigating the Communist Years: A Jewish Perspective

Maram Stern

The Kurt Waldheim Affair

Eli M. Rosenbaum

In Search of Justice: The World Jewish Congress and the Swiss Banks

Gregg J. Rickman

Confronting Terror: The Buenos Aires Bombings

Adela Cojab-Moadeb

The World Jewish Congress Today

Robert R. Singer

My Vision of the Jewish Future

Ambassador Ronald S. Lauder


Robert R. Singer

WJC 1936 - 2021

Nuremberg and Beyond: Jacob Robinson, a Champion for Justice

Jacob Robinson (1889–1977) was arguably the most important and prolific legal scholar-activist in the Jewish world in the middle decades of the twentieth century. Working closely with his younger brother Nehemiah (1898–1964), the problems he addressed were enormous, from the rise of anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe and the destruction of minority rights in the 1920s to Nazi expansionism and domestic atrocities in the 1930s and, then, the Shoah. After the war he worked to bring war criminals to justice, arrange restitution and reparations for survivors, revive Jewish communal life, and gather Holocaust documentation. He participated in the early struggles of the State of Israel at the United Nations and fought for human rights for Diaspora communities in Eastern and Western Europe and North Africa. Working through the Institute of Jewish Affairs (IJA) of the World Jewish Congress, which he and then Nehemiah led for twenty-five years, and later with other groups and the Foreign Ministry of Israel, Jacob Robinson, “the first truly Jewish international jurist of front rank of modern times,” was at the center of the legal action.

Yet by 1970, Robinson was— outside of the circle of his aging colleagues— largely forgotten. In later decades when his work came to be remembered, he was the subject of a dozen published essays after his death — all but two since the turn of the current century—as well as of a conference with published proceedings devoted to his life. Although he is discussed in dozens of other essays and monographs, it is almost always for the same two activities: (1) as an advisor to American prosecutors at the first four-power Nuremberg trial (1945–1946) and (2) for his work with Israeli prosecutors at the Eichmann trial (1961), the integrity of which he vigorously defended. His contributions to both trials were important, but the emphasis says more about the recent revival of international criminal law than it does about Robinson’s extraordinary and diverse career of scholarly Jewish advocacy.

Robinson was born in Seirijai, a small town in southern Lithuania, on November 26, 1889, one of seven sons born to David and Bluma Robinson. It was an observant family, but as Robinson’s biographer Omry Kaplan-Feuereisen concludes, it was also progressive; Jacob’s father was an early Zionist, and an uncle was one of the first Jewish researchers in Russia. Conscripted into the Russian army in 1914 after earning the equivalent of a doctorate in law at the University of Warsaw, Jacob was captured and spent three years as a German prisoner of war. Upon his release, he settled in the Lithuanian city of Virbalis where he founded and ran a Hebrew gymnasium. He was admitted to the bar; moved to Kaunas (Kovno); began a legal practice, in which he was joined by Nehemiah in 1927; co-edited a Yiddish newspaper; and in 1923 was elected to the second Lithuanian parliament as one of seven Jewish members. He was the leader of both the Jewish faction and the minorities caucus for the parliament, posts he held until its dissolution in a December 1926 coup.

The dissolution of the Lithuanian parliament marked the start of the next phase of Robinson’s communal activism. On the international Jewish stage he was active with the Committee for Jewish Delegations, established in 1919 to represent Jewish interests at the Paris Peace Conference, and participated in the early efforts to organize the World Jewish Congress (1927–1936). He is even credited with the idea for the Bernheim Petition (1933), a novel legal proceeding in which an exiled German Jew won a League of Nations ruling against Germany. At home he organized an informal group to promote Jewish rights, served as legal advisor to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry (1931–1933), was his country’s representative on the German-Lithuanian Permanent Conciliation Committee (1931), and helped present the country’s successful claim at the Permanent Court of International Justice in the important Memel case (1932).

The German invasion of Poland did not immediately bring Lithuania into the war, but Robinson knew that his country was unlikely to be safe for long. In May 1940, he, his wife, and their two daughters were granted visas to the United States but because they gave their tickets to two young students, their arrival was delayed until December. Within a few months, the World Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Congress announced through Rabbi Stephen S. Wise the establishment of the IJA to conduct basic research, based in New York and led by Jacob Robinson. The IJA was the first Jewish think tank addressing Nazism and war. It faced a huge agenda with a tiny staff of refugee intellectuals. Jacob’s brother Nehemiah started working at the WJC/IJA in 1941. From this modest beginning, the IJA began a program of research and the creation of substantial publications that would continue throughout the war.

The IJA’s best-known book from the war years is probably Hitler’s Ten-Year War on the Jews (1943), a useful book akin to Franz Neumann’s Behemoth or Raphael Lemkin’s Axis Rule in Occupied Europe, albeit with more solid research and less theoretical flash. An even more significant book may be the IJA’s first work, Jews in Nazi Europe, February 1933 to November 1941, prepared for the Inter-American Jewish Conference in Baltimore in November 1941. At that gathering the principal speakers were Wise and US Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles. Circulated in mimeo for speedier dissemination, the book compiled Jewish human and material losses on a country-by-country basis and seems to have been the first study to show the scale of the Holocaust as it was about to enter its most murderous phase. Although it was mistaken about some details, cautiously offering figures that erred on the low side and relied in its methodology on published scraps of information, official estimates and leaks, and escapee accounts, the book was a clarion call not only for outrage among the delegates, but for further research.

Robinson wrote a book on the legal issues of the British Mandate, opposing the closure of immigration to Palestine. In another one of his books, Were the Minority Treaties a Failure? (1943), he drew on his positions in the Memel case to argue for the efficacy of better-designed minorities treaties. His brother Nehemiah, who had studied law at Berlin and Jena and practiced law with Jacob in Kaunas in the 1920s, joined the IJA and wrote one of the earliest and finest books—Indemnification and Reparations: Jewish Aspects (1944)—which deals with the legal issues relating to Jewish losses. Together with their half-dozen colleagues and outside allies, the Robinsons also wrote on refugees and migration, restitution, cultural revival, Zionism, federalism, an organization of united nations, assimilation, human rights, treaty protections, German demilitarization and rehabilitation, and Soviet Jewry. They shared data with and lobbied labor unions, Christian groups, and university experts, and worked with the WJC’s Political Section and British Section despite differences of emphasis. Jacob published frequently in Congress Weekly and other Jewish publications, gave courses on nationalism and minority protections to students and officer candidates at Columbia University, and played a prominent role at the WJC’s War Emergency Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in November 1944, which adopted an eleven-point program for war crimes accountability and another on reparations.

Looking at Jacob’s prominent writings and speeches from the period, one scholar has identified a shift in Robinson’s wartime views from advocating reconstruction of Jewish life with treaty protections in a postwar Europe to robust Zionism. Another argues that the Institute shifted from policy advocacy to Holocaust documentation as the extent of the Final Solution became known. But a different case can also be made from the writings by the Robinson brothers and their colleagues at the IJA. They were part of an entire generation of émigré lawyers and intellectuals who were searching for answers to the problem of “Germany and What Next?” Only a handful of these dozens of individuals—René Cassin, Franz Neumann, Hersch Lauterpacht, Hans Morgenthau, Hans Kelsen, and Raphael Lemkin— are familiar to most of us today. Some started with policy preferences, as Jacob did with minority rights treaties, and some became entrepreneurs for particular theories or approaches, most famously Lemkin with his notion of genocide, but those of a pragmatic bent, including the Robinsons, soon promoted more than one policy prescription. With authors such as the Robinsons, who wrote so much and so often with each other and other co-authors, it is particularly difficult to see a trend in their policy commitments. Still, it is not unlikely that with each new set of death estimates making the idea of renewed Jewish life in Eastern Europe less plausible, their commitment to Zionism, but also to life in North America and to legal accountability for the Holocaust, grew.

In May 1945, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was announced as head of US planning for war crimes policy. Later when a trial plan for prominent Nazi war criminals was agreed upon with the major Allies, Jackson became the chief US prosecutor at the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremberg that followed (November 1945– October 1946). Jacob Robinson was an advisor to Jackson; and for the rest of his life, he was proud to identify himself as such. In many ways he was an ideal choice for Nuremberg: his work at the IJA meant he had sources about the Holocaust that complemented what the governments knew, and his writings on, and practice in, prewar international tribunals were unrivaled by the US staff. A trail of memos illustrates Robinson’s role. In June 1945, newly returned from San Francisco where he was a WJC observer at the conference that founded the United Nations, Robinson met with Jackson and soon after was introduced to Charles Irving Dwork and Abraham Duker. Dwork and Duker were the two Jewish staff members who worked at the “Jewish Desk” for the Office of Special Services (OSS), the wartime intelligence agency whose chief, General William O. Donovan, was now the US deputy chief prosecutor and was sharing his agency’s resources with the Nuremberg effort.

Most likely it was Robinson and his IJA colleagues who prepared the comprehensive plan that Dwork proposed for viewing the Holocaust as a criminal conspiracy. In June, Robinson also took on the task for Jackson of assembling reliable estimates for presentation at trial about the Holocaust. He urged Jackson to consider including a Jewish chief prosecutor or official representative, giving the court an official Jewish submission amicus curiae, and above all, seeing the atrocities against Jews as crimes against a collectivity, a people, rather than a vast number of individual atrocities—all three points agreed upon at the Atlantic City conference. Upon hearing rumors of the names of possible defendants, Robinson wrote Jackson in late July to urge that Adolf Eichmann be included alongside the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who was already under consideration. Stressing that “it has to date not been made public what has happened to Eichmann,” he summarized Eichmann’s enormous role in the Holocaust. Throughout the summer, Robinson, Cambridge international law professor Hersch Lauterpacht, and a few others continued maneuvering to have a co-equal chief prosecutor of the Jewish people or an official witness who would testify, perhaps Chaim Weizmann, or both. In October 1945 Robinson lectured members of the US team still in London and in mid-to late-November, he went to Nuremberg and worked with the small team under Major William Walsh to prepare the American presentation of what was euphemistically called “the Persecution of the Jews.” He went home and reported to the WJC on his time at, and impressions of, Nuremberg in December 1945, and later returned briefly to Nuremberg in the summer of 1946.

Unfortunately, Robinson, like many other participants, left little evidence of his significance at Nuremberg. Because of this, some have extrapolated about Robinson’s role at Nuremberg with more speculation than evidence. Others have concluded that Robinson and other Jewish advocates made little imprint. But, they continue, this stemmed from Nuremberg’s blindness to the centrality of what would become known as the Holocaust, to the absence of a Jewish voice and evidence at Nuremberg, a characterization that became conventional wisdom by the time of the Eichmann trial almost fifteen years later and is still widely accepted. In this view, the charge against Nuremberg is twofold: that there were few Jewish participants and not enough focus on the Holocaust.

The truth about Jewish voices and influence at Nuremberg lies somewhere in between. Robinson and Jewish groups were right to feel that the Holocaust was not the focus of the trial. The largely American notion of deeming the war itself the supreme crime and encompassing everything related to it, including the Holocaust, into a criminal conspiracy model had been developed in autumn 1944, adopted by two successive presidents and Jackson, imposed on skeptical or surprised allies at the UN meeting in San Francisco, and adopted at the London planning meetings. Even where theories were adopted that Jewish groups had pushed, such as the demand since 1942 of the British Section of the WJC that postwar accountability include wrongs done (1) prior to the war, (2) to enemy nationals (German and Austrian Jews), and (3) with the aim of exterminating whole peoples— in short, even where Jewish groups anticipated “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”— it was a case of post hoc, ergo propter hoc: Nuremberg planners arrived at the same place independently and without evidence that they heeded Jewish proposals.

Despite this familiar story, Robinson’s gloomy view that Jewish perspectives and voices were being ignored— a view broadly accepted today— was also wrong in many ways. From the start, Allied prosecutors did seek out émigrés—mainly German Jewish lawyers, political scientists, and historians— who could verify facts rather than legal theory, which is why Robinson himself was prized for his ability to document the hard figures of Holocaust deaths. The British staff does not appear to have consulted anybody aside from Lauterpacht, but the far larger American legal team sought help from the start from refugee scholars and others. The most important refugee to whom they turned was not an academic or someone connected to Jewish think tanks but Robert M. W. Kempner, who had been ousted from the Prussian civil service and became a ranking prosecutor in both the IMT and the later Nuremberg trials, and who later showed his worth by discovering papers connecting field marshals on the Eastern Front to the Einsatzgruppen and what is still the only extant copy of the Wannsee Protocol. Aside from Kempner, prosecutors seemed to feel, as litigators temperamentally do, that they didn’t need outside help, either from new co-equal prosecutors or official witnesses as Robinson had hoped, or from staff advisors. Robinson, Lauterpacht, Lemkin, and other eminences were consulted a few times, met chief or deputy prosecutors, and left—and were heartily thanked—with the theories that had preceded them largely unchanged.

None of which is to say that Jewish voices or concerns were not heeded. There were dozens of American Jewish staff prosecutors, investigators, and researchers on the large US team. Their backgrounds ranged from assimilated but professional New Deal lawyers to more strongly observant Jews who were deeply committed to the specifically Jewish dimension of the case. Jewish and other survivors were not needed to testify in open court in a trial of German leaders, many of whom had never been to a ghetto or extermination camp. What was needed was testimony from knowledgeable senior Germans who could incriminate their colleagues, and this was gradually found in witnesses such as SS officers Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski and Otto Ohlendorf and diplomat Hans Gisevius. Documentary proof was needed even more and was found by scores of investigators. A sequence of American prosecutors assembled hard documentary evidence about the Holocaust. Other delegations, especially the Soviets, did so as well. In the end, the Holocaust featured prominently at Nuremberg. It was inescapable in the trial record. The extent to which an explicit Jewish voice was not featured or a story not told was due to the trial’s legal premises about aggression and lawyers’ self-confidence, and to a larger setback handed to Robinson and allies by the judges. Erring on the side of caution, the judges ruled that with a few exceptions they lacked jurisdiction over conspiracy to commit war crimes or crimes against humanity and over prewar atrocities. Both were bitter blows to the prosecution and even more so to Robinson, for whom a conspiracy or central plan against Jews was the heart of the case. But even the Tribunal could not and did not want to minimize the Holocaust.

But this is skipping ahead somewhat. Back in the early months of the trial, when Robinson had only just returned from Nuremberg, he briefed his WJC and IJA colleagues about the trial and offered his critical view that while in principle the trial was important, and even historic, there was insufficient attention given to the Holocaust, and there was a second-rate quality to the American prosecutors presenting that case. In his confidential report, Robinson told colleagues that Jackson was “tremendous” and an ally, but that the trial premises he espoused derived from the UN War Crimes Commission; that the US team was estranged from the others; that the resignation of deputy US Chief Donovan had significance; that the French team might be the most supportive of the Holocaust case because of the Jewish background of alternate judge Robert Falco; that the broad expertise of the British prosecutors meant they would also be effective allies; that the Americans would be of little help because many of the staff were junior and second-rate and because no Jew had been assigned a speaking role in the case in chief; and that the composition of the prosecution demonstrates that overall “[w]e are witnessing the ebb of Jewish influence in the world.” As it happens, he was almost completely wrong in these conclusions. Nevertheless, he, and the WJC, followed the trials closely and kept this view for the next few years. In the winter of 1945 and spring of 1946, Robinson could not have known that Nuremberg would address the Holocaust with condemnation and stiff sentences, albeit with complicated and mixed legal rulings, nor could he have known that a number of the prosecutors and consultants on the Holocaust portion of the case would make important contributions to later trials or to the first wave of Holocaust scholarship.

Robinson also could not have known that early in the second round of Nuremberg trials (1946–1949), Chief Prosecutor Taylor would send a memo to his deputies in February 1947 praising them for the current cases but urging them to view the Holocaust as the defining feature of the Nazi regime and to prepare prosecutions that would reflect this centrality. One result was the Einsatzgruppen case; another was the focus in the Weizsaecker case on crimes against humanity. But if Robinson could not have known those things, he and WJC President Stephen S. Wise should have shown better judgment than to send a November 19, 1947 letter over Wise’s signature to Taylor, with copies leaked elsewhere, complaining about the paucity of cases and citing six uncharged SS leaders. One problem was that they were complaining about one of their best allies, for Taylor had sought to charge many more Nazis but had been reined in; another problem was that the list was factually wrong and most of the men either had been charged or were confirmed dead.

While they stumbled by criticizing their allies in 1947, Robinson and the WJC were right about the larger fact that the Americans, at Nuremberg and elsewhere, and even more so the British, the French, and the liberated nations, were bringing few new cases and cutting back on resources, manpower, and enthusiasm for war crimes trials and punishment. In part this was due to war fatigue and Nazi fatigue, in part to unscrupulous Cold War politics. Whatever the balance, the WJC was accurate at its second plenary assembly in Montreux in July 1948 in identifying and denouncing the trend toward clemency and amnesty for Nazi war criminals. From then on, the WJC was on the same side as the (former) prosecutors. Both Robinsons corresponded with Taylor to help lobby for publication of the Nuremberg record (the English language record of the first trial was published, but the record of the later twelve trials was severely cut and published in only limited print runs, while the German-language text was never released). They wrote Taylor to campaign for new trials and to oppose the pell-mell rush that began around 1951 to grant clemency to convicted major Nazi defendants. Nehemiah and his colleagues at the IJA published articles similarly urging trials and opposing clemencies.

Back in late 1945 when he first returned from Nuremberg, Robinson rejoined his Institute. It continued to produce scholarly and policy studies, some two dozen in one series alone over the next few years, with a slight but noticeable turn to domestic issues such as civil rights in employment and schooling and veterans rights. Jacob wrote two of them, on Jews in the Soviet Union and the unfinished business of victory, but he soon returned to international law. In May 1945, the WJC, American Jewish Conference, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews had submitted a memo to negotiators in San Francisco planning the United Nations— surely the first instance of an NGO petitioning the new organization and surely a document drafted by Robinson, perhaps with the support of his fellow delegate Alex Easterman—to urge a stronger basis for the UN protection of minorities; it had been rejected. Now, in May 1946, Robinson returned to the point with his prescient IJA study “Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in the Charter of the United Nations,” with a focus on national and international jurisdictions and humanitarian intervention. Near the end of 1946, the UN Secretariat hired him as a consultant to plan the first meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, held in early 1947.

There was little surprise that in April 1947 Robinson resigned from the IJA, which was safely in Nehemiah’s hands, to become legal advisor to the Jewish Agency at the United Nations and, after Israel’s independence, first legal advisor to Israel’s UN mission. Within a few months of assuming his new role, he marked his presence at the United Nations with another book, Palestine and the United Nations (1947), documenting the legalities of the worsening situation in Mandatory Palestine and urging an even-handed constructive role for the United Nations. Abba Eban, Israel’s first ambassador to the United Nations, later said that “Robinson did more than anyone else to educate us all to the potentialities and limitations of multilateral diplomacy.”

For the next ten years, the Robinson brothers were a Jewish-issues counterpart to West Point’s famed football backfield of the mid-1940s that featured “Mr. Inside” and “Mr. Outside.” Jacob was the insider at Israel’s UN mission, working in the corridors of power, and Nehemiah was the outsider at the scholarly IJA, urging new programs, warning of new dangers, and advising the public. The brothers lived and worked together and were surely coordinating their tactics and strengths. Thus, on Holocaust compensation, Nehemiah continued to publish and update books and articles on West German and Austrian legislation for the IJA and work with Easterman and other experts from the WJC political and British sections. Jacob worked as the insider with Nahum Goldmann and others in the difficult Wassenaar negotiations and is credited with being one of the principal drafters of the Luxembourg Agreements (1952), which provided for historic reparations by West Germany to both Israel and individual Holocaust survivors. His hand-edited typescript of the agreement may be the closest thing to an urtext for that landmark document.

The brothers did the same with the emerging crime of genocide. Today, some say that genocide is the supreme crime and that the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was an obvious outgrowth of the Holocaust. If so, it was not obvious at the time. Few nations initially ratified the Convention, and many had concerns about the definition of the crime and the incursions the Convention might permit on state sovereignty. Nehemiah’s 1949 commentary is the first and, arguably, still the most important, gloss on the Convention, and he and other scholars at the IJA continued to track developments on genocide law in their publications. For his part, Jacob was almost certainly the strategist for the Israeli mission as it successfully petitioned the United Nations, along with the British and French, to permit them to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on the question of reservations to the Genocide Convention. The question may sound academic, but for Israel, the issue was that Arab bloc nations ratified the Convention with variants of a reservation that the treaty did not bind them to renounce genocide against Israelis. Using Robinson’s arguments, Shabtai Rosenne, then-legal advisor at the mission, and his two European counterparts persuaded the ICJ that reservations that undercut the heart of a treaty were deemed void (1951).

After this victory, Jacob continued to make learned presentations for Israel to the UN Sixth Committee and other organs on the Genocide Convention, aggression, crimes against humanity, an international criminal court, slavery, and the Nuremberg principles. Other matters on which he was active were the Convention on the Declaration of Death of Missing Persons (1950) and the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951). Both were intended as temporary, retrospective agreements and both might seem technical, but they were of deep concern to a nation such as Israel, with hundreds of thousands of refugees and missing kinsmen. Joining Robinson at the negotiations was Gerhart Riegner, an old hand from the WJC and author of the crucial 1942 Riegner telegram that first alerted the world about the Holocaust. And, reliable as clockwork, the UN conventions on Refugees and on Declarations of Death of Missing Persons on which Jacob worked were then discussed in scholarly commentaries by Nehemiah at the IJA (1952).

Jacob Robinson’s most important moment at the United Nations came in the tense weeks before, during, and after the Suez incursion (October– November 1956). Meeting constantly with Ambassador Eban and occasionally with Foreign Minister Golda Meir, Robinson was the legal advisor as Israel sought to fend off diplomatic pressure while it negotiated withdrawal from Sinai. Soon after, in summer 1957, praised and respected by other delegations but disillusioned, he left the United Nations and returned to his life of research. With Nehemiah still leading the IJA and publishing furiously about Jewish issues around the world—European Jewry Ten Years after the War (1956), and surveys of Jewish life in dozens of countries from Latin America to Iran—Jacob gathered bibliographic material on the Holocaust and on international law. In 1959 he was honored by scholars and communal leaders around the world on his seventieth birthday, and he continued to write.

His quiet routines as a scholar and institutional leader were interrupted by the arrival in Israel of Adolf Eichmann, abducted from Argentina on May 11, 1960. Israeli Attorney General Gideon Hausner, who would lead the prosecution, had only just taken office and had not previously been involved in legal planning. With the trial imminent, Hausner recruited Robinson, who had pressed the Allies to charge Eichmann as long ago as Nuremberg, as his international law specialist. Naturally, Nehemiah at the IJA was also involved, writing an essay in December 1960 about the sale of Eichmann’s memoir to Life Magazine by Eichmann’s wife, and another essay as the trial began about the same legal issues on which his brother was the chief advisor. Unlike others on the small prosecution team, Jacob did not argue in court or examine witnesses, but he was indispensable and can be seen in trial photos sitting next to Hausner. He had declined an invitation to testify as the lead, expert witness— a role for which famed historian Salo Baron was picked, to mixed reviews— but he helped investigators sort through hundreds of survivor accounts to find witnesses, defended the planned trial in scholarly and other publications, and is credited with pre- paring the international law arguments used in court. After a four-month trial, Eichmann was convicted, the conviction affirmed, and the defendant hanged at the end of May 1962.

Today the trial is widely seen as fair and the process praised for having been the first trial of a high-level war criminal since the Nuremberg era. It was the first case to feature the legal theories of universal jurisdiction and genocide, and the first to rely so centrally on survivor testimony. Yet it is often forgotten that at the time, the legal questions—seizure, jurisdiction, the Israeli statute, retroactivity, fair trial, venue, and execution— behind these, the political and moral issues, were enormously controversial. Without question, the most critical commentary on the trial was by the noted German Jewish émigré philosopher Hannah Arendt in her 1963 book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which was based on a series of articles she had written for The New Yorker. Arendt presented the defendant as guilty but ordinary, honest, free of anti-Semitism, mechanistic, and interesting rather than evil. She portrayed the prosecution as rigid and error-prone, the survivor witnesses as overly emotional, the Israeli government as producing a show trial, the charges as based on sectarian rather than universalistic grounds, and the Holocaust as so huge that it relied out of necessity on the complicity of Jewish communal leaders.

Robinson took on the task of rebutting Arendt’s points, in places line by line, in his book And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight, published in 1965. It is accurate on almost all points, and new research continues to endorse its findings, but it is poorly written and organized, more a dense list than the polished appraisal that would be needed against a polemicist as skilled as Arendt. The unfortunate fate of Robinson’s best-known but least-successful book was that despite the favorable consensus of specialists about it, most readers still regard Arendt’s book as brilliant if flawed, and Robinson’s, when remembered at all, as an angry, nit-picking, even if accurate, book. Robinson continued to wear multiple hats in the world of communal Jewry. From 1957, he had been legal advisor to the Claims Conference and helped establish the research branch of Yad Vashem, but he typically introduced himself as “research coordinator of the four Holocaust institutes,” from which he encouraged joint scholarly projects to be undertaken and tried to assemble proposed lists of survivors who could be witnesses in war crimes trials. He worked with his brother’s IJA, the national affiliates of the World Jewish Congress, and other groups. He corresponded with officials, rabbis, survivors, and old allies in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and of course Israel, Germany, and throughout the United States, and was seen as an indispensable counselor. He steered funds to a steady stream of survivors who came in penury to him and his brother, and to scholars and memorial projects, but he lived modestly, residing as he had since 1941 on Riverside Drive with his wife and two daughters, his brother, and a sister-in-law, all of whom helped in his work.

But his immediate world grew darker. His intimate co-author Nehemiah died young in January 1964, as another beloved co-author, his daughter Vita, had of leukemia in 1955. The appearance of other, more specialized research and advocacy groups meant that the IJA was less central, and perhaps because it no longer had Nehemiah’s energy anchoring it in New York, it relocated to London in 1965. Jacob was left with more time for his research, which continued unabated. Continuing the bibliographic series of unpublished Holocaust evidence that he had begun with the late Philip Friedman in 1960, he published new volumes together with scholars at Hebrew University starting in 1965. His bibliography of international law and legal sources (1967) is sadly forgotten today, but it itemizes and assesses over two thousand sources in dozens of languages, including older manuals and periodicals by Slavic and Asian authors that cannot be found in any major American library. His last major bibliographic work was, fittingly, a digest of the Nuremberg evidence, co-edited with Henry Sachs (1976). At a time when the Nuremberg trials are breezily cited everywhere but the body of evidence is too vast and unwieldy for all but a few specialists to access, Robinson’s calendar is the gold standard for serious researchers. In 1977, soon after the digest was completed, Robinson died.

The author wishes to thank Carole Fink, Omry Kaplan-Feuereisen, Moris Kori, Michael R. Marrus, Henry Mayer, Myra Katz Sibrava, and Karin Sibrava-Cherches for their generous help, as well as Menachem Rosensaft and Isabella Nespoli of the World Jewish Congress and Lydia Deutsch for research assistance.

1. Jacob Robinson’s papers, including many of his brother Nehemiah’s papers, are in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC, Accession No. 2013.506.1, http:// collections.ushmm.org/findingaids/ 2013.506.1_01_fnd_en.pdf (“Robinson Papers”); the published records of the Institute of Jewish Affairs can be found in a number of places, including the American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, New York, Accession No. I-371, http:/digifindingaids.cjh.org/?pID=365637 (“IJA Papers”); and the papers of the relevant offices of the World Jewish Congress are in the Jacob Rader Mar- cus Center of the American Jewish Archives, in Cincinnati, OH, http:/catalog.american-jewisharchives.org/cgi-bin/ajagw/chameleon (“WJC Papers”). I gratefully acknowledge the assistance of archivists at all three institutions. Shabtai Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson, 28 November 1889– 24 October 1977,” An International Law Miscellany (Dordrecht, NL, 1993), pp. 831–843, especially 842, originally published as “Jacob Robinson: In Memoriam,” Israel Law Review 13, no. 3 (July 1978), pp. 287–297.

2. Works with significant discussions of Robinson include Shlomo Aronson, “Preparations for the Nuremberg Trial: The O.S.S., Charles Dwork, and the Holocaust,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 12 (1998): p. 257; Boaz Cohen, “Dr. Jacob Robinson, the Institute of Jewish Affairs, and the Elusive JewishVoice in Nuremberg,” in Holocaust and Justice: Representation and Historiography of the Holocaust in Post-War Trials, ed. David Bankier and Dan Michman (Jerusalem, 2010), pp. 81– 100; Laura Jockusch, “Justice at Nuremberg? Jewish Responses to NaziWar-CrimesTrials in Allied-Occupied Germany,” Jewish Social Studies 19, no. 1 (Fall 2012): pp. 107, 111–117; Omry Kaplan-Feuereisen, “Im Dienste der jüdischen Nation: Jacob Robinson und das Völkerrecht,” Osteuropa 8–10 (2008): pp. 279–294, translated as “At the Service of the Jewish Nation: Jacob Robinson and International Law,” Osteuropa 2008, Impulses for Europe (2008): pp. 157– 170, “Geschichtserfahrung und Völkerrecht: Jacob Rob- inson und die Gründung des Institute of Jewish Affairs,” Leipziger Beiträge zur jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur 2 (2004): pp. 307– 327, and “Jacob Robinson,” The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (New Haven, 2008), pp. 1567 – 1568, http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/robinson_jacob; Mark A. Lewis, “The World Jewish Congress and the Institute of Jewish Affairs at Nuremberg: Ideas, Strategies, and Political Goals, 1942 – 1946,” Yad Vashem Studies 36, no. 1 (2008): pp. 181–210, adapted in The Birth of the New Justice: The Internationalization of Crime and Punishment, 1919– 1950 (Oxford, 2014), pp. 150– 180; Michael R. Marrus, “Three Jewish Emigrés at Nuremberg: Hersch Lauterpacht, Jacob Robinson, and Raphael Lemkin,” in Against the Grain: Jewish Intellectuals in Hard Times, ed. Ezra Mendelsohn, Steffani Hoffman, and Richard Cohen (New York, 2014), pp. 240–254, with a shorter version in “Three Roads to Nuremberg,” Tablet, November 20, 2015; “A Jewish Lobby at Nuremberg: Jacob Robinson and the Institute of Jewish Affairs, 1945– 46,” Cardozo Law Review 27, no. 4 (2006): pp. 1651– 1665, with a shorter version in The Nuremberg Trials. International Criminal Law since 1945: 60th Anniversary Conference/Die Nürnberger Prozesse. Völkerstrafrecht seit 1945: Internationale Konferenz zum 60. Jahrestag, ed. Herbert R. Reginbogin and Christoph J.M. Safferling (Munich, 2006), pp. 63– 72; “The Holocaust at Nuremberg,” Yad Vashem Studies 26 (1998): pp. 5–41; Maurice Perlzweig, s.v. “Robinson, Jacob,” Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 14, col. 207 (Jerusalem and New York, 1971); Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson,” pp. 831–843; Gil Rubin, “The End of Minority Rights: Jacob Robinson and the ‘Jewish Question’ in World War II,” Simon Dubnow Institute Yearbook 11 (2012): pp. 55–71.

3. The recently published proceedings of the 2007 conference, “The Life, Times and Work of Jokūbas Robinzonas—Jacob Robinson,” ed. Eglė Bendikaitė and Dirk Roland Haupt (Sankt Augustin, Germany, 2015) was not available to me for consultation at the time of this writing.

4. This and the following paragraph are drawn from various sketches by Kaplan-Feureisen.

5. American Jewish Year Book 1933 (1934): pp. 74–101. Robinson and various Jewish organizations helped Bernheim bring an individual petition arguing that as an Upper Silesian, he was protected by the German-Polish Agreement on Upper Silesia (19229)5. Embarrassed by this legal scrutiny so soon after coming to power, the Nazis suspended certain racist laws in that territory until 1937. See A.W. B. Simpson, Human Rights and the End of Empire (Oxford, 2001), pp. 142–145; Carole Fink, Defending the Rights of Others: The Great Powers, the Jews, and International Minority Protection, 1878– 1938 (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 331– 332; Rubin, “The End of Minority Rights,” p. 57.

6. Formerly a part of the former Russian Empire, Memel was coveted by Poland and Germany but assigned to Lithuania under the five-power Allied oversight (1922). When German local officials made surreptitious visits to Nazi Germany, Lithuania removed them, prompting the five guarantors to seek a ruling about Memel’s autonomy. The international court rejected Robinson’s reasoning but largely accepted his conclusion that Lithuania as sovereign had a right to supervise its restive enclave, which it did until Hitler demanded and was ceded the territory in March 1939. Interpretation of the Statute of the MemelTerritory, A/B 47 & 49 (1932), http:/www.icj-cij.org/pcij/serie_AB/AB_49/01_ Memel Arret.pdf. The case was Robinson’s first appearance at the international court and became the occasion of his two-volume first book (1934). For Robinson’s appearances at other international cases in this period, see Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson,” p. 833.

7. During which time Robinson and his lobby group pressed Lithuania to receive Jewish refugees from Poland, as Kaplan-Feuereisen notes.

8. While in the town of Vichy, France, in autumn 1939, Robinson unsuccessfully used his contacts with diplomats and a US senator to try to obtain refugee status in the United States, France, Denmark, and probably elsewhere. Robinson Papers, box 1, folder 11.

9. Thus, it pre-dated other research and advocacy groups such as the American Jewish Committee’s Institute on Peace and Postwar Problems and the Jewish Labor Committee’s Research Institute for Jewish Postwar Problems.

10. Mark Lewis, Birth of the New Justice, pp. 162–163 (disagreement whether to press for a Jewish official prosecutor for war crimes).

11. The reparation clauses also were drafted by Jacob Robinson. Nana Sagi, German Reparations: A History of the Negotiations, trans. Dafna Alon (Jerusalem, 1980), pp. 24–26; Robin- son Papers, box 4, folders 10 and 14.

12. Some of these agendas within the IJA are discussed in Rubin, “End of Minority Rights,” pp. 58–61, 69–70; and Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton, NJ, 2009), pp. 121–122.

13. Aronson, “Preparations for the Nuremberg Trial,” p. 257.

14. “Minutes, Meeting of World Jewish Congress with Justice Robert H. Jackson in NewYork City, June 12, 1945,” WJC Papers, http:/www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentdate=1945-06-12&documentid=C106-16-5&pagenumber=1. The IJA had by then accepted the British Section’s proposal for a Jewish prosecutor though that section had had no luck in lobbying the UN War Crimes Commission in London to accept the view. Lewis, Birth of the NewJustice, pp. 162–166.

15. Letter from Jacob Robinson to Robert H. Jackson, July 27, 1945, WJC Papers, http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentdate=1945-07-27&2do9c7umentid=C106-16-2&pagenumber=1

16. Robinson’s travels to London and Nuremberg are documented in IJA Papers, box 1, folder 3.

17. There are approximately a dozen memos between Robinson and other Jewish organizational leaders and the Nuremberg prosecutors, many of which are at http:/www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/index.php?action=docs. But there is scant evidence that these Jewish organizational efforts were used by the four prosecution teams, even if we go beyond the familiar Robinson memos and OSS research and examine items such as the favorable references to Robinson’s work in the diary of Seymour Krieger, a prosecutor working for Walsh on the Holocaust case or the participation at Nuremberg of a British WJC leader A. L. Easterman. On the contrary, there is evidence that Jewish groups felt frustrated by the way Nuremberg staffers were not following their advice. See the letter of Robinson to Dwork of June 23, 1945, WJC Papers, http:/www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentdate=1945-06-23&documentid=C106-18-22&pagenumber=1. Only occasionally is there direct evidence that IJA material reached top prosecutors, either directly or indirectly, through OSS staffers. See, e.g., Telford Taylor, “Progress Report No. 5” [minutes of planning Committee 2 and 3], 2, no. 12 (September 4, 1945) in Telford Taylor Papers, Columbia University (“Taylor Papers”), box 298.

18. See, e.g., the works by Aronson, Cohen, Jockusch, and Marrus cited above, as well as Donald Bloxham, “Jewish Witnesses in War Crimes Trials of the Postwar Era,” Holocaust Historiography in Context: Emergence, Challenges, Polemics and Achievements, ed. David Bankier and Dan Michman (Jerusalem, 2008), pp. 539–553, especially 540; and Genocide on Trial: War Crimes Trials and the Formation of Holocaust History and Memory (Oxford, 2001), pp. 64– 68, 101–115, 124; and Lawrence Douglas, The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (New Haven, 2005), pp. 60, 66, 72, 78–80.

19. See Jonathan A. Bush, “The Prehistory of Corporations and Conspiracy in International Criminal Law: What Nuremberg Really Said,” Columbia Law Review 109, no. 5 (June 2009): pp. 1094, 1137–1138, 1140–1143; and “‘The Supreme . . . Crime’ and Its Origins: The Lost Legislative History of the Crime of Aggressive War,” Columbia Law Review 102, no. 8 (December 2002): pp. 2324, 2353–2370.

20. As an outsider to the process, Robinson could not have known that he had it upside down in attributing Jackson’s theories to UNWar Crimes Commission delegates Marcel de Baer and Bohuslav Ecer rather than Pentagon planners. Compare Robinson’s report, “Minutes of the Office Committee Meeting . . . Dec. 10, 1945,” WJC Papers, https:/www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentid=C14-16-2&page2n9um8ber=1 with Bush, “Supreme Crime,” pp. 2342 – 2343, 2346–2366.

21. Associate prosecutor Sidney Alderman recalled the early search for these experts in Reminiscences of Sidney Sherrill Alderman: Oral History, 1953 (New York, 1953), pp. 854– 870. Of the scholars, probably the most important was Harvard criminologist Sheldon Glueck, described in Bush, “Supreme Crime,” pp. 2343–2369.

22. Telford Taylor, The Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials (New York, 1992), p. 520; Letter from Benjamin Ferencz to Robert Kempner, Dec. 13, 1989, in Taylor Papers, box 270, 20-1-3-34.

23. Proposals for a Jewish co-chief prosecutor were spurned, as were similar requests by Czech, Polish, and Yugoslav leaders. Bloxham concludes that the refusals were based on different reasons in the case of the Jews and that the Robinson– Lauterpacht idea was rejected because of the Allies’ inability to see Jewish identity as anything but a religious faith whose adherents were singled out, Genocide on Trial, p. 67, and there is something to that. This is supported by comparing the two different sets of notes kept for the same high-level meeting at which Allied delegates rejected the notion of an official Jewish prosecutor: the American team raised questions of policy, while the British team treated the idea with contempt and more than a whiff of anti- Semitism. Progress Report No. 4, Subcommittee 2 & 3, September 4, 1945, in Taylor Papers, box 298, unnumbered folder “International Indictment- drafting committees—minutes.” As for an official Jewish witness, whether Weizmann or even Joseph Proskauer, president of the American Jewish Committee, the idea could easily have backfired at the hands of a defense counsel skillful at cross-examination.

24. Later research has shown that both Jackson and a senior associate, Executive CounselThomas Dodd, preferred to avoid having too many Jews on staff, especially on the Holocaust portion of the case. Jockusch, “Justice at Nuremberg?” pp. 117–118. Notwithstanding that, there were many Jewish lawyers on the US team, both on the Jewish portion of the case (Seymour Krieger, Isaac Stone) and throughout the higher echelons where strategy was made (Murray Bernays, Benjamin and Sidney Kaplan, and Murray Gurfein, who had been on the IJA board in 1941). Attempts to count Jews on staff, as some scholars do, are misleading because they exaggerate Jewish significance in counting junior and support staff or persons in titular authority only, or they omit staffers with Jewish family (Elwyn Jones) or otherwise wholeheartedly sympathetic to the Holocaust case. They also assume that a Jewish background signifies an agenda or single perspective. What matters is not the layered Jewish identities of the senior staff, but the support they broadly shared, as they seem to have, for the Jewish dimensions of the case.

25. This is not to deny that prosecutors, for various reasons, few of them defensible, seem to have avoided using Jewish survivor witnesses, for reasons that ranged from real or perceived courtroom advantage to anti-Semitism. Bloxham, Genocide on Trial, pp. 540, 548–549. Nevertheless, survivors were generally not needed for the case that the Allies, for better or worse, had ambitiously chosen to bring.

26. Telford Taylor was first liaison with the Polish and Soviet teams, and he brought Lemkin and Seymour Krieger to meet Polish historian Philip Friedman (with whom Robinson later published Holocaust documentation); other lawyers who later focused on the Holocaust included Brady Bryson and William Walsh and his team.

27. Bush, “Corporations and Conspiracy,” describes narrow IMT rulings and contemporary reactions (pp. 1160– 1163). More than most contemporary observers, Robinson immediately saw and criticized these devastating jurisdictional rulings. “The Nuremberg Judgment,” Congress Weekly, October 25, 1946, in Robinson Papers, box 4, folder 10.

28. “Minutes of the Office Committee Meeting . . .” Dec. 10, 1945, WJC Papers, https:/www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/nuremberg/documents/index.php?documentid=C14-16-2&pagenumber=1

29. One of the prosecutors he implicitly criticized on Walsh’s team, Krieger, used Nurem- berg evidence to publish the earliest Holocaust documentation in English (1947), and French prosecutor Henri Monneray published the first documentation in French (1947). Their pioneering work is discussed in Jonathan A. Bush, “Raul Hilberg (1926– 2007): In Memoriam,” Jewish Quarterly Review 100, no. 4 (2010): pp. 661, 669. Meanwhile, Raphael Lemkin used his new post in the Pentagon to assist in the later Nuremberg trials and to urge prosecutors to focus on the Holocaust and his genocide theory, especially in the Medical and Flick cases, the latter a case on which Robinson also helped.

30. Taylor to senior staff (Feb. 1947) and letters between Wise and Taylor, Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall, General Daniel Noce, and Colonel Edward Young (November– December 1947), in Bush, “Corporations and Conspiracy,” pp. 1187– 1188, 1262; Bloxham, Genocide on Trial, pp. 73–75.

31. See, for example, Nehemiah Robinson’s letters to Taylor throughout the 1950s, in Taylor Papers, box 188, folders 50 and 60, and box 190, folders 96– 97; Jacob’s letters to Taylor are all from the early 1950s and then the period of the Eichmann trial, and are scattered in a dozen boxes. Nehemiah Robinson’s articles on prosecution and clemency over a ten-year span from the late 1940s are in IJA Papers, box 1, folders 1, 2, and 4; and box 2, folder 6.

32. “Jews in the USSR,” Jewish Affairs 1, no. 3 (March 1, 1946) and “Unfinished Victory,” Jewish Affairs 1, no. 8 (September 15, 1946), both in IJA Papers, box 2.

33. Abba Eban, An Autobiography (NewYork, 1977), p. 133; Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson,” p. 836.

34. Robinson Papers, box 5, folder 13, and box 6, folder 1; IJA Papers, box 1, folder 5, and box 2, folder 6; Nicholas Balabkins, West German Reparations to Israel (New Brunswick, NJ, 1971), p. 136; Sagi, German Reparations, about Nehemiah on pp. 94– 95, 189, and 206, and about Jacob on p. 90.

35. International Court of Justice, Pleadings, Oral Arguments, Documents: Reservations to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Advisory Opinion of May 28, 1951: Part II, Public Sittings (from April 10 to 14 and on May 28th: Oral Statements (The Hague, 1951): 328–357. For other international cases in which Robinson represented or prepared the case for Israel, see Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson,” pp. 833–834.

36. The text of many of Jacob Robinson’s presentations to UN committees are found in Robinson Papers, box 5, folders 9, 10, and 11; and box 6, folder 2, while others can be found in the negotiations that have been put online for some of these conventions. See,for example, http:/www.unhcr.org/search?comid=3c07a8642&cid=49aea9390&scid=49aea9398 (1951 Refugee Convention). Nehemiah’s pamphlets on the same topics are found in IJA Papers, box 2, folders 1 and 6. For details of Jacob Robinson’s central role in the Declaration of Death Convention, see Rosenne, “Jacob Robinson,” p. 837; and in the Refugee Convention, see Gilad Ben-Nun, “The Israeli Roots of Article 3 and Article 6 of the 1951 Refugee Convention,” Journal of Refugee Studies 27, no. 1 (2013), 101–125; and “The British–Jewish Roots of Non-Refoulement and Its True Meaning for the Drafters of the 1951 Refugee Convention,” Journal of Refugee Studies 28, no. 1 (2015): pp. 93– 117.

37. Eban, Autobiography, pp. 221–222.

38. E.g., “Are Eichmann’s Memoirs Published in Life Magazine Authentic?” (December 5, 1960), IJA Papers, box 1, folder 3; “Eichmann’s Confederates and the Third Reich Hierarchy” (May 1961), IJA Papers, box 1, folder 2.

39. Gideon Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem (New York, 1966), pp. 303, 313; Hanna Yablonka, The State of Israel vs. Eichmann, trans. Ora Cummings and David Herman (New York, 2004), pp. 98, 100–106, 147.

40. A typical assessment is given in Richard I. Cohen, “A Generation’s Response to ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem,’ ” in Hannah Arendt in Jerusalem, ed. Steven E. Ascheim (Berkeley, 2001), pp. 253– 277, especially 266– 267. Contrary to the stereotype, Robinson was not an automatic defender of the trial; all along, for instance, he questioned the death penalty, albeit on practical rather than legal grounds, Yablonka, The State of Israel vs. Eichmann, p.147. Arendt’s misuse of Hilberg’s arguments to attack critics like Robinson is described in Bush, “Hilberg,” pp. 673–675.

41. This and the next paragraphs are largely based on Robinson’s correspondence, Robinson Papers, box 8 and box 9.

42. A dozen years earlier Robinson had helped bring Friedman to New York. Roni Stauber, “Philip Friedman and the Beginning of Holocaust Studies,” in Holocaust Historiography in Context, pp. 83–102, esp., 91.