Q. The case of alleged Nazi war criminal Konrad Kalejs* has focussed attention on the question of extradition. Is there a Jewish view on the subject?A. In “Tradition” (vol. 13, no. 4/vol. 14 no. 1), Lord Jakobovits in 1973 addressed the issue of the clause in Israel’s Law of Return that automatically entitles any Jew to Israeli residence and citizenship.
He quoted Rabbi Yehudah Gershuni’s article in the Tevet, 5732, issue of “Or ha-Mizrach”, explaining that with the exception of idolaters and apostates, every Jew has an inalienable halachic right to live in Eretz Yisra’el.
In the Diaspora the monarch has the right to determine who may or may not live in his land, but in Israel “all the people of Israel are partners” and therefore, says Rabbi Gershuni, the Israeli government may not expel or deny residence to any Jew who wishes to live there.
In relation to extradition for purposes of criminal prosecution, Maimonides (Y’sodei ha-Torah 5:5) rules that a Jew cannot be turned over to a non-Jew for execution unless the person concerned has committed a capital crime.
The Taz (Yoreh De’ah 157:8), however, permits the denunciation of a person like a forger whose activities endanger the whole Jewish community. If such danger does not exist, the transgressor must be tried and punished by a Jewish court. Thus instead of extradition, Israeli courts must assume jurisdiction and bring the criminal to justice.
Kalejs is far from being a Jew and the specifically Jewish legal aspects of the extradition question do not apply to him, but Jewish moral teaching would unambiguously insist that even though he is an old man his involvement in Holocaust crimes should be scrutinised by the justice system.
Neither he nor anyone else should think the passage of time can whitewash them and make inhumanity kosher.
* This article first appeared in 2001.