Moshe Landau, chief judge in the 1961 trial of Nazi arch-criminal Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem, died Sunday on the eve of the annual memorial day for the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the government said. He was 99.
Landau was an Israeli Supreme Court justice when he was picked to head the three-judge panel for the Eichmann trial. Eichmann, who was in charge of the "final solution," the Nazi plan to kill all the Jews of Europe, was kidnapped from Argentina in 1960 by Israel's Mossad spy agency. He was convicted and hanged.
The trial, broadcast on Israeli radio and followed closely by the people, brought about a major change in attitudes toward Holocaust survivors. Up until then, Israelis, who saw themselves as self-sufficient heroes, denigrated the survivors as helpless victims. The trial brought out the horrors and deprivations the Jews faced, as well as their mostly feeble efforts to rebel, leading to a new appreciation of their plight among Israelis.
Landau was an accomplished jurist by the time of the Eichmann trial. Born in Danzig, Germany, in 1912, he studied law at the University of London and moved to Palestine in 1933, 15 years before the state of Israel was created.
He climbed quickly through the judicial system and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1953. In 1980, he was named chief justice, retiring in 1982. In 1991, he was given the Israel Prize, the nation's highest civilian honor.
In a speech Sunday at the ceremony for the beginning of the Holocaust memorial day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid tribute to Landau, recalling that the Eichmann trial made a deep impression on him as a child.
"The people bow their heads in expressing honor and deep appreciation for his life works and character," Netanyahu said.
Landau died in Jerusalem. Funeral arrangements had not been announced late Sunday.