Research Unit Law

Gabriel Bach and the Prosecution of Nazis in the State of Israel


The aim of this project is to examine the important contribution made by the attorney and justice Gabriel Bach in bringing Nazis to trial in the State of Israel. Bach, born in Germany in 1927, fled Berlin for the Netherlands with his family in 1938 and emigrated to Palestine two years later. He acquired his legal education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at University College London. He worked for many years as an attorney in the State Attorney’s Office until his appointment as a justice to the Supreme Court in 1982. Bach took part in most of the State of Israel’s legal proceedings concerning the Holocaust and its perpetrators and served in key positions at several critical junctures with respect to prosecuting Nazi criminals in Israel. Thus, he served as the attorney conducting the Gruenwald-Kastner appeal in the Supreme Court (1957), which centered on the question of Jewish collaboration with the Nazis; he was responsible for the preparation and implementation of the prosecution’s case in the Eichmann trial (1960–1962); in his role as justice minister, he was involved in efforts to prosecute Gustav Franz Wagner, the deputy commander of the Sobibor extermination camp (1978–1979); and he served on the panel of judges that rejected the appeals submitted to the Supreme Court against the attorney general following the latter’s decision not to put Ivan Demjanjuk on trial again following his acquittal (1993).

This project seeks to review Bach’s main contributions to these legal affairs, while aiming to propose a historical and legal explanation of his actions and attitudes towards bringing Nazi criminals to trial. This research will thereby also present a credible picture of the evolution of the state’s legal efforts vis-à-vis Nazi criminals and their collaborators in the State of Israel over the years.