Moshe Landau, the Israeli Supreme Court justice who presided over the trial of Adolph Eichmann 50 years ago, died Sunday, on the eve of the country's Holocaust Remembrance Day, at the age of 99.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of Landau, who remained a key player in historic Israeli events for decades after the Eichmann trial, that "the people bow their heads in expressing honor and deep appreciation for his life works and character."
President Shimon Peres said Landau's rulings "are the foundations of Israeli democracy."
Landau — a Supreme Court justice from 1953 until his retirement in 1982 — had been on the high court for eight years when he was selected to head the three-judge panel for the Eichmann trial. Time magazine's ongoing coverage of the trial frequently reported terse and testy exchanges between Landau and Eichmann.
"After an Eichmann foray into the minutiae of the Nazi bureaucracy's workings, Judge Landau snapped: 'You were not requested to give lectures. Asked a specific question, give a specific reply,' " Time wrote at the time.
Time described Landau's similarly succinct delivery of the guilty verdict against the Nazi leader: "The crowd expected to hear first a detailed, legalistic defense of Israel's right to try Eichmann. Instead, Presiding Judge Moshe Landau (like his two colleagues a refugee from Nazi Germany) ordered Eichmann to attention in his glass, bulletproof cage, and bluntly told the accused: 'The court finds you guilty.' "
After the Eichmann trial, Landau served on the Agranat Commission, which investigated Israel's lapses in the run-up to the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and later chaired a commission, originally kept secret, into the practices of Israeli security services.
The Landau Commission's findings in 1987 were that the security agencies not only used physical force while interrogating prisoners, but routinely lied at subsequent trials.
At the same time, the commission approved the use of a "moderate measure of physical pressure" in cases of hostile terrorist activity — a finding that brought condemnation from international bodies and was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court 12 years later.
The next year, in a rare interview, Landau denied that the commission had sanctioned torture, and said even that Yitzhak Rabin had told him the procedures permitted by the commission would be insufficient. Landau said that the security services continued to exceed his committee's recommendations and exploited them.
"Zionism is the only one of the great ideologies of the 20th century that has proved its veracity," said Landau. "That's why I find it odd to see it now being pushed into a situation in which it must defend itself."
Landau was born in Danzig, Germany (now Gdansk, Poland), where his father was a leading member of the Jewish community. He earned his law degree in 1930 from the University of London School of Law and then moved to pre-state Palestine.
Landau became a judge in 1940.
He was a member of the International Court of Justice, and chairman of the World Zionist Congress tribunal, the Commission for Recognition of Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem and the board of directors of the Technion.
He received the Israel Prize in 1991.