A relatively unknown, yet one of the most influential Jews of the 20th century, Jacob Robinson’s (1889-1977) list of accomplishments are seemingly endless. After receiving his doctorate in law, he was drafted into the Czarist military with the outbreak of World War One. After spending three years in a German POW camp, he returned to the newly created independent Lithuania, where he emerged as a leading Zionist, politician, jurist, educator, writer and much more.
First representing Jewish interests in the Lithuanian parliament, he soon reached the international stage, arguing for minorities rights in international platforms such as the League of Nations, and entering into an ill fated partnership with Weimar Germany to promote minorities rights. In his efforts to protect Jewish minority rights around the world, he was one of the founders of what would eventually become the World Jewish Congress in 1927.
Escaping to the United States in 1940, he soon went to work formulating the legal basis for prosecution of Nazi war criminals post war, eventually serving as a special adviser to the prosecution at the Nuremberg trials. Seeing the failure of the tragic minorities rights saga of interwar Europe, he drafted the new principle of Human Rights, which led to the UN commission on Human Rights. He also assisted the nascent State of Israel with legal counsel at the UN and drafted the reparations agreement with West Germany, later overseeing the Claims Conference. In later years he was a pioneering Holocaust researcher, and was one of the founders of Yad Vashem. Finally, he served as the special legal counsel at the Eichmann trial in 1960, writing the legal basis for the prosecution.
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