Refugee from Nazis be­came chief jus­tice

The Dominion Post - - Obituaries -

called ‘‘the usual lone­li­ness of first in­stance judg­ing’’.

Af­ter his re­tire­ment as chief jus­tice, Eichel­baum sat as a judge in Hong Kong and Fiji. He chaired in­quiries into ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion, why New Zealand lost co-host­ing rights to the 2003 Rugby World Cup, and, con­tro­ver­sially, re­viewed chil­dren’s ev­i­dence in the case against Peter El­lis, who was con­victed of child abuse at the Christchurch civic creche.

In a tribute af­ter his death, Elias said Eichel­baum was held in the high­est af­fec­tion by the judges who served un­der him, both for his lead­er­ship and for his per­sonal warmth and kind­ness.

Barker said Eichel­baum could be ex­pan­sive and hos­pitable, but there was al­ways an area of pri­vacy. Like oth­ers, he re­mem­bered Eichel­baum’s sig­na­ture: long, con­trolled and un­recog­nis­able as his name.

As Eichel­baum pre­pared for re­tire­ment, he re­flected in an in­ter­view on the ef­fect of his early ex­pe­ri­ences. Im­mi­grants might tend to do well be­cause they felt obliged to try harder, he sug­gested.

Typ­i­cal Ger­man qual­i­ties of or­der­li­ness and dili­gence helped his ca­reer, and from his Jewish side came an em­pa­thy with mi­nori­ties. ‘‘But I think per­haps it is a Jewish char­ac­ter­is­tic to em­pathise with peo­ple gen­er­ally.’’

It was not un­til his mid-60s that he re­turned to his home town of Koenigs­berg, which had be­come part of Rus­sia in 1945.

The in­ter­viewer said Eichel­baum’s eyes filled with tears as he de­scribed see­ing streets and build­ings he recog­nised, but none of the Jews and Ger­mans who once lived there.

Sources: Dame Sian Elias, Sir Ian Barker, The Evening Post and The Do­min­ion, New Zealand Law Jour­nal.

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