QB VII by Leon Uris was a best seller published in 1970. This four-part novel highlights the events leading to a life-shattering libel trial in the United Kingdom.
The plaintiff is a doctor pressed into the service of the Nazis after Poland was overrun in World War II. As head physician in a concentration camp he has the opportunity to save many prisoners from the gas chambers. After the war, he becomes a naturalized citizen of the United Kingdom and serves for several years in a free medical clinic in Borneo. Upon resuming private practice, the doctor is confronted with allegations that he collaborated with the Nazis and performed ghastly medical experiments for them. At first he is staunchly defended, but as more evidence comes to light in the trial, his past is revealed.
The defendant served overseas in World War II and recovered in England. He'd been a reporter and a writer of screenplays before and after the war, and one of his books documents the experiences of concentration camp survivors, several of whom cite the plaintiff as the source of their suffering. When he publishes a line to this effect in his latest book, citing "fifteen thousand" as subject of surgery without anaesthesia by Dr. Kelno, he and the publishing house are sued for libel.
Part three deals with the defendant's search to vindicate his information, which ends with the famous violinist Pieter Van Damm revealing that Dr. Kelno turned him to a eunuch.
Part four of the novel is set in one of Her Majesty's courtrooms (Queen's Bench, Courtroom Seven of the title) where this trial is played out. The jury finds for the plaintiff and awards him one halfpenny in damages -- the lowest amount that could (then) be awarded for damages in Britain. In effect, the whole novel seems to indict the plaintiff for collaborating, while the defendant guilty of a minor exaggeration since only one thousand surgeries could be vindicated from evidence, as opposed to claimed fifteen thousand. As the defendant says before the verdict is read, "Nobody's going to win this trial; we're all losers." since he realizes that, even though most people think that they could resist the pressure that could arise in a concentration camp, it is impossible to tell who will be able to resist. And the novel ends with the start of the Six-Day War in which the defendant's son, who emigrated to Israel, is killed in combat.
The novel is loosely based on a libel action brought against Uris himself by Dr Wladislaw Dering, a Polish physician who worked at Auschwitz, in relation to his previous novel Exodus, which resulted in Dr Dering being awarded a half-penny damages, the smallest possible amount at the time. (Costs of £20,000 were awarded against him).
QB VII was made into an American television six-and-a-half hour miniseries by Screen Gems Inc. It began airing on ABC on April 29, 1974. Adapted to the screen by Edward Anhalt, it was produced by Douglas S. Cramer and directed by Tom Gries. The original music was written by Jerry Goldsmith and the cinematography by Paul Beeson and Robert L. Morrison. The series was nominated for thirteen Emmy Awards, winning six.
The poster for the series shows a gavel, but British judges do not use gavels.