27.4.11

Eichmann, 50 years on

A prosecutor and key witness reflect back on the event that transformed Israel.

by Leah Abramowitz

...In May 1960, Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi officer in charge of orchestrating the Final Solution – the mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps – was captured by Israeli agents near Buenos Aires. Eichmann was given a choice between instant death or trial in Israel. He chose to stand trial, which began in Jerusalem on April 11, 1961.

During the trial, the Israeli public was exposed to the details of the Holocaust nightmare for the first time, as well as to the heroism and ingenuity of those who survived.

In his defense, Eichmann insisted that he was only "following orders." Yet scores of witnesses contradicted that contention – testifying to Eichmann's "fanatical zeal and unquenchable blood thirst." Throughout, Eichmann listened impassively to a translation of the entire trial from a specially-designed glass cubicle in the crowded Jerusalem courtroom.

One year later, after all the evidence was in and all appeals exhausted, the cold-eyed Nazi monster was hanged at a prison in the Israeli town of Ramla.

...Half a century later, the Eichmann trial is not merely a historic event. It represents the turning point in Israel’s (and our)understanding of the Holocaust...


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