Trial of Eichmann the Trial Research Paper

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[footnoteRef:24] the act required, according to Hausner, detached, painstaking planning and the cooperation of thousands in order to destroy six million Jews and an untold number of others. Over 1,500 Jewish centers and thousands of communities had been erased. Of the 9.8 million Jews that were living in areas of Europe that would later be annexed by the Nazis, over half were dead by the end of the war.[footnoteRef:25] for example, Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia lost 96%, 98%, and 96% of their Jewish populations, respectively. The indictment was in fact stating that Eichmann was both the architect and executioner for the elimination of the Jewish populations in much of Western Europe. [24: Ibid.] [25: Moshe Pearlman, the Capture and Trial of Adolf Eichmann, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1963), 229.]

The first witnesses for the prosecution related their personal experiences during the period before the Final Solution was begun.[footnoteRef:26] "… it was a Thursday night, at eight o'clock -- a policeman came and ordered us to come to Region 11. "Take nothing with you,' he said, 'you will be back immediately. But take your passports."[footnoteRef:27] Thus began the journey of Shmuel Grynszpan and his family into Poland. After finding themselves shoved together with others who had been rudely ejected from their homes and lives, they were forced to sign letters of acceptance for deportation. After waiting for 24 hours, they were transported to a railway station. Along the way they witnessed streets filled with anti-Semites shouting at them and encouraging their deportation. The train took them to a location close to the border, where other trainloads were arriving. Approximately 12,000 Jews were then stripped of their valuables and force to walk two kilometers to the border. Along the way, the Germans whipped and beat them and the road became splattered with blood. Once across the border, they were herded to a town of 6,000 where they finally got something to eat. They had not eaten since they were taken from their homes Thursday night. [26: Ibid., 234-252.] [27: Ibid.]

Many of these witnesses had personally interacted with Eichmann during the war period.[footnoteRef:28] in contrast to the mild and accommodating manner of the man sitting in the courtroom, they uniformly experienced Eichmann as arrogant, authoritarian, short-tempered, and abusive. While these witnesses helped to strip away Eichmann's attempts to appear as an 'everyman', merely having these character traits was insufficient to hang Eichmann for war crimes. Attorney General Hausner then began introducing depositions and documents that represented the greatest threat to Eichmann's defense team.[footnoteRef:29] These documents had been culled from the voluminous documentation of what had occurred under the leadership of Eichmann. These documents detailed the fact that Eichmann had been responsible for orchestrating the murder of over six million Jews. Under Israeli laws, Eichmann was therefore guilty of murder and genocide even if he had not been physically present during the commission of the acts. [28: See note 25 above.] [29: Ibid., 252-268.]

These documents revealed that after the German military annexed Western Poland in September of 1939 the systematic persecution of Jewish residents began.[footnoteRef:30] Synagogues and Jewish schools were burned and homes vandalized. Roving gangs beat Jews in the streets and robbed them of their valuables. The Jewish population of Jaroslav was drowned in the River San. The Jewish populations of Bromberg and Lodz were massacred and Orthodox Jews had their beards torn out along with skin. Others were captured and placed into forced labor camps. [30: Ibid.]

Just three weeks after the invasion of Poland, Hitler ordered the territories in Poland that were formerly German provinces resettled with Germans.[footnoteRef:31] to make room for the influx of German settlers, all Jews and some Poles were to be expelled from this territory. Thus began the removal of nearly a half million Jews and poles during the winter, after they were stripped of all their valuables. The task for accomplishing this was given to Eichmann and countless died along the transport routes. [31: Ibid.]

The occupied territory within Poland designated to receive these refugees was governed by a long-time Nazi Party member Hans Frank.[footnoteRef:32] the documents presented before the Eichmann court in Jerusalem contained the minutes of a meeting in which Frank remarked that train load after train load arrived with thousands upon thousands of frozen corpses. Governor Frank was actually upset, not because he cared about the inhumane conditions and treatment of the refugees, but because he believed the refugees could have been used for forced labor. He remarked upon this in his personal journal after receiving an order to remove all Jews from the labor camps and munitions factories and then to exterminate them. [32: Ibid.]

There were a large number of victims who gave personal testimony during the trial, including those sent to the death camps.[footnoteRef:33] These recounting are too numerous to include in this essay, but the following is provided as an example. Dr. Leon Weliczker Wells spent hours on the stand describing his ordeal as the lone survivor of a 76-member family from Ukraine. During his struggle to survive, he was taken from a labor camp by a German 'Death Brigade.'[footnoteRef:34] These death brigades were special units set up by Eichmann and designed to both massacre Jews and cover up the sites of mass murders. Essentially, the bodies were exhumed and burned, then the bones were ground to dust and any gold fillings retrieved. These units were so efficient that the amount of gold recovered per day was about 20 pounds. The now empty graves were then filled with dirt and replanted to hide the fact that a mass grave had ever existed. [33: Ibid., 268-415.] [34: Ibid., 284.]

Witnesses recounted the time they spent in the main death camps of Maidanek, Sobibor, Chelmno, Belsec, Treblinka, and Auschwitz.[footnoteRef:35] These camps were responsible for exterminating between four and a half million Jews and all were strategically located in Poland. Documentation was presented at trial that revealed Eichmann and his office was directly responsible for supplying the victims and poisonous gas to the camps, in addition to planning the construction of the camps. In added proof of his role, he would personally visit the camps to ensure his orders were being carried out. [35: Ibid., 374-375.]

One of the primary arguments offered by the defense arguments was that Eichmann was merely following orders.[footnoteRef:36] While this is a recognized defense in civil matters, International legal norms and the Charter of the International Military Tribunal hold that it cannot be used to escape criminal liability. In the end, Eichmann was found guilty on all 15 counts in the indictment.[footnoteRef:37] the Attorney General Hausner stated during the sentencing phase of the trial in which he argued for the death sentence that "… Eichmann has excluded himself from the society of human beings [by his actions]… and human society is enjoined to spew him out."[footnoteRef:38] Despite Eichmann's protestations that he was "… not the monster I am made out to be [but]… the victim of misconception & #8230;"[footnoteRef:39], the three judge tribunal sentenced Eichmann to death. The defense attorneys appealed the decision before the Israeli Supreme Court, but to no avail. Justice Silberg stated "… we know only too well how utterly inadequate this death sentence is, as compared to the millions of dreadful deaths he inflicted & #8230;"[footnoteRef:40] [36: Papadatos, the Eichmann Trial, 78-88.] [37: Hausner. Justice in Jerusalem, 428.] [38: Ibid., 429. ] [39: Ibid., 431.] [40: Ibid., 443. ]

Eichmann then appealed to the President of Israel for mercy, which was turned down at 8 pm on May 31, 1962.[footnoteRef:41] Four hours later Eichmann was hanged until dead. Rather than allow his remains to stay in Israel, his body was burned the following morning and his ashes dumped into the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. [41: Ibid., 444-446.]


An untold number of people have tried to fathom how a human being could do the things Eichmann did. The Dutch writer Harry Mulisch attended the trial and characterized Eichmann as a machine, merely going through life doing what he was told.[footnoteRef:42] Mulisch warned that Eichmann was a symbol of progress, by which he meant that the people like Eichmann represent everyday people capable of becoming a machine, where oath and order trump human rights. The leftist Jewish-American immigrant who fled persecution by the Nazis, Hannah Arendt, also attended the trial and came away with a far different view. From her perspective, the European Jews who failed to recognize the Nazi threat for what it was were culpable in their own demise. While it may be true that no one will be able to accurately divine how Eichmann could have done what he did, this question remains worth asking, even 70 years later. Mulisch would probably argue that not only is it worth asking, but essential for preventing another Holocaust.

[42: Dwork, "Forward," xvi-xxiii.]


Bigart, Homer. "Trial of Eichmann Opens before Israeli…[continue]

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