Research Paper: Trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem

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Trial of Eichmann

THE TRIAL of ADOLF EICHMANN in JERUSELUM

HOLOCAUST STUDIES 101

Born on March 19, 1906 in Solingen, Germany, Otto Adolf Eichmann moved with his family to Austria at the age of 7.[footnoteRef:2] With the help of his father, he began to find success as a vacuum oil salesman. After being fired from the office in Salzburg he joined the National Socialist Party or Nazi Party, again through family connections. His fellow Nazis encouraged to get military training and he found his way to SS training camps in Bavaria. [2: Deborah Dwork, "Forward," in Harry Mulisch's Criminal Case of 40/61, the Trial of Adolf Eichmann. An Eyewitness Account, trans. Robert Naborn (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), x-xiii.]

Eichmann began to gain recognition within the Nazi Party as a Zionist expert after he took control of the Jewish Emigration program in 1934.[footnoteRef:3] He proudly claimed during his trial in Jerusalem in 1961 that his conveyer belt-style program was responsible for the forced deportation of over 50,000 Jews, a program financed with money stolen from the deported Jews. As the German military annexed different countries in Europe, Eichmann would personally establish deportation centers in the annexed territories. [3: Ibid.]

In 1939, Eichmann was faced with the problem of exporting so many Jews after the German military annexed Czechoslovakia.[footnoteRef:4] Visas were almost impossible to get, so he began to ghettos and work camps in Czechoslovakia and later in Poland. As the German military continued to race across Europe, deportations and confinement were no longer sufficient to handle the 'workload' and Eichmann was given the responsibility for carrying out the 'Final Solution.' By the end of the war, Eichmann was believed to have been responsible for the murder of six million Jews. [4: Ibid.]

The American military captured Eichmann after the war and was held in a prison camp.[footnoteRef:5] He later escaped with the help of an underground Nazi organization and traveled to the Vatican, where he received a visa to Argentina. He lived in that country for the next eight years, until he was kidnapped by Israeli spies and secretly whisked away to Israel to stand trial. Although Argentina, the United States, and the United Nations complained about the manner in which Eichmann was captured, the Soviet Union pointed out that post-war treaties dictated that war criminals be tried in the country where the crimes were committed.[footnoteRef:6] [5: Ibid.] [6: Ibid., ix.]

Preparing for Trial

Once captured, Eichmann appeared to be a willing witness for the prosecution.[footnoteRef:7] the investigation took eight months and Eichmann helped to assemble a 3,564-page statement that had to be transcribed from the interrogations sessions. Despite Eichmann's willingness to reveal all he could 'remember,' his reputation for cleverness kept revealing itself and undermining the pretense. For example, he proved to be exceptionally adept at evading capture for 15 years following the end of the war.[footnoteRef:8] in addition, he told investigators after he was captured in a Buenos Aires suburb that he was willing to stand trial in Argentina or Germany, but not in Israel[footnoteRef:9]. With this response, his captors grew silent. The silence was too much for Eichmann, who feared immediate execution, so he agreed to stand trial in Israel. During the subsequent interrogations, Eichmann was unable to remember the details of the death camps that he ran, but when asked about his youth he could remember the smallest details, including the price of a bread roll in a military canteen he had visited 25 years prior.[footnoteRef:10] These details suggest Eichmann was doing everything in his power to delay and impede the prosecution's efforts. [7: Hausner Gideon. Justice in Jerusalem. (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 277.] [8: Ibid., 265.] [9: Ibid., 275.] [10: Ibid., 278.]

The Defense Strategy

One of the primary defense strategies was to claim that the Israeli Tribunal had no jurisdiction to try a Nazi war criminal.[footnoteRef:11] Dr. Robert Servatius and Dieter Wechtenbruch, both Germans, served as defense counsel for Eichmann.[footnoteRef:12] They claimed that under international law criminal acts committed outside of Israel's territory, against non-Israeli citizens, and by a non-Israeli, could not be tried in Israel.[footnoteRef:13] This argument, the defense claimed, is inherently apparent since the State of Israel did not exist at the time the crimes were alleged to have been committed. [11: Peter Papadatos, the Eichmann Trial, (New York: Praeger, 1964), 42.] [12: Homer Bigart, "Trial of Eichmann Opens before Israeli Tribunal," (New York Times, April 11, 1961), 14.] [13: Papadatos, the Eichmann Trial, 40-45.]

The three judge Israeli tribunal rejected the defenses claim, by citing Law 510 which holds that the crime of barbarity (delicta juris gentium), otherwise known today as crimes against humanity, should be tried by an international tribunal.[footnoteRef:14] Since an international tribunal was not in existence at the time, the Israeli justices held that the State of Israel had the right to prosecute crimes that fell under international law, even if the crime occurred elsewhere against non-Israelis by a non-Israeli. To fail in this task, according to the justices, would be to fail to uphold internationally recognized norms of law. [14: Ibid.]

The Israeli judges also claimed the right to judge Eichmann's crimes under the principle of universal jurisdiction.[footnoteRef:15] Under this principle, any extradition that increased the risk of an unfair trial required the accused to be tried locally. In addition, the issues concerning the place where the crime took place, or the nationality of the victims or the accused, are rendered moot under this principle. The justices considered other statutes, treaties, and conventions and concluded that international law was the relevant doctrine which controlled the proceedings before the court. However, the court admitted that international law per se was sufficiently immature that actual statutes do not exist which governs the proceedings, only its principles. In addition, the justices recognized that the principal of universal jurisdiction represented a threat to state sovereignty rights, but to ignore the responsibility of upholding the universally-recognized sanctions against genocide would be to ignore the universal human rights of all citizens of the world. [15: Ibid.]

Eichmann's defense counsel also objected to the fact that the justices sitting on the tribunal were Jewish, thereby implying that they could hardly be impartial.[footnoteRef:16] Although they could have, the defense counsel decided not to point out that all three justices were German refugees who had arrived in Palestine in 1933 and were likely victims of the deportation program that Eichmann eventually took over.[footnoteRef:17] the justices rejected this argument by pointing out that judicial conflicts of interest have occurred in the past, such as when enemy spies are tried in the same country in which they were conducting espionage.[footnoteRef:18] [16: Ibid. ] [17: Bigart, "Trial of Eichmann Opens before Israeli Tribunal," 14.] [18: Same as 12 above.]

The kidnapping of Eichmann from Buenos Aires was also contested,[footnoteRef:19] but the justices concluded that although the method of capture was certainly illegal, it simply provided a different means to achieve an inevitable end.[footnoteRef:20] the defense counsel also complained about the retroactive nature of the laws controlling the proceedings, since these laws, let alone the state the penned them, did not exist when the alleged crimes were committed. The justices responded by pointing out that a number of international agreements, including the one in force at the Nuremberg Trials, hold that the horrendous nature of the acts that Eichmann is accused of are such an affront to the civilized world that to do nothing would be a criminal act in itself. With these objections out of the way, the trial went forward with the prosecution's case. [19: Ibid., 53.] [20: Ibid., 62-63.]

The Holocaust on Trial

The trial of Adolf Eichmann began on April 11, 1961 with the reading of the charges by Justice Lundau.[footnoteRef:21] the indictment carried 15 counts, including the murder of six million Jews and the persecution, enslavement, imprisonment, inhumane treatment, mass arrests, sterilization, starvation, illegal deportation, theft, terrorism, torture of an untold number of Jews, Poles, Czechs, and Gypsies.[footnoteRef:22] the indictment also included charges that Eichmann was a member of the criminal organizations known as the S.S., S.D., and the Gestapo. [21: Bigart, "Trial of Eichmann Opens before Israeli Tribunal," 14.] [22: Papadatos, the Eichmann Trial, 111.]

The opening statement by the chief prosecutor, Israeli Attorney General Gideon Hausner, was as follows:

When I stand before you, O Judges of Israel, to lead the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I do not stand alone. With me here are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point their finger at the man in the dock with the cry 'J' accuse' on their lips. For they are now only ashes -- ashes piled high on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka and strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graves are scattered throughout Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voice is stilled. Therefore will I be their spokesman. In their name will I unfold this terrible indictment.[footnoteRef:23] [23: Hausner. Justice in Jerusalem, 323-326.]

Hausner went on to characterize… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Trial of Eichmann in Jerusalem."  Essaytown.com.  May 6, 2013.  Accessed June 24, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/trial-eichmann-jerusalem/3765347.