Thursday, September 21, 2006

Details about the Eichmann Trial

For a story I am working on: Research on Adolf Eichmann, a high-ranking Nazi captured by Israeli Mossad agents in Argentina in 1960. His trial in Israel lasted 4 months and was widely televised around the world. He was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 1962 he was executed by hanging.

- His capture in Buenos Aires was a result of coincidence. His son Klaus dated the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who also lived in Argentina. When Klaus boasted of his father’s past as a Nazi, the girl’s father began investigating Eichmann, then living under a pseudonym, and helped the Israelis kidnap and spirit the war criminal back to Israel for trial.

- During the trial, Eichmann insisted that he was only "following orders" - the same defense used by some of the Nazi war criminals during the 1945-1946 Nuremberg Trials. This defense inspired the Milgram Experiment whereby participants repeatedly applied electric shocks to other participants even when they knew they were causing pain, simply because an authoritative figure was instructing them to do so.

- Eichmann sat behind bullet proof glass during the entire trial, with an unemotional expression throughout the proceedings.

- The trial included 14 weeks of testimony where 100 prosecution witnesses, 90 of whom were Holocaust survivors, retold the horrors of the Holocaust.

- Apparently many Israelis favored sparing Eichmann the death penalty.

- Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, president of Israel at the time, turned down Eichmann’s petition for mercy and quoted the Book of Samuel: "As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women." (Samuel 1:15:33 , Samuel's words to Agag king of the Amalekites).

- Eichmann allegedly refused a last meal, preferring instead a bottle of Carmel, a dry red Israeli wine. He consumed about half of the bottle.

- The most controversial analysis of the trial came from Hannah Arendt. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, Arendt concluded that, aside from a desire for improving his career, Eichmann showed no trace of anti-Semitism or psychological damage. She called him the embodiment of the "banality of evil," as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality, displaying neither guilt nor hatred. She suggested that this most strikingly discredits the idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and different from ordinary people.

Other books inspired by the Eichmann capture are: The House on Garibaldi Street, by Isser Harel, head of the Mossad at the time, and Eichmann in My Hands, by Peter Malkin, a member of the team that captured Eichmann.

No comments: