The Trial of Adolf Eichmann at 50

50 years ago today, Adolf Eich­mann, a key archi­tect of the Holo­caust, went on tri­al before an Israeli tri­bunal in Jerusalem. Dur­ing the war, Eich­mann served as the Trans­porta­tion Admin­is­tra­tor of the “Final Solu­tion to the Jew­ish Ques­tion,” mean­ing he coor­di­nat­ed all the trains that trans­port­ed Jews to their deaths in East Euro­pean exter­mi­na­tion camps. When the Nazis fell, Eich­mann fled to Argenti­na where he hoped to live out his days in com­fort­able anonymi­ty, work­ing as a fore­man for Mer­cedes Benz.

The Mossad spent most of the 1950s track­ing him down, then famous­ly got their man in May, 1960. Back in Israel, the philoso­pher Han­nah Arendt cov­ered the Eich­mann tri­al for The New York­er and lat­er reduced the essence of the for­mer SS colonel to a sim­ple phrase: “the banal­i­ty of evil.” Elab­o­rat­ing she said, “The deeds were mon­strous, but the doer—at least, the very effec­tive one now on trial—was quite ordi­nary, com­mon­place, and nei­ther mon­strous nor demon­ic.”

Tak­en from The Spiel­berg Jew­ish Film Archive, the footage above shows you the open­ing moments of the tri­al and tes­ti­mo­ny from Holo­caust sur­vivors. Eich­mann is there too, encased in glass, look­ing as banal as Arendt sug­gest­ed. After 14 weeks of tes­ti­mo­ny, Eich­mann was found guilty of 15 crim­i­nal counts, includ­ing crimes against human­i­ty, and he was hanged in May, 1962 – the only civ­il exe­cu­tion ever car­ried out by the state of Israel.

A new book by Emory his­to­ri­an Deb­o­rah Lip­stadt revis­its the tri­al with the ben­e­fit of some his­tor­i­cal dis­tance. In this video, Lip­stadt reminds us why the tri­al held such impor­tance for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.

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  • mmatias says:

    It is umbe­liev­able that after so many years of bring­ing WWll per­pe­tra­tor to jus­tice now we are at a loss again…with all that Israel have no PEACE so far. Or Mer­cy.
    Reli­gion does­n’t like Peace. Per­haps we all should keep all beliefs under­ground, if we believe in the heav­ens one should not share it.
    Olym­pus ONLY get sat­is­fied if there is blood­bath and plen­ty of it…one can­not sus­tain it. It must stop.
    We should ignore the havens and believe in each oth­er and guard NATURE in order to sur­vive. The envi­ron­ment is strug­gling to feed and house our species. That is our faith…TO SAVE THE AIR AND THE WATER WHICH WE NEED DAILY>
    Stop KILLING OTHER HUMANS for sake of reli­gion.

  • Jim says:

    No peace because the Arabs have used the Pales­tini­ans as pawns. After World War Two mil­lions of Jew went back to reclaim their homes in Poland , Ukraine , etc. they were told in no uncer­tain terms to leave. And that’s what they did, they left and made some­thing of their and their chil­dren’s lives. No refugee camps, no wal­low­ing in vic­tim hood. They had one life and they went and lived it. The Pales­tini­ans on the oth­er­hand have done a ter­ri­ble injus­tice to their heirs. And the iron­ic thing about the whole mess is that the freest Arabs in the. Mid­dle East are those that live. In Israel. They vote and par­tic­i­pate in the gov­ern­ment.

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