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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