Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eichmann's Glass Booth - 50 years later*

Eichmann Found by Security Services; To be Tried Here for Crimes Against Jews is the headline in The Jerusalem Post May 24, 1960. The secondary headline continues:"Adolf Eichmann, one of the most notorious Nazi war criminals, who has been in hiding for 15 years, was found recently by the Israel Security Services and is now under arrest in Israel, where he will shortly be put on trial. This dramatic announcement was made by the Prime Minister [David Ben-Gurion in office November 3 1955 to June 26 1963] in the Knesset yesterday afternoon. It caused unprecedented excitement in the Chamber and shortly thereafter in the streets outside."

Appearing "before Chief Magistrate Yedidya Halevy in Jaffa at 11 o'clock yesterday morning to hear the charges against him.

"Adolf Eichmann, you are charged with causing the death of millions of Jews in Germany and the occupied countries in the years 1938 to 1945. 'Are you Adolf Eichmann?' he was asked." He replied distinctly: "Ich bin Adolf Eichmann."

Eichmann's Trial began April 11, 1961, indicting him on 15 charges, which included killing Jews; causing serious bodily or mental harm to Jews; placing Jews in living conditions calculated to bring about their physical destruction; imposing measures intended to prevent births among Jews; forceably transferring Jewish children to another national or religious group; destroying or desecrating Jewish religious or cultural assets or values; inciting to hatred against Jews. [1]

He was seated during the trial in a bullet proof glass booth to protect him, the Wikipedia has it "from the victims' families".

Eichmann was found guilty under the "Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law" [2] and hung at 23:58 hours, May 31, 1962 at Ramle Prison, according to The Jerusalem Post, Friday, June 1, 1962 - 28 Iyar 5722: "The body was examined by a government physician , who pronounced life to be extinct at two minutes before midnight. The execution was witnessed by the commissioner of prisons, a government physician, an officer of the Tel Aviv Representative, two police officers, who were present in the court when the death sentence was pronounced to identify the prisoner, and a protestant clergyman."

To date it is the only civil execution in Israel[3]. Eichmann's body was cremated and his ashes strewn in the Mediterranean Sea beyond the Israeli territorial boundary.
The judges in the trial were Moshe Landau, Benjamin Halevy, and Yitzhak Raveh; the chief prosecuter was Attorney General Gideon Hausner (1915-1990), whose opening remarks were:

As I stand here before you, Judges of Israel, to lead the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I do not stand alone. with me, in this place and at this hour, stand six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger toward the man who sits in the glass dock and cry: "I accuse." For their ashes were piled up in the hills of Auschwitz and in the the fields of Treblinka, or washed away by the rivers of Poland; their graves are scattered over the length and breadth of Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voices are not heard. Therefore it falls to me to be their spokesman and to unfold in their name the awesome indictment. [4]

The Protective Glass Booth
In Good and Evil in Jewish Thought, Shalom Rosenberg states that he does “not know how to explain or interpret [the] term [radical evil] but will “attempt to transmit… the experience out of which… such a term has grown.” (P99) He examines “three types of murderers”:
(1) the opportunist: “the Polish peasant who handed over a Jew to the Germans because he coveted his boots.
(2) the sadist, the man who enjoys causing suffering to others.
(3) the “idealist”, the man who did evil for its own sake, and to a certain extent was not even aware of doing evil. Problems and reactions concerning this figure arose during the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem. It appears, though, that this figure embodies radical evil.
Bearing such distinctions in mind, let us now turn to an examination of the reactions of Jewish thinkers to the Shoah. We will soon see that thought on this issue is distinctly divided into two camps, and I regard this as the most fundamental controversy which has arisen since the Shoah On the one hand, we have people who believe that they have an explanation to offer to these events. I shall mention two examples of people who believe that they can offer an explanation of what took place: Hannah Arendt and Bruno Bettelheim. Their explanations are in categories which are taken from other fields: psychology and sociology.
On the other hand, there are other thinkers – and I have in mind Elie Wiesel, Emil Fackenheim and others – who think that what we are faced with here is an evil which is fundamentally different and is not open to any rational explanation whatsoever. The Shoah was, for them, a revelation of evil, almost a mystical revelation, one of cosmic dimensions which is unparalleled, in which we have an expression of a kind of wickedness which is not open to any interpretation, be it psychological or sociological. Here, I believe, we have the root of the controversy.
Such thinkers treat the Shoah as a question which can have no answer. Some of them regard it as an event of cosmic dimensions, something like an antithesis to the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai; as a phenomenon from which we have to learn, and in the light of which our whole life must change, for, in this phenomenon, we have been faced by an evil which is unlike any other evil, not in its intensity, but in its very essence."

Was the Glass bullet-proof booth protecting Eichmann? Or victims' relatives and those in the court room?

*At a Ceremony yesterday (December 12, 2011) commemorating the 50 years since the Eichmann trial, Bibi noted the connection between Adolf Eichmann and Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin al Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem 1921-1948, who met with Adolf Hitler officially December 1941. Eichmann had visited Husseini in 1937 and the two of them convinced Hitler to stop European Jews leaving for the British Mandate for Palestine (September 26 1923 - May 14, 1948). Husseini, who resided in Berlin during WWII, denied knowing anything of the Shoah.

The booth was in the entrance hallway of the Knesset for the following 3 weeks, then moved to the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv for a short time [5], and has now been returned to The Ghetto Fighters Museum" Akko, Israel.


[1] The Jeruslaem Post, May 24, 1960.

[2] "[C]harter signed in London on August 8, 1945, by the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain and France, laying down that individuals would be held responsible for crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity...." (P316, Justice in Jerusalem, Gideon Hausner, 1966)

[3] The crimes against Eichmann were excluded in the provisions of the law abolishing the death penalty under Israeli Law.

[4] P323-324 Justice in Jerusalem, Gideon Hausner, 1966

[5] JPost dot com, Dec 13 2011


Photograph: Eichmann's booth July 14, 2010 where it is part of an exhibit on the Eichmann trial at the Ghetto Fighter's House Museum (photo by Yocheved Menashe)

There is a lecture by Professor Deborah Lipstadt, Emory University, on Eichmann's Capture here

Dr. Lipstadt spoke at the University of Minnesota WED OCT 26 2011 at the Coffman Theater, as  part of a two-day symposium, "Betrayal of the Humanities: The University During the Third Reich," sponsored by the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota.

1 comment:

Brian Henry said...

Hi, Yo.
You might want to pick up Deborah Lipstadt's new book looking back at the Eichmann trial. It's not earth-moving, but it's good solid history, written in her usual clear style.

Happy Hanukkah,
- Brian

P.S. Up late last night putting together Hanukkay presentation and frying latkes for Nathan's class at school - which was a big hit today.