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  Nazi Justice



The Trial of Adolf Eichmann



A Brief Biography on Adolf Eichmann


Adolf Eichmann on trial in Jerusalem

Born in Solingen, Germany, Adolf Eichmann was the son of a businessman and industrialist, Karl Adolf Eichmann. In 1914.

Eichmann joined the Austrian branch of the NSDAP (member number 889 895) and of the SS, enlisting on 1 April 1932, as an SS-Anwärter. He was accepted as a full SS member that November, appointed an SS-Mann, and assigned the SS number 45326.


For the next year, Eichmann was a member of the Allgemeine-SS and served in a mustering formation operating from Salzburg.

In September 1934 Eichmann landed a position in Heydrich's SD, the powerful SS security service. There he started out as a filing clerk cataloguing information about Freemasons. Predictably, the Nazis believed that the Masons were assisting the Jews in their attempts to gain world domination.


Eichmann's job was to compile information on prominent Freemasons in Germany. However he was soon assigned to the Jewish section, which was busy collecting information on all prominent Jews. This marked the beginning of Eichmann's interest in the Jews.

With the outbreak of war, Eichmann oversaw a fundamental change in policy – from "voluntary" emigration to forced deportation. During 1939-40, he and his team, which was to eventually include men such as Franz Novak, Rolf Günther, Dieter Wislicency, Otto Hunsche, Hermann Krumey, Theodor Dannecker and Heinz Röthke, amongst others, were responsible for the dumping into the Generalgouvernement of thousands of Poles and Jews from the Warthegau, as well as the expulsion of thousands more Jews from the Reich to Nisko, in eastern Poland. These operations provided valuable experience for the mass Europe-wide deportations that were to come.


It was during this phase of his career that Eichmann presented his Madagascar Plan, proposing to deport European Jews to the island of Madagascar, off the coast of east Africa. The plan was never implemented.

At the end of World War II, Eichmann was captured by the US Army, who did not know that this man who presented himself as "Otto Eckmann" was in fact a much bigger catch. Early in 1946, he escaped from US custody and hid in various parts of Germany for a few years. In 1948 he obtained a landing permit for Argentina, but did not use it immediately.

At the beginning of 1950, Eichmann went to Italy, where he posed as a refugee named Ricardo Klement. With the help of a Franciscan friar who had connections with Archbishop Alois Hudal, Eichmann obtained an `International Committee of the Red Cross’ humanitarian passport and an Argentinean visa. He arrived by ship in Argentina on 14 July 1950. For the next ten years, he worked in several odd jobs in the Buenos Aires area (from factory foreman, to junior water engineer and professional rabbit farmer). Eichmann also brought his family to Argentina. However by the late 1950's, the culpability of Eichmann's role in the program to exterminate the Jews had become apparent.

An in-depth biography on Adolf Eichmann be found [here].


The Eichmann trial aroused international interest, bringing Nazi atrocities to the forefront of world news. Testimonies of Holocaust survivors, especially those of ghetto fighters such as Zivia Lubetkin, generated interest in Jewish resistance. The trial prompted a new openness in Israel; many Holocaust survivors felt able to share their experiences as the country confronted this traumatic chapter.

Charges against Eichmann:

Eichmann was charged under a 1950 Israeli law enacted to punish Nazis and their collaborators. He was charged on 15 counts:

§         Charge 1: He was ultimately responsible for the murder of millions of Jews.

§         Charge 2: He placed these Jews, before they were murdered, in living conditions designed to kill them.

§         Charge 3: He caused them grave physical and mental harm.

§         Charge 4: He took actions which resulted in the sterilization of Jews and otherwise prevented childbirth.

§         Charge 5: He caused the enslavement, starvation, and deportation of millions of Jews.

§         Charge 6: He caused general persecution of Jews based on national, racial, religious and political grounds.

§         Charge 7: He spoiled Jewish property by inhuman measures involving compulsion, robbery, terrorism and violence.

§         Charge 8: That all of the above were punishable war crimes.

§         Charge 9: He deported a half-million Poles.

§         Charge 10: He deported 14,000 Slovenes.

§         Charge 11: He deported tens of thousands of gypsies.

§         Charge 12: He deported and murdered 100 Czech children from the village of Lidice.

The final three charges involved membership in organizations which were judged to be criminal by the Nuremberg Trials: the S.D., Gestapo, and S.S. The first 12 counts of the indictment each carried the death penalty as the maximum punishment.

The Court:

The three-judge panel trying the case consisted of Justice Moshe Landau, Dr. Benjamin Halevy, and Dr. Yitzhak Raveh. Justice Landau was a member of the Israeli Supreme Court. He was born in Poland and educated in London, Dr. Halevy was the president of the Jerusalem District Court and a graduate of Berlin University. Dr. Raveh was a member of the Tel Aviv District Court and had emigrated from Germany in 1933, when Jews there first began to feel threats to their physical security from the government. All of the judges were fluent in German.


Moshe Landau

Dr. Benjamin Halevy

Dr. Yitzhak Raveh


                                                                   Prosecution                                     Defense

Gideon Hausner (prosecutor)


Dr. Robert Servatius (foreground)

Eichmann's Attorney


The Prosecution team:

The team charged with handling the prosecution of the case was headed by Israel Attorney General Gideon Hausner. Hausner came to Israel from his native Poland in 1927. He had served as a military prosecutor during Israel's War of Independence, and later was President of the military Court. He had been appointed Attorney General just a few weeks. Assisting him was a team of attorneys which included Dr. Jacob Robinson, who was an assistant to the Chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg Tribunal, Gabriel Bach, a native of Germany who was educated in Britain, and Jacob Baror, the German-born District Attorney of Tel Aviv whose decendents were Orthodox rabbis. Zvi Terlo, an Assistant State Attorney, also assisted the effort.

The Eichmann defense team:

Although several prominent U.S. law firms volunteered to represent Eichmann, he asked for Dr. Robert Servatius to represent him. Servatius was a well-known lawyer from Cologne who had been a defense counselor at the Nuremberg trials. But Eichmann could not afford him. The Israeli government agreed to pay the $30,000 fee and the Servatius arrived in October of 1960 to meet Eichmann for the first time, and plan the defense strategy. He was assisted by Dieter Wechtenbruch, a young attorney from Munich.

Prosecution strategy

The basic strategy of the prosecution was to:

  • Argue that under the doctrine advanced by the defense, Hitler alone would be solely responsible for these crimes, and Hitler would be immune as a head of state.

  • Give a human side to the horror by having survivor testimony.

  • Use Eichmann's own words to belie the fact that he was a disinterested bureaucrat only carrying out orders, but rather was passionate in his obsession with killing Jews.

  •  Use incriminating testimony from his colleagues at the Nuremberg Trials, the contents of thousands of documents, many of which were signed by Eichmann, and the Sassen interviews.

Defense Strategy

It was impossible for Eichmann to deny his role in the killing of Europe’s Jews. Servatius adopted the defense strategy that had been used at Nuremberg. Since he could not disavow the crime, he disavowed the responsibility for them. “He was just following orders” Eichmann’s defense was designed to let the SS Officer fade from the stand and replace him with the benevolent bureaucrat, a man whose actions had been misrepresented by the prosecution. He even went so far as to claim that his early actions during the period of forced emigration had been for the benefit of the Jews.

Base strategy:

  • Not cross-examine survivors of the concentration camps who testified.

  • Concentrate on the issues of the trial.

  • Avoid engaging in purposefully delaying tactics.

  • Contest the trial's legality.

  • Contest the judges' ability to be impartial.

  • Assert that the Nazi Punishment Law was invalid because it was extraterritorial and ex post facto (i.e. enacted after an action was committed which may have been perfectly legal at the time it occurred).

  • Advance that Eichmann was not a part of the leadership which made decisions, but that he only carried them out.

  • Contend that he was unable to resist carrying out these orders.

  • Declare that on occasion, he took actions which stopped persecution and extermination of Jews.

  • Assert that he was present at key meetings not because he was part of the leadership conspiring to commit war crimes, but because it was his department's duty to take the minutes of these meetings.

  • Declare that the court did not have jurisdiction because Eichmann had been abducted from Argentina, and that only Argentina (or, perhaps, Germany since Eichmann claimed citizenship status as a German) had jurisdiction to bring charges against Eichmann.

  • Contend that Israel did not even exist when the alleged crimes occurred, so the Israeli Court had no jurisdiction.

The verdict and sentence

For four months. the Trial of Adolf Eichmann had dominated Israeli life. For most people, Eichmann's guilt was never in doubt. The real question was, how to punish one man who had cause the deaths of millions.

The verdict is given...

Although the world had known about Nazi war crimes, it was not until the Eichmann trial that many people became truly aware of the "The Holocaust". For a large section of the Israeli public, almost nothing was known about the Shoah prior.

On December 11, 1961, after a four-month recess, the three judges returned to their bench with a verdict. It had been a year and a half since Eichmann's capture, and 16 years since the liberation of the Nazi camps. The time had come for Eichmann to be judged.

Eichmann was found Guilty of all 15 counts against him.

He was responsible, the court said, "for millions of deaths, the particulars of his rank and function did not excuse his actions."

Eichmann made his final speech on the gallows:

"Long live Germany! Long live Austria! Long live Argentina! I owe a lot to these countries and I shall not forget them. I had to obey the rules of war and of my flag!"

It was declared that no grave would mark his life, and more importantly, he would have no resting place in Israel. His ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean see (In international waters).





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Copyright  Carmelo Lisciotto  H.E.A.R.T  2007



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