Introduction: The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
In 1961, the world watched the first televised courtroom trial as a Jerusalem court tried Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann for crimes against the Jewish people. Eichmann’s role in deporting the Jews of Europe to concentration camps made him the target of a fifteen-year manhunt by Israeli agents. His defense, like that of other Nazis, was that he was “just following orders.”
Eichmann’s trial was the first televised trial in the history of television. Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben Gurion wanted to broadcast the trial to educate a generation that had come of age after World War II about the atrocities of the Holocaust. The trial was an emotionally explosive event that revealed for the first time to a shocked world audience the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jewry.
Eichmann’s name first surfaced during the Nuremberg Trial. In 1950 he fled to Argentina with the help of the Nazi underground. The Israeli government found him living in Buenos Aires with his wife and three sons. In the May, 1960, the Israelis kidnapped him and forcibly brought him to Israel to stand trial as a war criminal.
Eichmann was the mastermind behind moving the Jewish people out of their homes into the ghettoes, and then into the concentration camps. He proved to be the Nazi’s foremost Jewish specialist. His ability to organize, categorize, and supervise enabled him to bring over six million Jews to their deaths. By piling men, women, and children in cattle train cars, he sent millions to their deaths.
During the trial, Eichmann sat enclosed within a glass booth. He became known,and is known today, as The Man in the Glass Booth. The Israelis built the booth for his protection because they feared someone would try to kill him before the trial was over.
One of the extraordinary aspects of the Eichmann trial is that no one knew very much about the Holocaust when the trial began. Holocaust survivors did not speak about their ordeals at the hands of the Nazis until the trial. To many, the Holocaust was unspeakable remembrance, but the trial was a catharsis, and people began to tell their tales. Gideon Hausner, Attorney General representing the State of Israel, called over 100 witnesses to the stand. The courtroom was packed. After an emotional 16 weeks, Eichmann was found guilty on all 15 counts of the criminal indictment against him. He was hanged, his body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean Sea.
This website was developed by I-NETDesign for ABC News Productions. The 2-hour documentary, The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, airs on April 30th, 1997.