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Introduction: The Trial of AdolfEichmann
In 1961, the world watched the first televised courtroom trial as a Jerusalemcourt tried Nazi SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann for crimes against theJewish people. Eichmann’s role in deporting the Jews of Europe to concentrationcamps made him the target of a fifteen-year manhunt by Israeli agents. Hisdefense, like that of other Nazis, was that he was “just followingorders.”
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 educatea generation that had come of age after World War II about the atrocities of theHolocaust. The trial was an emotionally explosive event that revealed for thefirst time to a shocked world audience the Nazi campaign to exterminate EuropeanJewry.
Eichmann’s name first surfaced during the Nuremberg Trial. In 1950 he fled toArgentina with the help of the Nazi underground. The Israeli government foundhim living in Buenos Aires with his wife and three sons. In the May, 1960, theIsraelis kidnapped him and forcibly brought him to Israel to stand trial as a warcriminal.
Eichmann was the mastermind behind moving the Jewish people out of their homesinto the ghettoes, and then into the concentration camps. He proved to be theNazi’s foremost Jewish specialist. His ability to organize, categorize, andsupervise enabled him to bring over six million Jews to their deaths. By pilingmen, women, and children in cattle train cars, he sent millions to theirdeaths.
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 boothfor his protection because they feared someone would try to kill him before thetrial was over.
One of the extraordinary aspects of the Eichmann trial is that no one knew verymuch about the Holocaust when the trial began. Holocaust survivors did not speakabout their ordeals at the hands of the Nazis until the trial. To many, theHolocaust was unspeakable remembrance, but the trial was a catharsis, and peoplebegan to tell their tales. Gideon Hausner, Attorney General representing theState of Israel, called over 100 witnesses to the stand. The courtroom waspacked. After an emotional 16 weeks, Eichmann was found guilty on all 15counts of the criminal indictment against him. He was hanged, his body wascremated, 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 Trialof Adolf Eichmann, airs on April 30th, 1997.