December 13, 1961
On May 11, 1960, Israeli Security Service members captured Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Nazi Final Solution. He was living under the assumed identity of Ricardo Klement in Argentina. On May 23, 1960, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced Eichmann’s capture to the Knesset stating, “Adolf Eichmann is now under arrest in Israel and will soon trial here in accordance with the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Law.”
The trial began on April 11, 1961, and lasted fourteen weeks with Eichmann famously sitting in a bullet proof glass box throughout. A special panel of three judges was appointed to preside and Israel’s Attorney General Gideon Hausner led the prosecution team.
On Monday, December 11, the Jerusalem District Court delivered the first guilty verdict and over the next two days, the 100,000 word verdict was read aloud and Eichmann was found guilty on 15 counts of murder and crimes against the Jewish People, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The charges included that he had coordinated the deportations of Jews from Germany and elsewhere in western, southern, and northern Europe to Nazi killing centers and that he was responsible for determining how the property of deported Jews would be seized.
On Wednesday December 13, Hausner addressed the three judges and demanded the death penalty for Eichmann claiming that, “He (Eichmann) does not deserve mercy because he had no mercy in his heart. He wanted all of his victims to die. Look at the pictures of the young boys and girls clad in slacks. Their eyes said fear. One can hear even now cries of ‘mama, help!’ from the children of the ghettoes.” (The photo shows Hausner delivering his closing remarks with Eichmann in glass box in background listening)
Following Hausner’s request and remarks from the defense attorney, Eichmann addressed the court claiming that he was only following orders given to him and that he had even requested a transfer from his post. “It was my misfortune to become involved in these horrors. But they were not committed at my will. I never wanted to murder anyone. Only the state leadership is guilty of these mass murders. The death penalty was handed down by the court on December 15.
Eichmann would be hanged on May 31, 1962. The impact of the trial on Israeli society was also significant because it created a new openness in Israel toward Holocaust survivors and their experiences.
Photo Credit: Gideon Hausner delivering his closing remarks at the Eichmann trial on December 13, 1961. Adolf Eichmann is in glass box in background listening.