I Accuse: The Eichmann Trial Remembered (PHOTOS)
The 1961 trial of Nazi arch criminal Adolf Eichmann changed the philosophy and future thinking of the State of Israel. The testimony given by those he sought to murder proved a turning point in Israel’s attitude toward those who survived -and those who were the victims – of the Shoah. The trial opened a window of understanding about the unimaginable horrors suffered under the Nazi killing machine.
Speaking at an event commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the trial, Israel’s Consul General in New York Ido Aharoni said Eichmann was “what evil looked like…Israel was forever different; the nation stopped to listen to the voice of the witnesses. It felt their agony.” The trial gave voice to The Six Million he had sought to silence.
Michael “Mickey” Goldman-Gilead, Chief Inspector of Bureau-06 and later special assistant to Israel’s Attorney General and Chief Prosecutor at the Eichmann trial Gideon Hausner, was an eight year old child when Eichmann came to the Ghetto. He was beaten by Eichmann himself: 80 lashes flayed the flesh of the small boy. When Goldman was given the honor of dumping the murderer’s ashes into the depths of the Mediterranean Sea, an era, finally, was sealed.
An “unprecedented level of public awareness…imprinted in the hearts of young Israelis, resulted from the 1960 tribunal,” said Consul General Aharoni.
Unto the generations. Tammy Hausner Raveh is the daughter of Gideon Hausner, the State Prosecutor who “turned testimony into accusations and the demand for moral justice into practical justice.” Itai Arad is the grandson of Isser Harel, who, as head of the Mossad, led the operation that captured Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aries, Argentina. Each spoke of the remarkable contributions of her/his father and grandfather.
Both Tamar and Itai have continued the family legacy, said Aharoni, “the epitome of the Israeli spirit…We look back with agony and move forward to a promising future,” said the diplomat.
Abraham Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League, told the intense and emotional audience that “survivor’s guilt” had colored his childhood. He endured “a feeling of shame and of embarrassment, relieved only when the sovereign Jewish State, in its quest for justice, captured Eichmann.” The trial impacted the American Jewish community, said Foxman. The “personalization of the Holocaust” through the survivors’ testimony “galvanized the community to learn.” With fewer and fewer survivors still living,” he said,”there is an increasing need to institutionalize Holocaust remembrance, as much and as soon as we can.”
Itai Arad stands perhaps 18 inches taller than did his late grandfather, Issar Harel, commander of the operation that captured Eichmann. “For the first time in history, the Jews would judge their assassins. Jews were in control of their destiny,” said Arad.
During World War II, Harel worked with Haganah intelligence and, at 36, was appointed as head of the young State’s intelligence agency, the Mossad. Isser was “small of physical stature, yet a giant in so many ways. He understood the importance of bringing Eichmann to trial,” said his grandson.
The Nazi mastermind, spotted in Argentina in 1957, was living quietly as Ricardo Klement, a member of the German “ex pat” community. Information pinpointing his whereabouts was received from a half Jewish Argentinian and conveyed through the German mission. Eichmann had remained completely unrepentant. He wished, his son told a friend, that “they had finished the job.”
Capturing and kidnapping Eichmann in a friendly country was complicated. In 1959, a new wave of anti-Semitic events sparked a growing determination in Israel to capture Nazi war criminals. Harel worked with a team of 11 volunteers in what was termed “a national and humane mission.” He had to overcome multiple technical impediments surrounding the capture. The 11 – many with direct connections to the Holocaust- flew to Argentina in April, 1960. The butcher, the baker, and candlestick maker were not among them: the forger, the doctor, and the make-up artist were. The Israeli team accomplished a near perfect mission, despite unnerving delays. The man described as the “personification of evil” appeared as an “ordinary man…a colorless personality” who “tried to become part of the team and behaved like a scared slave.”
With the capture of Eichmann accomplished, the second phase of the chronicle began.
Tamar Hausner Reveh was 14 years old when the trial began. Her family came to Israel after World War I when her grandfather was appointed as Poland’s Ambassador to Palestine – a journey that turned into “a five star aliyah,” commented Raveh.
She recalled that her father had questioned his ability to represent the six million without being one of them. Gideon Hausner did, indeed, become “the voice of the six million.” The recently appointed State Attorney decided to act as the trial’s Chief Prosecutor. That decision, says Raveh “changed my family’s life…when Eichmann walked into our door, he never really stepped out.”
Unlike the document based deliberations of the Nuremberg tribunals, the Eichmann Trial was “based on witness testimony.” For months before the trial began, the Hausner home was the venue for pre-trial interviews. Many of the survivors had been made to feel unwelcome, especially by young Israelis. Their experiences seemed so unreal that their very words were doubted. They remained reluctant to speak. The trial, said Consul General Aharoni, gave voice to the accounts of the witness to the Shoah. It provided a unique opportunity to enter the darkness of the Holocaust through the words and actions of its “Operations Manager” and emerge into the light of the future.
As the date of the trial approached, Hausner wrote and rewrote his opening remarks, even through the night before the trial. “I don’t stand alone.” He declared. “I stand with six million who cannot rise to their feet and cry ‘I accuse.'” “It falls to me to be their spokesman.”
Among the witnesses called was the writer Yehiel Dinur ‘Ka-Tzetnik.’ Shipped to Auschwitz, despite having an Argentinian visa, he was ordered to present his documents to Adolf Eichmann. The German shredded his papers, cursed him: “you Dirty Jew! You don’t go anywhere.” Auschwitz, testified Ka-Tzetnik, was “another planet.”
SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Adolf Eichmann was executed by hanging May 31, 1962. He is the only person to have suffered capital punishment in the history of the State of Israel. “A nebbish,” “Mickey” Goldman-Gilead said in 1996. “Yet, the minute he opened his mouth, I felt the gates of the crematorium opening before me.”
Hausner, said his daughter, changed as the trial progressed. “In those days, he didn’t smile, he didn’t tell jokes. He cried twice; the first with Rivka Yosselevska who crawled out of a mass grave, still alive among the dead, and lived to tell of the horror. Tears came a second time, after Michael “Miki”Goldman scattered Eichmann’s ashes in the sea. “Justice,” said Hausner “has been done, but so late and so little.”