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Trial That Shocked the World on May 31th: Inside the ‘Trial of the Century’ in Jerusalem

Daniel Kim Views  

On May 11, 1960, a German man in his mid-50s was arrested in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Israel’s intelligence organization. A few days later, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion personally announced the news of his arrival in Jerusalem. Despite strong objections from the Argentine government, Israel remained undeterred. What followed was the “Trial of the Century” in Jerusalem. Due to fears of assassination, even a bulletproof booth was installed in the defendant’s dock.

The apprehended man was Adolf Eichmann. 112 witnesses from around the world were summoned for the trial. Chief Prosecutor Gideon Hausner indicted Eichmann on 15 charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes, declaring, “The defendant is not an individual, but the Nazi regime and anti-Semitism.”

Eichmann was nowhere near the level of authority held by Adolf Hitler or Hermann Göring, yet they had topped the list of Nazi hunters. Eichmann joined the Reich Main Security Office under the paramilitary organization in 1933 and solidified his position as a Jewish expert. He spearheaded forced deportations and massacres of Jews, traveling between Palestine, Vienna, Prague, and Budapest. He was also responsible for drafting the minutes of the January 1942 meeting at a villa by Lake Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin, where the plan for the extermination of Jews was outlined.

Historians argue that the fate of the 440,000 Hungarian Jews who were forcibly deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944 and subsequently killed might have been different without Eichmann’s involvement. During the Jerusalem trial, Eichmann considered himself “merely a little cog in the machinery” of destruction. Hannah Arendt, a correspondent for The New Yorker who observed the trial, was shocked by his claim of innocence, stating he was merely a civil servant faithfully executing the state’s orders. This led her to coin the concept of “the banality of evil.” Despite Eichmann’s defense, the Israeli court sentenced him to death in December 1961, and the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal in May 1962. His execution began on May 31 of the same year, and his death was confirmed the following morning.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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