The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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SESSION No. 6, 17 April 1961 (Morning)
SESSION No. 7, 17 April 1961 (Afternoon)
SESSION No. 8, 18 April 1961 (Morning)

The Attorney General's  Opening Speech was delivered over
three sessions of the Court. However, it falls into eleven
chapters, and for the reader's convenience it is presented
in that form here.


When I stand before you here, Judges of Israel, to lead the
Prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I am not standing alone. With
me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their
feet and point an accusing finger towards him who sits in
the dock and cry: "I accuse." For their ashes are piled up
on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka, and
are strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graves are
scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Their
blood cries out, but their voice is not heard. Therefore I
will be their spokesman and in their name I will unfold the
awesome indictment.

The history of the Jewish people is steeped in suffering and
tears. "In thy blood, live!"*{*Ezekiel 16:6} is the
imperative that has confronted this nation ever since it
made its first appearance on the stage of history. Pharaoh
in Egypt decided to "afflict them with their burdens" and to
cast their sons into the river; Haman's decree was "to
destroy, to slay, and to cause them to perish"; Chmielnicki
slaughtered them in multitudes; they were butchered in
Petlura's pogroms. Yet never, down in the entire
blood_stained road travelled by this people, never since the
first days of its nationhood, has any man arisen who
succeeded in dealing it such grievous blows as did Hitler's
iniquitous regime, and Adolf Eichmann as its executive arm
for the extermination of the Jewish people. In all human
history there is no other example of a man against whom it
would be possible to draw up such a bill of indictment as
has been read here. The most terrible crimes of those
fearful figures of barbarism and blood-lust, Genghis Khan,
Attila, or Ivan the Terrible, the telling of which curdles
our blood and makes our hair stand on end with horror,
deeds, that have become "a proverb and a taunt"{Jeremiah
24:9} and an "everlasting abhorrence"{Daniel 12:2} to the
nations - these almost seem to pale into insignificance when
contrasted with the abominations, the murderous horrors,
which will be presented to you in this trial.

At the dawn of history, there were examples of wars of
extermination, when one nation assaulted another with intent
to destroy, when, in the storm of passion and battle,
peoples were slaughtered, massacred or exiled. But only in
our generation has a nation attacked an entire defenceless
and peaceful population, men and women, grey-beards,
children and infants, incarcerated them behind electrified
fences, imprisoned them in concentration camps, and resolved
to destroy them utterly.

Murder has been with the human race since the days when Cain
killed Abel; it is no novel phenomenon. But we have had to
wait till this twentieth century to witness with our own
eyes a new kind of murder: not the result of the momentary
ebullition of passion or the darkening of the soul, but of a
calculated decision and painstaking planning; not through
the evil design of an individual, but through a mighty
criminal conspiracy involving thousands; not against one
victim whom an assassin may have decided to destroy, but
against an entire nation.

In this trial, we shall also encounter a new kind of killer,
the kind that exercises his bloody craft behind a desk, and
only occasionally does the deed with his own hands. True, we
have certain knowledge of only one incident in which Adolf
Eichmann actually beat to death a Jewish boy, who had dared
to steal fruit from a peach tree in the yard of his Budapest
home. But it was his word that put gas chambers into action;
he lifted the telephone, and railroad cars left for the
extermination centres; his signature it was that sealed the
doom of thousands and tens of thousands. He had but to give
the order, and at his command the troopers took the field to
rout Jews out of their neighbourhoods, to beat and torture
them and chase them into ghettoes, to pin the badges of
shame on their breasts, to steal their property - till
finally, after torture and pillage, after everything had
been wrung out of them, when even their hair had been taken,
they were transported, en masse to the slaughter. Even the
corpses were still of value: the gold teeth were extracted
and the wedding rings removed.

We shall find Eichmann describing himself as a fastidious
person, a "white-collar" worker. To him, the decree of
extermination was just another written order to be executed;
yet he was the one who planned, initiated and organized, who
instructed others to spill this ocean of blood, and to use
all the means of murder, theft, and torture.

He must bear the responsibility therefore, as if it was he
who with his own hands knotted the hangman's noose, who
lashed the victims into the gas-chambers, who shot in the
back and pushed into the open pit every single one of the
millions who were slaughtered. Such is his responsibility in
the eyes of the law, and such is his responsibility
according to every standard of conscience and morality. His
accomplices in the crime were neither gangsters nor men of
the underworld, but the leaders of the nation - including
professors and scholars, robed dignitaries with academic
degrees, linguists, men of enlightenment, the
"intelligentsia." We shall encounter them - doctors and
lawyers, scholars, bankers and economists, in those councils
which resolved to exterminate the Jews, and among the
officers and directors of the work of murder in all its
terrible phases.

This murderous decision, taken deliberately and in cold
blood, to annihilate a nation and blot it out from the face
of the earth, is so shocking that one is at a loss for words
to describe it. Words were created to express what man's
reason can conceive and his heart can contain, and here we
are dealing with actions that transcend our human grasp. Yet
this is what did happen: millions were condemned to death,
not for any crime, not for anything they had done, but only
because they belonged to the Jewish people, and the
development of technology placed at the disposal of the
destroyers efficient equipment for the execution of their
appalling designs.

The unprecedented crime, carried out by Europeans in the
twentieth century, led to the adoption of the concept of a
crime unknown to human annals even during the darkest ages -
the crime of Genocide.

The calamity of the Jewish people in this generation was the
subject of consideration at a number of the trials conducted
in the wake of Germany's defeat in World War II, when
mankind resolved to set up instruments of defence, through
the establishment of courts and execution of judgments, to
ensure that the horrors of war which our generation has
witnessed shall not recur. But in none of those trials was
the tragedy of Jewry as a whole the central concern. It was
among the subjects treated; sometimes it was given great
weight, always it evoked sentiments of horror; but it was
never at the centre, since the accused at these trials were
indicted for crimes against members of various nations.
There was only one man who had been concerned almost
entirely with the Jews, whose business had been their
destruction, whose place in the establishment of the
iniquitous regime had been limited to them. That was Adolf
Eichmann. If we shall charge him also with crimes against
non-Jews, committed as it were by the way, this is because
we make no ethnic distinctions. But we should remember that
the mission of the Accused, in which for years he saw his
destiny and calling, and to which he devoted himself with
enthusiasm and endless zeal, was the extermination of the

Men still ask themselves, and they will certainly continue
to ask in days to come: How could it have happened? How was
it possible in the middle of the twentieth century? The
judges at the Nuremberg trials also asked themselves this
question, examined its various aspects, and arrived at
interesting formulations; yet it would be difficult to claim
that a full or satisfactory answer was given. I doubt
whether in this trial we on our part will succeed in laying
bare the roots of the evil. This task must remain the
concern of historians, sociologists, authors and
psychologists, who will try to explain to the world what
happened to it. But we shall nevertheless endeavour, however
briefly, to describe the background, in an attempt to
explain what is perhaps altogether inexplicable by the
standards of ordinary reason.

Hitler, his regime and crimes, were no accidental or
transient phenomenon. He did not come to power as a result
merely of a unique combination of circumstances. It may be
doubted whether, in general, there are accidents in human
history, for historical processes are usually the product of
many developments, like many streams flowing each in its own
channel until they unite into a mighty river. They will come
together only if their flow is in the same general

No doubt various events contributed to the rise of Nazism:
the defeat of Germany in World War I; the subsequent
economic difficulties; lack of leadership and futile party
divisions; fratricidal strife and disunion - all these
impelled the German people, discriminated and groping, to
turn its eyes towards the false prophet. But Hitler would
not have been able to remain in power, and to consolidate in
his support all the strata of the German people, including
most of the intelligentsia - to get the support of so many
university professors and professional men, the civil
service and the whole army - if the road to his leadership
had not already been paved. Not even the oppressive regime
of the concentration camps, and the atmosphere created by
the terror so rapidly activated against all opposition by
the hooligans of the SS and the SA, are adequate alone to
explain the enthusiastic and devoted support he received
from the majority of the nation, unless it had been preceded
by an extensive spiritual preparation. When we read today
the declarations of the scientists, authors and journalists
- including many who had not been among his adherents before
- who chanted his praise and willingly gave him their
support and backing, how they willingly and joyfully
accepted his yoke, we must reach the conclusion, however
reluctantly, that the people were ready and prepared to
crown him as their leader. Professor Wilhelm Roepke of the
University of Marburg, stated this clearly at the end of
World War II:

     "There have been Hitlers everywhere and at all times,
     but it is Germany's shame that so miserable a figure
     could become her leader. In order to germinate, the
     seed of Nazism had to find a favourable soil: it found
     it in the German Reich and the Germans, such as they
     had become in their political, spiritual economic and
     social history."){The German Question, (1946), p. 96.}

In Goethe's "Dichtung und Wahrheit{2Poetry and Truth,Part 4,
Book 20}, we read his prophetic description of a demonic
personality like that of Hitler:

     "Against him, no union of moral forces can make a
     successful stand. In vain will men of enlightenment
     seek to scorn him or unmask his true character as a
     cheat and  deceiver. The masses are drawn after him..."

Yet it is doubtful whether in this instance the majority of
"enlightened" ones tried to make such a stand. As Professor
Julius Ebinghaus wrote after the War:

     "The universities of Germany did not come forth, when
     it was still possible to do so, to oppose openly and
     with all their might the destruction of science and the
     democratic state."

And here is an example. In 1937, the author and art_critic
who used the pseudonym of Wolfgang Bruegge wrote in an
article entitled "When I hear that Voice!" dealing with
Hitler's speeches, those hysterically ranting manifestations
of self-exaltation, hate, and thirst for vengeance:

     "During all these last years, I have always had the
     same experience when I heard that voice...It has always
     seemed to me that the voice was speaking directly to
     me. It was to me, the anonymous one among millions of
     auditors, that it spoke. It wanted me to be better, to
     show me the way, to make me a German. And that voice
     insinuated itself mysteriously into the core of my
     being. It removed the bonds behind which my ultimate
     faith had been imprisoned. It broke through the
     innermost doors, dissolved with its fervency all my
     doubts, suppressed in me the faint-hearted dog and
     awakened the hero into action."

What was it that voice was saying to its enthusiastic and
ardent listener? It spoke of the cult of hatred and power,
of Germany's mission to rule peoples and nations. It spoke
of battle in the spirit of Treitschke, who had preached war
as a necessity for the survival of the state. It spoke of
the supremacy of the Aryan race - that master race whose
destiny it was to rule over all inferiors, and to institute
the "New Order" in the world. So he wrote in his
programmatic book Mein Kampf (page 295):

     "All the human culture, all the results of art,
     science, and technology that we see before us today,
     are almost exclusively the creative product of the
     Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded
     inference that he alone was the founder of all higher
     humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all
     that we understand by the word "man." He is the
     Prometheus of humanity, from whose bright forehead the
     divine spark of genius has sprung at all times, forever
     kindling anew that fire of knowledge which illumined
     the night of silent mysteries and thus caused man to
     climb the path to mastery over the other beings of this
     earth...Hence it is no accident that the first cultures
     arose in places where the Aryan, in his encounters with
     lower peoples, subjugated them and bent them to his
     will...As long as he ruthlessly upheld the master
     attitude, not only did he really remain master, but
     also the preserver and increaser of culture...As soon
     as the subjected people began to raise themselves up
     and probably approached the conqueror in language, the
     sharp dividing wall between master and servant fell.
     The Aryan gave up the purity of his blood and,
     therefore, lost his sojourn in the paradise which he
     had made for himself. He became submerged in the racial
     mixture, and gradually, more and more, lost his
     cultural capacity..."

Hitler denied the existence of a common basis for all
humanity. According to his doctrines, there is no mutual
responsibility between men. In place of the injunction "And
thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," we find "Crush
him that is unlike thyself!" Instead of the ideal of human
brotherhood, we have the principle of race superiority.

Distinguishing characteristics were assigned to the sons of
the master race: the skull was oblong, the complexion bright
and splendid, expressing spiritual elevation. The word
"Aryan" in Sanskrit signifies "Master." The Aryans are of
the Indo-Germanic stock, whose most highly developed branch
is the Teutonic, and the choicest of the lot are the
Germans. They, and only they, should rule the world with an
iron hand, and they must not defile themselves by contact
with other races. The purity of the race and its
preservation against pollution became the immutable
foundation of the Nazi political programme. This was the
"New Order" that Hitler promised his people, on which would
be based a Third Reich that would last a millennium.

Only those whose blood was Aryan were worthy of citizenship.
This was established by the Nuremberg laws. The preface to
the "Law for the Preservation of the German Blood and the
German Honour" began as follows:

     "Imbued with the consciousness that the purity of
     German blood is essential to the continued existence of
     the German people, and animated by the inflexible
     resolve to secure the security of the German Nation for
     all time, the Reichstag  has unanimously adopted the
     following law..."

Then began the campaign of fraud. It was proved that Jesus
was an Aryan, in whose veins no drop of Jewish blood flowed.
The scientists undertook to formulate the bases of an Aryan
science. Professor Philip Lenard, Nobel Prize-winning
physicist, undertook to establish a German physics "in
opposition to the Jewish science represented by Einstein."
According to such theoreticians of racial doctrine as
Hermann Gauch and others, non-Nordic man is closer to the
animals than to the human race. The believers in the racial
doctrine created the concept of the "sub-man" (Untermensch)
to describe those who were not Aryans. Only the Nordic
peoples have the aptitudes for leadership - such was the
teaching of Professor Valentin Mueller.

Institutes were established in Germany, devoted to racial
research and the determination of the hierarchical pyramid
of racial superiority. The Jews found themselves at the
bottom of the list, followed only by the Gypsies and the

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