The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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In Paragraph 222 of its Judgment, this Court finds that in
Adolf Eichmann's case there were no circumstances on the
basis of which he could ask for mitigation of his
punishment, and in the words of the Judgment: "The Accused's
attempt to rely on superior orders... is already untenable."

In Paragraph 241 of the Court's Judgment it says that
Eichmann "went to every extreme to bring about the speedy
and complete extermination of all Jews in the territories
under German rule and influence." It is therefore obvious
beyond any doubt that he cannot rely on a defence of any
mitigating circumstance whatsoever, so that the provisions
of Section 11 of the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators
(Punishment) Law on mitigation of punishment could apply to

However, if the provision on maximum penalties in the Law on
Methods of Punishment were to apply to the crimes of which
Eichmann has been found guilty, and if the Court were free
under the law to impose some other sentence on him than a
capital one, I would argue that, in view of everything said
about him in the Court's Judgment, and in the light of
everything that has been proved in this Court - there is one
punishment, and only one punishment, which the Court can
impose on him.

Adolf Eichmann has excluded himself by the horrors of his
actions from human society. He knowingly and willingly chose
a path of a rampaging destructive and bloodthirsty wild
animal, and he cannot demand of human society that it adopt
an attitude towards him according to the normal standards
which apply in relations between fellow men.

He was born a man, but he lived like a tiger in the jungle.
He participated in ghastly deeds, which strip anyone
performing them of his human image. For there are deeds
which are beyond the human pale, which lie on the other side
of the divide that separates human beings from animals.
Adolf Eichmann crossed this divide.

Therefore, human society will judge him as a creature who
knowingly placed himself beyond the pale, shook off all
moral restraints, and gave vent without restriction and
limit to base instincts against which civilized men protect
themselves by means of a wall of moral constraints and
prohibitions which must not be breached.

Anyone who dwells on this side of that wall is a man, even
if he has committed crimes and transgressions. But the
person who undermines this basic wall and breaks through it
to the no-man's-land on the other side, who acts without
restraint, without inhibition and without moral self-
control, and certainly anyone keen to do so, has lost the
common denominator between himself and civilized man.

Even a murderer who has taken human life, is still a man,
even if his sin against society is most grave. Despite the
horror of his crime - he is still within the bounds of the
human. Many are of the opinion that there are weighty
grounds for repealing the death sentence for murder, and the
State of Israel is one of the countries to have done so. But
anyone who sins against humanity, anyone who attacks not
just the well-being of society but its very existence,
anyone who in fact denies that every individual has certain
obligations towards the rest of his species, anyone who
believes that he is allowed to put an entire people to
death, and does that out of cold and calculated hatred -
that person places himself outside the human species. Such a
creature has by his deeds deprived himself of the right to
walk with human beings, and human society is commanded to
cast him out from its midst, if only to protect itself from
such criminals.

Eichmann is not worthy of your compassion, because in his
heart there never was compassion. On the contrary: he still
regrets the fact that any Jew escaped, because he wanted the
death of them all. When he confessed to Sassen in 1957, he
said that he always preferred to see the Jewish enemy dead
rather than to see him alive, apologized for the fact - for
which he was not responsible - that a handful of Holocaust
survivors had escaped, and expressed his regret at the fact
that, because of the perfidy with which his assistants
ensnared him, Jews remained in Hungary to that day. In your
Judgment, you have already held that there is not one iota
of regret in his heart. Not only the blood of the millions
murdered weighs upon him. He is also guilty of the awful,
the inestimable suffering of the millions of victims, the
suffering of bondage, torture and starvation.

The deliberate maltreatment of human beings in a cold,
calculating fashion, with a clear mind and with diabolical
wickedness, is no less terrible than the actual shedding of
blood.  Look at the eyes of the children, in the pictures
and photographs from the days of the Holocaust; look on the
infants wrapped in tatters, with terrible fear in their
eyes, their bodies shrunk from hunger; listen to their
desperate cries: Mama, Mama, help, echoing round the ghettos
of Europe; gaze upon the long-suffering head of the Jew
raising himself on the planks of his bunk at Auschwitz; the
tortures and the horrors that you have seen in films of the
Holocaust; remember the mental humiliation and the trampling
on human dignity that Eichmann and his henchmen caused by
their daily actions - and you will no longer be able to say,
Your Honours, which is worse: the wholesale murder or the
cruel and protracted torments.

Perhaps the Defence will argue here that so many years have
lapsed since the dreadful deeds were carried out that with
time the wounds have scarred over and that this is not the
time to begin new upheavals by imposing a severe sentence on
the perpetrator of the Final Solution.

But the truth is that the horrors and the atrocities live
within us, just as dreadful as in the days when they were
perpetrated. You have seen here in the Court the survivors
of the Holocaust. None of them will ever again be what he
used to be. Nor can human society ever be again what it was
before these foul creatures came and sent millions to their
deaths. The blood of the millions will cry out forever.
Because the blood of the pure can never be atoned, and it
boils and cries out and demands satisfaction.

Will we really ever forget the more than one million Jewish
children whom these fiends sent to their death? More than
sixteen years have passed since the end of this War. The
wounds of other peoples have already healed, and their
populations have returned to normal existence and have grown
back to the same numbers as they were before the Nazi
jackboots marched over Europe and even greater.

The only people whose national afflication has not healed to
this today is the Jewish People. Others counted their losses
in the War- we counted those who remained. The Gentile
nations have recovered and filled the void left by the War.
The Jewish People has barely been able to maintain a
national existence on the basis of what is left.

A million and more Jewish children who were wiped out should
today have constituted the up-and-coming generation of our
people.  One of them testified before you, Dr. Wells, who
miraculously survived. He is a world-class genius, an
inventor and a recipient of international prizes. Who can
count the numbers of talented individuals who perished and
were lost forever to Israel and to the world? How many great
literary talents such as Anne Frank, how many youth leaders
like Dolek Liebeskind, how many great minds like Mordechai
Anielewicz have vanished and are no longer with us?
Treasures of Jewish and human culture, whose greatness we
can but guess at, were lost because of the actions of
Eichmann and his henchmen, and for generations we shall not
be able to fill this void.

Therefore, Eichmann's crime is not barred by the Statute of
Limitations, nor has its heinousness dimmed.

He certainly cannot argue that there was any delay in
putting him on trial, because he evaded those seeking him,
he escaped the hunt for him, fled across the seas and
concealed himself under a false name. The Supreme Court has
already provided a precedent in the Markovits case,17 {17
Crim.App. 205/57, 12 Piskei Din 532} according to which the
fact that the accused himself caused the trial to be delayed
by having absconded, should not enable him to benefit
therefrom. Had he had even the minimal courage that several
other Nazis actually had in voluntarily standing trial, he
could have been tried long ago as part of the Nuremberg
trials or elsewhere, and it can be assumed that his fate
would have been no different from that of his close
assistants Wisliceny, Anton Brunner, Seidel and Rahm, or
from that of his fellow criminals Pohl, Ohlendorf, Rudolf
Hoess and Rauter, or from that of his Hungarian associates
Endre and Baky. His punishment would have been no different
from that imposed on these and on the man who incited hatred
of the Jews using venomous and diabolic language, the
infamous Julius Streicher. All of these were sentenced to
death, and were executed in the occupied areas of Germany,
as well as in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland and Hungary,
among the many others who were similarly punished in other

There are three main reasons why it is customarily held that
a set period must be provided for holding the criminal trial
of an individual for his deeds, as it is written "I will not
contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth."18 {18
Isaiah 57,16} The first is that the time which has lapsed
has brought about some balm or relief or at least some
appeasement for the victim or survivor of the crime; the
second is that the criminal has been given the opportunity
to reform, to repent of his wicked ways, and to regret his
deeds; and the third is that it is no longer possible to
prove what happened because documents have been lost and
witnesses' memories become blurred. In normal circumstances
such reasons are also likely to be grounds for mitigation,
but none of them apply in this case.

The memory and the terror of the Holocaust still exist; the
shock of the civilized world bears witness to the fact that
this is a topical subject which arouses sensitivity and
reactions as if it were a contemporary event that has just
occurred. We are not dealing here with matters which have
been entirely obliterated, and we are not pulling out junk
from the storeroom of history. We are confronted here not by
matters which are divorced from the realities of this
generation, but by deeds and events which people suffer from
and feel just as much today as on the day on which they
occurred. The Court will remember the faces and the
reactions of those survivors who testified here, when the
suffering and the anguish buried in their hearts re-emerged,
when the conjuring up of the images of those who have gone
struck down a man in a dead faint from the impact of the
shock, how their knees trembled and their faces became
distorted as they described the horrors and the terror. Have
they recovered, can the distance of time ever make them
forget their past? Hundreds of thousands of people will bear
the memory of those days with them for as long as they have
breath in their bodies, and those also who were not with
them there will feel pain and lament with them. For this is
not simply a chapter for the historians who will one day
write the history of the twentieth century and the history
of the Third Reich in historical perspective. This is
something which affects every civilized human being in whose
generation and before whose eyes these events took place.
The Holocaust is part of this generation's experience.

As far as documents are concerned, they have remained, in
whole or in part, and the Court was able to base its
findings on them. Also a number of witnesses survived who
were able to testify to these matters from their own

And Adolf Eichmann, who described himself in Argentina as
"Obersturmbannfuehrer (ret.)," did not mend his ways, and it
has been proved that, as recently as 1957, he was still
imbued with the same feelings of hatred and ruthlessness
that he brought to the perpetration of those crimes of which
he has been found guilty here.

Moreover, most regrettably, Nazism has not entirely vanished
from the world; the bearers of the venom of National
Socialism are still living here and there throughout the
world, and I fear that recently some nests of this hatred
and malice have developed. The wicked and mendacious views
have been espoused not necessarily by murderers and
criminals for whom a death penalty may well not be a
deterrent, but also by people who in a deliberate and coldly
calculated fashion wish to revive the foul wave of fiendish
arrogance and hatred. Let it be said: He who commits
Eichmann's deeds will not be exonerated, but will be tried
with the full severity of the law.

It is possible that the argument will again be made here by
Counsel for the Defence: In wartime, there are many crimes
and many criminals, as it is written "The sword devoureth
one as well as another."19 {19 II Samuel 11, 25} Cities were
destroyed, continents were overwhelmed by jackboots,
civilian populations suffered. Perhaps you will again be
reminded that Nazi Germany was not the only country to have
committed terrible acts during the War. In your Judgment you
have already stated that the War simply provided the Nazis
with a curtain and a smokescreen for concealing their large-
scale murderous operations. Atrocities perpetrated during
the course of a war, and even the most terrible and dreadful
killing and slaughtering cannot be used as an analogy and
compared with the Holocaust, not only because of the
difference in terms of scope, not only because this crime of
extermination also comprised plunder and humiliation and
terror and torture, not only because  tremendous energies
were epended over many years against a helpless population
which had provided no reason whatsoever for this fanatical
horror; not only because of all of this - but primarily
because the torturing and the extermination of the Jews were
in no way related to any act of hostility and were not
carried out in the heat of battle when one side which is
fighting out of a desire for a quick victory uses savage
means to break the foe. Even when they wreak death somebody
may believe that they are, in the last analysis, saving
human lives.

I have no intention of defending atrocities committed in
battle, whether in accordance with or in infringement of the
rules of war. But it is utterly clear that what the Nazis
did to the Jews, what Adolf Eichmann perpetrated, was in no
way connected with martial acts of hostility. This was not
even an illegal operation which a military commander
initiates during wartime or in that context.

Thus no analogy should be drawn from other trials which
dealt with illegal orders and harm wrought on a civilian
population in conjunction with hostilities. The penalties
imposed in such trials can in no way serve as a yardstick
because there is no resemblance whatsoever between those
cases and Eichmann's guilt in terms of the evil, the
wickedness, the desire to do evil, the cold planning, the
inhuman obstinacy, and the continuity of the criminal
activities over years.

I would ask the Court to impose on the wicked individual who
stands before it the penalty which he deserves and which it
is for a human being in a civilized society to decree. I am
aware that he cannot be given even a small fragment of what
he really deserves. Even if he were to die a thousand times
over, if he
were to expire afresh every day, this could not atone for
the suffering which he caused one single child. In the words
of our national poet, Bialik: "Satan has not yet created a
revenge for the blood of a small child." A human being lacks
the ability to give Adolf Eichmann a punishment which even
remotely corresponds to the depths of the evil, the ocean of
suffering which he brought upon the Jewish People in just
one day of his foul deeds. There is no such punishment, at
least it is not known to civilized society, nor shall we
seek in the torture chambers of the Gestapo for ways of
punishment which those fiends used. The Court will punish
this creature according to what is prescribed in the law of
the State of Israel. It is true that this punishment does
not match the enormity of the crime, and will leave the
terrible things that were done as if no proper retribution
has been exacted for them. But this is the maximum that we
can exact and at least this is to be exacted.

If it should be argued that because of the horror of the
dreadful deeds Eichmann cannot be suitably punished and
therefore he should not pay the supreme penalty known to the
law, it would be like saying that human society cannot judge
him at all. Because when a suitable punishment cannot be
imposed, then neither can a trial be held, since there is no
offence without punishment. He who argues thus will also
have to say that the most dreadful barbarous actions, for
which capital punishment is an inadequate means of assuaging
the moral horror which they arouse, would not carry criminal
liability at all. According to such a view, someone simply
has to commit a large number of loathsome actions over an
extended period in order for us, as it were, to stand
helpless because of the magnitude of the crimes and for us
to proclaim that we are unable to judge and punish their

Of course such a view is utterly baseless. We must try the
large-scale criminal, the murderer of millions, just as we
must try the ordinary offender who is known to the courts.
The fact that under this law the murderer of one person will
receive the same punishment as the murderer of ten or a
hundred or a million people simply bears witness to the fact
that it is not always possible to apply a punishment which
fits the enormity of the crime. But there is no
justification for refraining from applying the maximum
sentence laid down in the law just because it is not
possible to exceed that maximum.

Let me add in parenthesis that had Eichmann been charged
with the murder of a single person whom he sent to his death
in Auschwitz, then under Section 2(1) of the Nazis and Nazi
Collaborators (Punishment) Law the obligatory sentence under
the law would have been capital punishment. I did not charge
him with the specific offence of murdering a particular
person because there is no point in singling out a
particular victim from the host of millions of victims, but
it is obvious that if this would have been the sentence for
murdering a single person, then clearly his sentence should
not be reduced on the grounds that he brought about mass
murder, as you have held explicitly in your Judgment.

If it is said here that the execution of a single Nazi
criminal, even if it is Eichmann, persecutor of the Jews,
will not redress the bloodsoaked balance between Israel and
Germany, I would reply that of course that is true. This
account can never be settled. As long as a Jew lives, he
will retain in his heart the memory of the vast Holocaust
and the anguish which that bloodthirsty regime caused this
people. This will never be forgotten in our hearts, nor in
the hearts of our children, nor of our children's children.
We shall not forgive the murderers until the last
generation, because too much blood has been spilled, the
wound is too deep and the injury too painful. 

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