The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Sessions 6-7-8
(Part 1 of 10)

Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann, Eichmann trial, holocaust, Jewish holocaust

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 Jews.

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 direction.

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 Negroes.

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