The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 120
(Part 3 of 3)

Of course Eichmann is not the only one who should be put to death for his crimes. There were legions of assistants and their assistants together with him, who carried out his commands. Many of them have not yet been suitably punished or have not been punished at all. But just because this State is unable to deal with all these evil-doers as they deserve, should it therefore not impose that punishment which the Court has in its power to impose on the archmurderer who has been caught? In your Judgment it has already been held that he "caused the deaths of millions of Jews with the purpose of implementing the Final Solution," and among the major surviving Nazis it is obvious that Adolf Eichmann is the central figure in the perpetration of the Holocaust.

Punishing him suitably is in no way related to the enormous historical bloodsoaked reckoning between Jewry and Nazi Germany. His punishment will not lighten the suffering of a single Jew whose dear ones perished, and the national calamity will also remain just as great. But this, too, will not induce the Court to mitigate his punishment.

If Adolf Eichmann is not sentenced to the severest penalty laid down in the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, then this penalty has no significance whatsoever. Whom did the legislator intend when he decreed the death sentence for crimes against the Jewish People, for crimes against humanity and for war crimes, if Adolf Eichmann is spared this punishment? If he is not punished for his crime, there will be no one anywhere in the world who will deserve this penalty.

Your Honours, there stands before you a destroyer of a people, an enemy of the human species, a shedder of innocent blood. I ask that you condemn this man to death.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, please proceed.

Dr. Servatius: You have found the Accused guilty on all counts - of crimes against the Jewish People, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of membership of a hostile organization.

The Attorney General has asked for the death penalty. This is the penalty which the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law provides for the perpetrators. It is not, however, an absolute penalty which cannot be mitigated. The Attorney General's observations on the death penalty as an absolute penalty indicate an obscurity which exists under Israeli law. In the case referred to by the Attorney General, in which a death penalty was imposed, and the possibility of reducing the sentence was rejected, the decision was of the court of first instance only. As the Attorney General said, it was not confirmed by the Supreme Court, for other reasons. In a case such as this no decision of the Supreme Court exists as yet.

The lapse of time generally affects the justification of the death penalty, of an absolute death penalty. This should be considered. In my opinion Section 11 of the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law indicates that the death penalty is not an absolute penalty. According to Section 11 of this Law, acting on orders from above can be taken into account as a mitigating aspect of punishment. This may occur when obeying the order appears excusable and the perpetrator did everything he could to mitigate the consequences of the act. Here, the Accused did not do anything to mitigate such consequences. But there was nothing he could have done. As an individual he could not halt the machine that produced the orders. Neither insubordination nor suicide would have changed the course of events.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, you may sit down in order to read out your arguments.

Dr. Servatius: According to the Court's findings, the Accused's behaviour is not excusable either. But it must be remembered that the Accused did not act at his own discretion, but according to an outside will, to which he was subject, the will of the political leadership. These were the orders of the state - not the orders of a single individual superior, who overstepped the orders given him. In this dependence, the Accused was in no way different from his contemporary setting. The Accused must be seen as an integral part of the existing group hierarchy. He was subject to the dynamics of this group. One's own emotional aspects were neutralized, a co-ordinated opinion was the only one allowed. Nevertheless the Accused offered inner resistance when he saw the atrocities. Who would not have done so? This unforgettable sight remained engraved in his memory, and of his own will he disclosed this most dreadful thing. In this way he has shown his attitude to these matters.

But after the Wannsee Conference, where the Accused saw the ruling circles at work, his rejection became paralyzed. He succumbed to the psychology of the liegeman.

This subjection too can only be understood in the wider setting of the political hypnosis which held sway over the overwhelming majority of the people. The secret of this subjection was the official driving home of a picture of history according to which the political leadership was the executor of the historical imperative, according to which the Fuehrer's actions were determined and hallowed by Providence. History is not made with kid gloves, was the phrase, and where trees are chopped down, chips fly. In this process the individual was rendered incapable of deciding for himself and his will became insignificant.

It is a mistake to assume that the Accused saw himself as a driving force, as the executor of a historical imperative. Today the people which history calls to account is looking for guilty individuals. The idea is even to defend retroactively the democratic basic regime. By expelling the guilty from the community and punishing them, one believes that one can easily justify oneself.

Here the Accused is the scapegoat, who was left to stand trial by this Court, in conflict with international law. But in this fashion the responsibility...

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, you cannot at this stage adduce these arguments before this Court. You may make these arguments to a higher court. Perhaps I did not understand you properly.

Dr. Servatius: I would like to state here - I was here adopting the German viewpoint. I assume that from the German viewpoint an intervention should have been made and extradition should have been requested.

Presiding Judge: Excuse me, I did not understand you.

Dr. Servatius: This means that the responsibility of society at the time... My observations relate to the group locations and the group relationships, and this group is in Germany.

The Accused cannot be made to pay as a surrogate for the guilt of the human associations, for the guilt of the epoch. One cannot disregard the findings of modern group psychology, which are the only way of understanding the behaviour of an individual. From the interweaving of the various connections must be drawn the lesson that what happened to the Accused can in the future happen to anyone, no one is immune. Concepts are remodelled, the capable ones are needed, they are lured and won over and they are the very ones who become guilty. What happened to the German people can come to pass in every people. The entire civilized world is confronted by this problem. Recognizing this truth should heal and teach us how to prevent new disasters.

This is a crisis of the leaders, those who give the orders. It is not a crisis of the subordinate. The people trembles before totalitarian measures and would like to prevent them. It desires coexistence between human beings.

This process will go down in history; but it is not a historical process.

In its introduction to the Judgment the Court also stressed that the causes of the political events and the political total guilt cannot be clarified in legal proceedings, using evidence submitted for the purposes of a trial. The Court also emphasized that the problem of mystical supernatural responsibility could not be touched upon. The temporal judge is bound by temporal law. The penalty which the temporal judge imposes can only have a temporal purpose. In national law this purpose can only be the protection of the nation. In respect of the Accused, the preventive effect of punishment towards the community and the individual becomes meaningless.

Participation in the act of which the Accused has been found guilty was a government crime. The government has been toppled, and the ideas that it represented have been obliterated in politics.

There will no longer be any ground for action on the part of the Accused in his former position.

Nor is the educational purpose of the penalty valid any more. The world is warned by what it finds out about political horrors. Punishing the Accused cannot achieve this, it is of no consequence to the world. The purpose of the trial is achieved with the guilty verdict. The Accused himself has changed, he has shown this by his life after the War. His mental approach will be shown by the book which he has written in order to warn the young generation. This is a genuine reparation, the only one which is possible and makes sense and is the most effective. Punishment as expiation follows irrational supernatural ideas. Expiation is equivalent to temporal retribution.

But here it says: Mine is the retribution, saith the Lord. This leads to the kingdom of mercy, where all the contradictions of the temporal world are to be resolved.

The judge seeking ultimate justice should also show mercy in his sentence.

The Court has passed a verdict of guilty and has affirmed the State of Israel's claim to punishment.

In the Federal Republic of Germany a representative of the Public Prosecutor's Office, who is primarily responsible for investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity, has stated that in judging the Accused the Israeli Court is sitting as a delegated administrator of justice. I do not share this opinion.

Were one, however, to follow the legal opinion of the German public prosecutor, then the claim to punishment cannot exceed the maximum penalty of the country being represented, and then under the law of the Federal Republic the death penalty should not be recognized.

I would ask the Court to take this into account in determining the sentence.

Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, does that conclude your address?

Dr. Servatius: Yes.

Presiding Judge: Adolf Eichmann, you have heard your Counsel's statement on the penalty. Do you wish to add anything concerning the penalty which the Court should impose on you for the crimes of which you have been found guilty?

Accused: I have heard the Court's severe verdict of guilty. I see myself disappointed in my hopes for justice. I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty. I understand the demand for atonement for the crimes which were perpetrated against the Jews. The witnesses' statements here in the Court made my limbs go numb once again, just as they went numb when once, acting on orders, I had to look at the atrocities. It was my misfortune to become entangled in these atrocities. But these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. The guilt for the mass murder is solely that of the political leaders.

I did try to leave my position, to leave for the front, for honest battle. But I was held fast in those dark duties. Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been obedient, having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office, and in addition, once the war started, there was also martial law.

This obedience was not easy. And again, anyone who has to give orders and has to obey orders knows what one can demand of people. I did not persecute Jews with avidity and passion. That is what the government did. Nor could the persecution be carried out other than by a government. But I never... I accuse the leaders of abusing my obedience. At that time obedience was demanded, just as in the future it will also be demanded of the subordinate. Obedience is commended as a virtue.

May I therefore ask that consideration be given to the fact that I obeyed, and not whom I obeyed.

I have already said that the top echelons, to which I did not belong, gave the orders, and they rightly, in my opinion, deserved punishment for the atrocities which were perpetrated on the victims on their orders. But the subordinates are now also victims. I am one of such victims. This cannot be ignored. It is said that I could and should have refused to be obedient. That is a consideration with hindsight. Under the circumstances then prevailing such an attitude was not possible. Nor did anyone behave in this fashion. From my experience I know that the possibility, which was alleged only after the War, of opposing orders is a self-protective fairy tale. An individual could secretly slip away. But I was not one of those who thought that permissible.

It is a major error to believe that I belonged to the fanatics of the persecution of the Jews. In the entire post- War period I have been tormented and incensed that all the guilt has been shifted from my superiors and others onto me. I did not in fact make any statements which could have shown my fanaticism, and no blood guilt lies on me. In this connection the witnesses have told a great falsehood. The Court's putting together of statements and documents initially makes a very convincing impression, but it is a deceptive one. I shall try to clarify these errors before the next legal instance.

Nobody came to me and remonstrated with me because of my official activities. Even the witness Pastor Grueber does not claim this. He came to me and only wanted relaxations to be granted, without criticizing my official activities themselves. He confirmed here in Court that I did not reject him, but simply stated to him that I had to obtain my superiors' decision, that I myself could not take a decision.

Dr. Loesener, the ministerial director who was referred to in the proceedings, was the expert in charge of Jewish affairs in the Reich Ministry of the Interior. He has died. In his written statement of justification, which has appeared only recently, he admitted that he knew of the atrocities and that he also informed his superiors accordingly. It must be assumed that everyone in the Ministry of the Interior was thus made aware of what was going on. But no one opposed my superiors. Ministerial Director Loesener continued silently in tacit opposition and served his Fuehrer as a well-paid judge in the Reich Administrative Court. That is the form that the courage of one's convictions takes in the case of a prominent person. In the report he wrote in 1950, Loesener expresses views about me, according to which I am supposed to have been a primary figure in the persecution of the Jews. But these are simply emotional outbursts, without any indication of facts in which these speculations are rooted. The same applies to other witnesses. I was asked by the judges whether I wished to make an admission of guilt, like the Commandant of Auschwitz, Hoess, and the Governor General of Poland, Frank. These two had every reason to make such an admission of guilt: Frank as the person who gave the orders admitted his guilt for the orders which he gave, and balked at delegating to inferiors. Hoess was the one who actually carried out the mass killings.

My position is different. I never had the power and the responsibility of a giver of orders. I never carried out killings, as Hoess did. If I had received the order to carry out these killings, I would not have escaped by using a trumped up pretext; during my interrogation I already stated: Since because of the compulsion exerted by an order there was no way out, I would have put a bullet through my brain in order to solve the conflict between conscience and duty.

The Court believes that my current attitude is a result of being on trial and is a fabrication. A whole list of items was given which appear to confirm this. But the contradictions which exist were caused by the fact that, at the beginning of my interrogation by the police, naturally I could not remember details with precision. It was too much, what I had experienced in recent years. Nor did I resist; this is shown by the police record which is over 3,500 pages long. What I said was the first unrestrained attempt to provide assistance in shedding light on things. Mistakes did occur in this, but I had to be allowed to correct them. After sixteen or twenty years have lapsed, I cannot be reproached with such mistakes, nor should my willingness to provide assistance be considered as a subterfuge and a lie.

My life's principle, which I was taught very early on, was to desire and to strive to achieve ethical values. From a particular moment on, however, I was prevented by the State from living according to this principle. I had to switch from the unity of ethics to one of multiple morals. I had to yield to the inversion of values which was prescribed by the State. I had to engage in introspective examination in areas which concern my inner self alone. In this introspective examination I have to ignore my sense of guiltlessness in the legal sense. And I would now ask the Jewish People on a personal level for forgiveness, and I would admit that I am overwhelmed by shame when I think about the evil committed against the Jews and the acts that were perpetrated against them. But in the light of the reasoning of the Judgment this would probably only be interpreted as hypocrisy.

I am not the monster that I am made out to be. I am the victim of an error of judgment. I was assaulted in Buenos Aires, tied to a bed for a week and then drugged by injections in my arms and brought to the airport in Buenos Aires; from there I was flown out of Argentinia. This can quite obviously only be explained by the fact that I was considered to be the person who was responsible for everything. The reason for this lies in the fact that the National Socialists of the time and others have spread untruths about me. They wanted to exonerate themselves at my expense, or to create confusion for reasons unknown to me. Oddly enough, some of the press coverage also reproduced the same untrue descriptions in an extremely exaggerated fashion over fifteen years in a most suggestive manner. This is the cause of the false inference. This is the reason why I am here. I thank my Counsel, who has insisted on my rights. I am utterly convinced that I must suffer here for others. I must bear what fate imposes on me.

Presiding Judge: We shall announce the sentence on Friday, the day after tomorrow, at 9 o'clock.

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