The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

The Trial of Adolf Eichmann
Session 121
(Part 1 of 1)

Session No 121

8 Tevet 5722 (15 December 1961)

Presiding Judge: I declare the one hundred and twenty-first Session of the trial open. The Court will pronounce its sentence.

The Accused will rise.

Now that we have reached the end of the long proceedings in this trial, we must pass sentence on the Accused.

The Attorney General has asked that the death sentence be passed on the Accused, and his first argument was that this is the punishment which the Court must pass under the law on any person found guilty of crimes under Section 1 of the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law 5710-1950, and consequently the Court has no discretion in respect of the punishment to be imposed.

We are of the opinion that this was indeed the legal position when the Law in question was enacted, for the reasons given by the Tel Aviv District Court in the Ingster case.*{* District Judgments, 152, 178} However, it appears that a change occurred in this matter following the enactment of the Law Amending the Penal Laws (Methods of Punishment) 5714-1954. According to Section 1 of that Law, the punishment provided by law is a maximum penalty, and according to Section 43 the provisions of that law apply both to offences under the Criminal Law Ordinance 1936, and to offences under any other law, i.e. also to offences under the Law in question.

Furthermore, Section 40(1) of the Methods of Punishment Law also revoked the last part of Section 42(1) end of the Criminal Law Ordinance 1936 which provided that capital punishment was a mandatory penalty, and did not replace it by a similar provision.

The only doubt that we still have about this matter arises under the provisions of Section 11 end of the Law in question, which cannot readily be reconciled with the version according to which capital punishment ceased to be a mandatory penalty under the Law in question. But this doubt is not such as to tip the scales towards the stricter interpretation, and consequently we started from the assumption that it is within our discretion to determine the penalty in this case.

After considering the appropriate sentence for the Accused with a deep feeling of the burden of responsibility borne by us, we reached the conclusion that in order to punish the Accused and deter others, the maximum penalty laid down in the law must be imposed on him. In the Judgment we described the crimes in which the Accused took part. They are of unparalleled horror in their nature and their scope. The objective of the crimes against the Jewish People of which the Accused was found guilty was to obliterate an entire people from the face of the earth. In this respect they differ from criminal acts perpetrated against persons as individuals. It may be said that such comprehensive crimes, as well as crimes against humanity which are directed against a group of persons as such, are even more heinous than the sum total of the criminal acts against individuals of which they consist.

But at the stage of passing sentence consideration must also, and perhaps primarily, be given to the injury inflicted on the victims as individuals, which was implicit in these crimes, and the immeasurable anguish which they and their families suffered and still suffer to this very day because of these crimes. For the despatch of each train by the Accused to Auschwitz, or to any other extermination site, carrying one thousand human beings, meant that the Accused was a direct accomplice in a thousand premeditated acts of murder, and the degree of his legal and moral responsibility for these acts of murder is not one iota less than the responsibility of the person who with his own hands pushed these human beings into the gas chambers.

Even if we had found that the Accused acted out of blind obedience, as he argued, we would still have said that a man who took part in crimes of such magnitude as these over years must pay the maximum penalty known to the law, and he cannot rely on any order even in mitigation of his punishment. But we have found that the Accused acted out of an inner identification with the orders that he was given and out of a fierce will to achieve the criminal objective, and in our opinion, it is irrelevant even for the purpose of imposing a punishment for such terrible crimes, how this identification and this will came about, and whether they were the outcome of the education which the Accused received under the regime which raised him, as his Counsel argues.

This Court sentences Adolf Eichmann to death, for the crimes against the Jewish People, the crimes against humanity and the war crimes of which he has been found guilty. We shall not impose a penalty on him for membership of a hostile organization, of which he was found guilty (see the Criminal Procedure (Trial Upon Information) Ordinance Section 30(2)), last part, and Crim. App. 132/57, 11 Piskei Din, 1544, 1552).

This is the Sentence. You are entitled to appeal against the Judgment and the Sentence, and if you wish to do so, you must submit the Statement of Appeal to the office of this Court within ten days from today and the grounds of appeal within fifteen days from today.

Dr. Servatius, if you consider that this period of time is not sufficient to prepare the appeal, I would direct your attention to the fact that there are Regulations of the year 5719-1959 which permit an application to the President of the Supreme Court or his Permanent Deputy, with a request to extend the time for submitting the appeal and the grounds of appeal. This is within the discretion of the President of the Supreme Court or his Permanent Deputy, as provided in those Regulations.

Dr. Servatius: I thank you for your guidance, and I shall consider how to proceed.

[The Session closed at 9:29 a.m.]

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