Eichmann's Trial in Jerusalem
Shaping an Awareness of the Holocaust in Israeli and World Public Opinion
In the annals of public awareness of the Holocaust period, nothing rivals the Eichmann trial as a milestone and turning point, whose impact is evident to this day. The trial introduced the Holocaust into the historical, educational, legal and cultural discourse, not merely in Israel and the Jewish world, but on the consciousness of all peoples of the world. Sixteen years after the end of the Holocaust, it focused attention upon the account of the suffering and torment of the Jewish people, as recounted to the judges. Its powerful, and one could claim, revolutionary, consequences continue right up to the present day.
The trial set the first milestone of a years' long process, an ongoing turnabout in shaping an awareness of the Holocaust in Israeli and world public opinion. The trial broke down the reluctance of many Israelis and Jews to approach the Holocaust, due to the powerful impression left by the personal testimonies of over a hundred witnesses who were called upon to recount their experiences during the Holocaust. Echoes of the trial finally attracted attention and awareness to the Holocaust survivors living among us, who had hesitated prior to the trial, to tell their personal stories, owing to a reluctance and an absence of openness among many native-born Israelis.
The trial brought about a significant change among Israeli youth in their attitude to the Holocaust. For them and other young Jews, the Holocaust was a remote and abstract issue. The trial was a significant step in conveying the Holocaust to Israeli and Jewish students, a process that reached fruition in the eighties and nineties, in the form of school delegations to Poland; to the sites of the former ghettoes and camps; and with youngsters writing essays about their own roots. As a result of the trial, the Holocaust is now perceived as an integral part of their identity as Israelis and as Jews.
The Eichmann trial also served as a catalyst for promoting other important trials of German Nazis. The most significant of these was the trial of the Auschwitz criminals, launched in 1963 in Frankfurt am Main. The consequence was a growing nervousness among other fugitive criminals, principally in South America, obliging them to adopt heightened precautions. In Paraguay in 1965, following the capture of Eichmann, Mossad assassinated Herbert Cukors who had overseen the annihilation of the Jews of Latvia. Another outcome of the trial was the spotlight directed upon former Nazi criminals who were playing an active role in administration and culture in post-war Germany. The storm surrounding Hans Globke and Kanzler Konrad Adenauer, which raged in Israel and the Western world, can be attributed to this moral and legal aspect, and likewise, the campaign Israel waged against German scientists operating in the military field in Egypt.
The trial gave rise to a rich literature. To date, some 600 works of various categories have been published in numerous languages. In addition, 89 documentary films and 4 feature films have been produced, and more are in the works. Renowned poets and writers have written about the trial, including: Eli Wiesel, Primo Levi, Nathan Alterman, and Haim Gouri. The trial sparked intellectual controversy among scholars in Israel and worldwide, the best known being the debate on the journalistic reports of political philosopher Hannah Arendt.The trial revolutionized the status and importance of Yad Vashem as the institution that provided the groundwork of research for the team preparing the trial. Ever since the trial, Yad Vashem has progressively achieved a pivotal position as the prime national and international location for Holocaust research and commemoration. The bringing together of documents and photographs, alongside the witnesses and testimonies the institution supplied to the prosecution, has secured its place as the most comprehensive resource on the Holocaust.
The online exhibition was made possible through the generous support of:
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.
Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.