Essay on Adolf Eichmann’s Trial
Adolf Eichmann was a member of the Nazi party, and a member of the Schutzstaffel, or the SS. He was commonly referred to as Hitler’s right hand man, and was a large component of devising and ultimately executing the Holocaust. His views on the Jewish were vile, and although his trial may have been “unjust,” if his trial were completely just, his trial would have still had the same outcome: execution.
Although he was partially responsible for the execution of the Holocaust, Adolf Eichmann was not born or raised as a radical anti-Semite. According to some people who were acquainted with him, he did not harbor any personal grudge against Jews until he joined the Nazi party. The only type of racism that he harbored towards Jews was the widespread racism against the Jewish people in Austria, and it was very mild at the time of Eichmann’s birth. In fact, according to the book Becoming Eichmann, a book by David Cesarani, proposes that Eichmann was not necessarily an advocate of exterminating Jews until 1941. Up until his proposal of the Madagascar Plan, he supposedly just wanted to make more space for “pure” Germans by getting rid of the Jewish population from Europe.
To first understand why Eichmann became an evil man, one must know his background and childhood. Adolf Eichmann was born in 1906, in Solingen Germany, but never lived there, instead moving to Linz, Austria, which is also Hitler’s hometown. His first encounter with bias against Jews was in fact, not his own. Throughout his childhood, he was known as the “little Jewish boy” due to his dark skin and complexion (Cesarani). Later, Eichmann recounts that his hate for Jews emerged at this time. His parents were also abusive to him, and his mother died when he was young. His mother soon died, and his father remarried which gave Eichmann four brothers and a sister. Though he was not necessarily a subpar student, he was not remarkable.
His grades were not high enough for the first school that he went to, On the surface, it may seem as if Eichmann’s first career choice and passion was being a political component in the Holocaust, he went from school to school and business to business before joining the Nazi party. His first career choice was engineering, but he soon realized that he did not have a gift in engineering. He then applied for a job at the American Oil Company, and the Solony Vacuum Company (Cesarani). After being laid off, he reached out to Ernst Kaltenbrunner.
He and his father were then invited to a meeting to decide whether or not the Nazi party was right for Adolf Eichmann. Since Kaltenbrunner and he were acquainted with each other, Kaltenbrunner tried to and managed to get Eichmann accepted into an S.S. Brigade. He was first sent to Dachau to complete a military training, but later decided that he wanted to escape from the “monotony” of Dachau and pursue a greater rank in the S.S. Von Mildenstein, Eichmann’s mentor, later told him that joining the S.S. was all a mistake, and that he should not have taken the position. He told Eichmann to study Jewish history and culture instead of blindly joining the S.S., so Eichmann tried to resign from the head of the Jewish Department of the S.D., his new role in the S.S. After studying the Jewish people, he came back to the S.S. In July 1940, Adolf Eichmann decided to apply to the S.S. again. He came up with his new plan: the Madagascar Plan. This plan, if executed, would deport European Jews to Madagascar (Kraft). Though not officially rejected, his plan was never paid attention to or executed. While Eichmann had gained attention locally, he was still to be known as the man who conducted the Holocaust.
Since Adolf Eichmann’s Madagascar Plan was never carried out, his first action that affected the Holocaust greatly was the time when Eichmann instigated the Final Solution. He took control over the whole operation, and was much more motivated to injure and kill the Jewish people instead of merely deporting them to a remote location. His interest for Auschwitz steadily grew from the moment it was constructed and visited Auschwitz many times. He eventually approved the use of Zyklon-B and oversaw the extermination process. Soon, deportations of Jews to Auschwitz from Hungary began.
He became a fanatic of the gas chambers and was known to always expedite the extermination process. In three months, from March to June 1944, 381,661 Jewish Hungarians, or half of the Jewish people in Hungary, had been exterminated (Kraft). Near the end of 1944, Eichmann reported that 4,000,000 Jewish people were exterminated in the death camps, and a further 2,000,000 people died by mobile killing units. At the very end of 1944, the Allies had surrounded the Third Reich, and it was only a matter of time of when the regime ended. The Soviet army started to approach Budapest, Hungary, at which point Himmler ordered Eichman to stop all deportations from Hungary. At that time, Eichmann had become so protective over his placement in the Third Reich, did not want to surrender even though it would have been the safest option. In retaliation, Eichmann deported another 50,000 Jewish Hungarians to Auschwitz-Birkenau (Kraft). This is where the Third Reich finally collapsed and the mindless slaughter of the Jewish people ceased.
Even though the Holocaust did end at this time, this does not mean that the aftermath of the Holocaust had already occurred. Although at the time, Eichmann was already known to be a major figure in the Third Reich, he was not very easy to capture and was extremely eluding. For nearly ten years, Adolf Eichmann managed to keep a low profile and escape to Argentina via a fake identity, Ricardo Klement. (“The Discovery & Capture of War Criminal Adolf Eichmann”) Had an intelligent girl not suspected that Ricardo Klement was the war criminal Adolf Eichmann, he may never have been found or brought to justice. Ricardo Klement had children in Argentina. One of them, Nicholas Klement (Eichmann) had known a girl named Silvia Hermann.
They quickly fell in love, and they began to court each other. Like Nicholas’s family, Silvia’s family were German immigrants that moved to Argentina subsequent to the Holocaust, but while Nicholas’s family was there to escape from war criminal charges, Silvia’s family was there because Silvia’s father, a man named Lothar, was a half Jewish man and a survivor of the Holocaust. Lothar was imprisoned inside of the Dachau concentration camp. Before he relocated to Buenos Aires, he lost his eyesight due to beatings from the Gestapo. Soon, after many hints to who Ricardo Klement was, Lothar began to suspect that Ricardo Klement was in fact Adolf Eichmann, but it could not be proved and since Lothar was old, he was not taken very seriously, and the family soon moved away 300 miles from Buenos Aires. Soon after the Hermann’s moved to their new home, Lothar had heard of a Nazi inside Argentina. As he was already suspicious with Ricardo Klement’s identity, Lothar Hermann began investigating into who was being searched for. He had met Fritz Brauer once before, the Chief Prosecutor of the West Germany State Hessen, and told him everything about his nagging suspicion about Ricardo Klement’s true identity.
Although Bauer did believe him, he needed evidence to arrest Ricardo Klement. Although Bauer did hold a high position, he believed that his colleagues might be Nazi sympathizers and did not tell them that he was about to investigate a man named Ricardo Klement. Bauer requested that Lothar investigate more in the matter, but at this point, Bauer was already almost positive that Ricardo Klement was a fake identity for the war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Bauer released Lothar’s findings confidentially and stated that he believed that Ricardo Klement was Adolf Eichmann and concluded that he did not need any more evidence. He sent these reports to Mossad, who subsequently sent eleven agents to Buenos Aires to investigate after fifteen years of Eichmann’s freedom. Over many weeks, Mossad tracked Eichmann’s movements from where his house was to where he ate to everyone he talked to. After Mossad was also convinced of Ricardo Klement’s guilt, two Mossad agents Zvi Malkin and Rafi Eitan waited for Eichmann when he was coming home late. When Eichmann arrived, Zvi captured his attention by trying to draw him away from his house by saying “momentito, senor” (“The Discovery & Capture of War Criminal Adolf Eichmann”). Eichmann panicked and started running, and Zvi tackled him. He was then brought to court where he was found guilty of war crimes.
Adolf Eichmann’s trial was one of the most watched televised events across the world that spanned a long period of time. Although almost all Israelis and other people knew about Eichmann and his actions at this time, they didn’t know how involved he was and his role in the Holocaust. They were also amazed as he looked like a normal person, and many could hardly believe that he played a crucial role in the executions of millions of Jewish people; but his testimony revealed that not only was he guilty of his crimes, but he was actually very enthusiastic about them.
According to Deboard Lipstadt, "There would be times when he would get a communique from the German Foreign Ministry saying the Italians have contacted them and there's a Jew in Vilna, or a Jew someplace else in a ghetto who's married to an Italian Catholic... and Eichmann would quickly rush to get the man deported, sent to Auschwitz or hidden away so that he couldn't be turned over to the Foreign Ministry and escape. He went after every individual Jew he could find" (Lipstadt).
Even though he was quickly found to be guilty, his sentence remained in question, whether to give him the death penalty or not. Not one person in Israel at the time at ever received the capital punishment, and by Israeli law it is not required to use the death penalty; the judge, however, said that "We are not required, we may impose it, and we chose to do so because you are deserving of the death sentence." (Lipstadt) Even though it was once said that “the death of one man is a tragedy, but the death of millions is a statistic,” Lipstadt said that "The Holocaust didn't happen to numbers or just a large group. It happened to people” (Lipstadt). This was especially true since the children of Israel had had their parents taken away from them at a young age, and many of them were sent to extermination camps. At the beginning of Eichmann’s trial, one hundred or so survivors told their stories and experience in the Holocaust, and for the first time these survivors were able to share their horrific experiences. Even though he looked like a normal man, he was considered as one of the greatest murderers of all time by the Israelis.
Though Nazi Germany was responsible for the cruel extermination of six million Jews, Germany has been completely transformed on their views on the Jewish people since the end of the war. The reason why Nazi Germany gained so much support during the second World War is because of the shame in their crippling defeat in the first World War. The Germans were bitter and their pride shaken, and Hitler channeled these strong emotions to turn the Jewish people into scapegoats, which had been done before many time throughout history. According to Joseph Berger, the Germans alive today know that only a few generations ago the leader of their home country was one of the most evil men who walked the earth, but they don’t let Hitler’s actions define who they are. “It’s something we always have to deal with, that our country did something like that. I feel proud to be German, but we can’t say it that way because of what happened.” Donna Cohen, the executive director at this German School in Westchester, says that the Nazi era was part of their legacy, but they are not responsible so they don’t feel guilty.
During his trial, Eichmann never took responsibility of his heinous atrocities on the Jewish people. His defense was that he was ‘simply following orders from his superior.’ However, as per all the evidences of brutality committed, impeccable planning and execution to transport millions of Jewish people to the Nazi death camp, designing the gas chambers to maximize the number of deaths and extreme interest to capture and kill Jewish people shatters Eichmann's defense. During the trial Eichmann appeared to be soft spoken and a normal person rather than a vicious bloodthirsty monster. That is the scariest part. He became a part of a grand system where evil had no bounds. He was one of the few German leaders the orchestrated the extermination of Jews. Hitler's regime was a totalitarian system. We need to be very cautious and apprehensive of formation of such a system. Hence, in a democratic country like America it is imperative that we defend our constitution that bestows us checks and balance of power. Absolute power can bring even more catastrophic outcome.
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Cesarani, David. “History - World Wars: Adolf Eichmann: The Mind of a War Criminal.” BBC, BBC, 17 Feb. 2011, www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/eichmann_01.shtml.
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Lipstadt, Deborah E. “The Eichmann Trial: Fifty Years Later.” NPR, NPR, 27 Mar. 2011, www.npr.org/2011/03/27/134821325/the-eichmann-trial-fifty-years-later.
“The Discovery & Capture of War Criminal Adolf Eichmann.” Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, 5 Dec. 2017, mjhnyc.org/discovery-capture-war-criminal-adolf-eichmann/.