Monday, October 10, 2011

Eichmann Trial 50 years

On Tuesday 11th October, a lecture will take place on the lasting impact of the Eichmann Trial half a century after the trial took place.

Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi official, a SS Obersturmbannf√ľhrer and one of the prominent architects of the Holocaust.

When the Second World War came to an end, Eichmann managed to escape prosecution by fleeing to Argentina. He lived a quiet life in Argentina as a rabbit farmer under a false identity until 1960 when he was discovered by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. After carefully planning his arrest, he was captured and smuggled out of the country without informing the Argentine government. This led to a diplomatic dispute over territorial sovereignty in which The United nations Security Council eventually mediated.

He was then transported to Israel to stand trial in what was to become one of the most controversial trials in international legal history. The news of his capture and abduction to Israel created much uneasiness for German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the members of his cabinet and their possible involvement in war crimes. According to Der Spiegel, the German government knew his whereabouts as early as 1952, but never made a serious attempt to bring him to justice. In 1956, Eichmann even wrote an open letter to Chancellor Adenauer in which he suggested he should be allowed to return to Germany to tell the people what really happened during the War. After Eichmann was abducted to Israel, the Adenauer government held a crisis meeting, where they agreed to take all necessary measures to make clear that he was a stooge of Himmler´s SS and that he was not an authorized agent of Germany.

The Eichmann trial started on 11th April 1962 in Jerusalem. Eichmann was indicted on 15 criminal charges including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish People and membership in an outlawed organization. The legal basis of the trial against Eichmann was the 1950 ´´ Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Punishment Law´´.

The Eichmann trial can be considered as not just a trial of one individual, but a trial against anti Semitism as a whole throughout history. It was to demonstrate and communicate the dangers of anti Semitism and serve as a reminder for the dangers of permitting the destruction of six million Jews. Furthermore, it brought to light the lack of initiative of the West German government to bring ex Nazis to trial. This was discussed by Matthew Lippman in The Houston Journal of International Law (1982, vol. 5, pp. 1-34)summing up all legal issues raised in the trial. (“The Trial of Adolf Eichmann and the Protection of Universal Human Rights under International Law”)

The trial was broadcast internationally and was the first televised trial in history. After eight months, he was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death. Five months later, he was executed by hanging and his ashes were scattered at sea.

Dr. Ruth Birn, Professor Thomas Mertens and Professor Harmen van der Wilt will lecture on the several aspects of this controversial trial.
The Peace Palace Library has an extensive collection on the Eichmann trial. These include books and articles on the legal, political, psychological and philosophical aspects of the trial.

CA/IK

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