The Eichmann trial triggered a shock wave that spread well beyond Israel's borders and the event's immediate newsworthiness. This was not the first trial of Nazi crimes but it was the first where remembrance and history, justice and politics so acutely faced each other. In the nascent era of communication without borders, it ranks among the world's first "global" events, giving it a universal dimension.

In the longer term, the trial filled huge gaps in knowledge about the Shoah. It gave one of the main planners as well as many survivors the opportunity to speak. It offered the sight of victims confronting the criminal. Focusing on one man, it helped penetrate the mind of a mass murderer whose seeming "banality" underscored the exceptional nature of the system that trained and transformed him. The case gave rise to a wave of historical, philosophical and that placed reflection on the Nazi past and its legacy at the heart of Western culture.

More than at Nuremberg, the testimony and courtroom drama in Jerusalem prompted remembrance of a past that revealed itself with the inexorable passage of time. It was in memories during the Barbie, Touvier and Papon trials in France. The framework was national, but it probably fostered the long-term emergence of the idea of international justice.

The Jerusalem trial was the first time a defendant had to answer for crimes committed in the distant past. It influenced thought about the possibility of judging other mass crimes, which international agreements declared not subject to the statute of limitations in the following years.

11 April 1961.
Session 1.

The trial begins. The presiding judge addresses the defendant for the first time and reads out the first charge : "Crime against Humanity"

Coll. Israel State Archives/The Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archives of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the World Zionist Organization.