« The state of Israel vs. Adolf Eichmann »

Technical details of the trial

The Jerusalem trial lasted eight months from 11 April 1961 to 15 December 1961; the most essential part took place in the first four months. It had many special features. It was the first to focus solely on the "Final Solution" as such. It judged a Nazi answering for his crimes alone, in a single trial, before a civilian court rather than a military tribunal. It took place long after the facts, at a time when many people wanted to move on. It was Israel's first filmed trial and the second big trial ever filmed after Nuremberg. It forced Israel's justice system to innovate practices, places and procedures. In a sign of the Shoah's Europe-wide reach, witnesses spoke in over a half-dozen languages, including Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Hungarian, Polish and French. Just as the floodlights brought in for filming modified the usual courtroom stage, so the interpretation and interpreters altered the temporality and circulation of speech. Playing with language even became a decisive weapon: every magistrate was born in Europe, almost all of them in Germany. They could speak several languages equally well, whereas the defendant had to almost always wear headphones to follow the proceedings. The man with the inexpressive mask in a narrow glass booth, earphones wrapped round his head, offered one of the strongest images of the trial, perceived as an unprecedented spectacle.

Hurwitz in the control room during the trial's filming, Jerusalem, 1961.

Hurwitz in the control room during the trial's filming, Jerusalem, 1961.

© Werner Braun, Tom Hurwitz.

Fifteen counts

- Four crimes against the Jewish people: murders committed in the extermination camps, during mass executions and by forced labor, creation of ghettos, deportations and forced sterilizations.

- Seven crimes against humanity: crimes committed against occupied countries' civilian Jewish populations, the persecution of Jews on national, racial, political and religious grounds and their widespread despoliation, the deportation of civilian Polish, Slovene and Rom populations and the killing of children in the village of Lidice [razed in June 1942 in retaliation for Heydrich's assassination by the Czech Resistance];

- One war crime, which overlapped with some of the above crimes but also fell into a separate category.

- Participation in three "hostile organizations": the SS, SD (Security Service) and Gestapo.

Hausner was in constant contact with Prime Minister Ben-Gurion when drafting the indictments, which covered the entire genocide and not just the crimes of which Eichmann alone stood accused.

17 April 1961. Session 6.
Eichmann pleads «Not guilty in the sense of the indictement».

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