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Eichmann captors get honored

46 years later Israel will conduct an official ceremony to honor the captors of the Nazi criminal

Listen to Gideon the late Gideon Hausner's Opening Speech at the Eichmann trial

Adolf Eichmann

Better late than never, the Ministerial Committee on Ceremonies and Honors has decided that Israel will conduct an official ceremony where a special honor will be given to everyone who participated in the capturing of Nazi criminal Adolph Eichmann and bringing him to justice in Israel.

It seems that 46 years after the heroic operation conducted by the Israeli Mossad, the state has never thanked the agents who participated in the abduction and everyone who helped them: 31 people, including 11 agents on Argentinean soil where Eichmann was captured.

The suggestion was brought up by Minister of Senior Affairs Rafi Eitan who was himself one of the commanders of the operation. Out of the 31 people who were involved in the operation, half have already passed away, and those who are alive are over the age of 80.

Rafi Eitan

Chairman of the committee Minister Jacob Edery has accepted Eitan's recommendation and brought it to the approval of the committee. Minister Eitan said that as far as he is concerned he has come full circle, and this is an amendment of an historical mistake which was never corrected. (from IsraelToday.co.il)

Eichmann's Capture

Throughout the 1950s many Jews and other victims of the Holocaust dedicated themselves to finding Eichmann and other prominent Nazis. Among them was the Jewish Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. In 1954, Wiesenthal's suspicions that Eichmann was in Argentina were sparked upon receiving a postcard from an associate who had moved to Buenos Aires. "I saw that dirty pig Eichmann," the letter read in part, "He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company". With this (and other) information collected by Wiesenthal, the Israelis had solid leads regarding Eichmann's whereabouts. Isser Harel, the then-head of Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency), later claimed in an unpublished manuscript that Wiesenthal "'had no role whatsoever' in Eichmann's apprehension but in fact had endangered the entire Eichmann operation and aborted the planned capture of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele."

Also instrumental in exposing Eichmann's identity was Lothar Hermann, a worker of Jewish descent who fled to Argentina from Germany following his incarceration in the Dachau concentration camp, where Eichmann had served as an administrator. By the 1950s, Hermann had settled into life in Buenos Aires with his family; his daughter Sylvia became acquainted with the Eichmann family and romantically involved with Klaus, the oldest Eichmann son. Due to Klaus's boastful remarks about his father's life as a Nazi and direct responsibility for the Holocaust, Hermann knew he had struck gold in 1957 after reading a newspaper report about German war criminals - of which Eichmann was one. Soon after, he sent Sylvia to the Eichmanns' home on a fact-finding mission. She was met at the door by Eichmann himself, and after unsuccessfully asking for Klaus, she inquired as to whether she was speaking to his father. Eichmann confirmed this fact. Excited, Hermann soon began a correspondence with Fritz Bauer, chief prosecutor for the West German state of Hesse, and provided details about Eichmann's person and life. He contacted Israeli officials, who worked closely with Hermann over the next several years to learn about Eichmann and to formulate a plan to capture him.

In 1960, the Mossad discovered that Eichmann was in Argentina and began an effort to locate his exact whereabouts when, through relentless surveillance, it was confirmed that Ricardo Klement was, in fact, Adolf Eichmann. The Israeli government then approved an operation to capture Eichmann and bring him to Jerusalem for trial as a war criminal.

Eichmann was captured by a team of Mossad agents in a suburb of Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960, as part of a covert operation. The agents kept him in a safe house until it was judged that he could be taken to Israel without him being detected by Argentine authorities. He was flown aboard an El Al Bristol Britannia from Argentina to Israel on May 21, 1960.

For some time the Israeli government denied involvement in Eichmann's capture, claiming that he had been taken by Jewish volunteers. Eventually, however, the pretense was dropped, and then prime minister David Ben-Gurion announced Eichmann's capture to the Knesset (Israel's national legislature) on May 23, 1960, receiving a standing ovation in return. Isser Harel, head of the Mossad at the time of the operation, wrote a book about Eichmann's capture entitled The House on Garibaldi Street; some years later a member of the kidnapping team, Peter Malkin, authored Eichmann in My Hands, a book that contains fascinating insights into Eichmann's character and motivations, but whose veracity has been attacked. 

Eichmann's trial

Eichmann's trial

Eichmann's trial in front of an Israeli court in Jerusalem started on April 11, 1961. He was indicted on 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and membership of an outlawed organization. As in Israeli criminal procedure, his trial was presided over by three judges : Moshe Landau (president), Benjamin Halevi and Yitzhak Raveh. Gideon Hausner, the Israeli attorney general, acted as chief prosecutor.

The trial caused huge international controversy as well as an international sensation. The Israeli government allowed news programs all over the world to broadcast the trial live with few restrictions. Television viewers saw a nondescript man sitting in a bulletproof glass booth while witnesses, including many Holocaust survivors, testified against him and his role in transporting victims to the extermination camps. During the whole trial, Eichmann insisted that he was only "following orders" - the same defense used by some of the Nazi war criminals during the 1945-1946 Nuremberg Trials. He explicitly declared that he had abdicated his conscience in order to follow the Fhrerprinzip. This defense in time would inspire the Milgram experiment.

After 14 weeks of testimony with more than 1,500 documents, 100 prosecution witnesses (90 of whom were Nazi concentration camp survivors) and dozens of defense depositions delivered by diplomatic couriers from 16 different countries, the Eichmann trial ended on August 14, 1961 where the judges were then left to deliberate. On December 11 the three judges announced their verdict where Eichmann was convicted on all counts. He was then sentenced to death on December 15, 1961. Eichmann appealed the verdict, mostly relying on legal arguments about Israel's jurisdiction and the legality of the laws under which he was charged. He also claimed that he was protected by the principle of "Acts of State" and repeated his "superior orders" defense. On May 29, 1962 Israel's Supreme Court, sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeal, rejected the appeal and upheld the District Court's judgment on all counts. On May 31, Israeli president Itzhak Ben-Zvi turned down Eichmann's petition for mercy. A large number of prominent persons sent requests for clemency. Ben-Zvi replied quoting a passage from the Book of Samuel: "As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women." (Samuel 1:15:33 , Samuel's words to Agag king of the Amalekites).

Eichmann was hanged a few minutes after midnight on June 1, 1962, at Ramla prison, and remains the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel. Eichmann allegedly refused a last meal, preferring instead a bottle of Carmel, a dry red Israeli wine. He consumed about half of the bottle. He also refused to don the traditional black hood for his execution.

His last words were, reportedly, "Long live Germany. Long live Austria. Long live Argentina. These are the countries with which I have been most closely associated and I shall not forget them. I had to obey the rules of war and my flag. I am ready."

His body was cremated, and the next morning his ashes were scattered at sea over the Mediterranean, in international waters, so that no nation would serve as Adolf Eichmann's final resting place. (from Wikipedia)

Gideon Hausner's Speech in Eichmann's trial

Gideon Hausner

"When I stand before you, oh judges of Israel, to lead the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I do not stand alone. With me here are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point their finger at the man in the dock with the cry "J'accuse!" on their lips. For they are now only ashes -- ashes piled high on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka and strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graves are scattered throughout Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voice is stilled. Therefore will I be their spokesman. In their name will I unfold this terrible indictment.

The deeds of those classic figures of barbarism, Nero, Attila, Genghis Khan, pale into insignificance when set against the abominations, the murderous horrors, which will be presented to you in this trial. Only in our generation has an organized state set upon an entire defenceless and peaceful population -- men, women, and children, greybeards and babies -- incarcerated them behind electrified fences, imprisoned them in concentration camps, and resolved to destroy them utterly.

In this trial, we shall encounter a new kind of killer, the kind that exercises his bloody craft behind a desk, and only occasionally does the deed with his own hands ... But it was his word that put gas chambers into action; he lifted the telephone, and railway trains left for the extermination centres; his signature it was that sealed the doom of tens of thousands. He had but to give the order, and troopers took off to rout Jews out of their homes, to beat and torture them and drive them into ghettos, to steal their property and, after brutality and pillage, after all had been wrung from them, when even their hair had been taken, to transport them en masse to their slaughter. Even their dead bodies were not immune. Gold teeth were extracted and wedding rings torn from fingers.

Eichmann was the one who planned, initiated and organized, who instructed others to spill this ocean of blood, and to use all the means of murder, theft and torture. He is responsible, therefore, as though he with his own hands had knotted the hangman's noose, lashed the victims into the gas chambers, shot and thrust into the open pits every single one of the millions who were murdered. Such is his responsibility in the eyes of the law. And such is his responsibility by every standard of morality.

Eichmann will tell you that he carried out the orders of his superiors. But the conscience of the world, speaking with the voice of the International Military Tribunal, has declared that orders contrary to the principles of conscience and morality, orders that violate the essential imperatives on which human society is based and negate the basic rules without which men cannot live together -- such orders constitute no defence, legal or moral. Therefore, in the light of the ruling, our own law in Israel has denied the accused the legal right to submit such a defence. But that is by no means all. We shall prove to the court that he went far beyond his actual orders, that he took the initiative in extermination operations for which he had been given no orders whatsoever, and carried them out only because of his devotion to the task in which he saw his life's mission.

At Auschwitz the killings were carried out by every method -- shooting, hanging and beating, but mainly in the massive gas chambers. In each such chamber, 2,000 people were herded together for a "shower." A flow of poison gas. The death factory operated unceasingly. The extermination of 2,000 people lasted 25 minutes, after which the bodies were taken to one of the five giant furnaces. Medical experiments were made on human beings as if they were guinea pigs. Parts of female sex organs were cut out, or limbs were subjected to X-rays until the unfortunate creatures writhed in pain prior to their deaths. Men were castrated. Experiments were made on the influence of paraffin and gasoline injections on human skin and the effects of chemical substances on mental resistance. The methods of punishment would not have shamed the most cruel barbarians on history. Beating on the naked body was a comparatively light punishment. Water was poured into people's ears, fingernails were extracted, prisoners starved until they went out of their minds. In the bunker of those sentenced for punishment by starvation, a dead prisoner was found, bent over whom was a second prisoner, also dead, grasping at the liver from the corpse of the first. He had died while tearing at the liver of a fellow human being. The Nazi contribution to European culture was the re-introduction of cannibalism.

We shall prove that the accused performed all these deeds with the set purpose of destroying the Jewish people, wholly or in part. Adolf Eichmann will enjoy a privilege which he did not accord to a single one of his victims. He will be able to defend himself before the court. His fate will be decided according to law and according to the evidence, with the burden of proof resting upon the prosecution. And the judges of Israel will pronounce true and righteous judgment."

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