Eichmann Trial

Reference: United States Holocaust Memorial Meuseum

Former Jewish partisan leader Abba Kovner testifies for the prosecution during the trial of Adolf Eichmann. May 4, 1961.

After World War II, Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann fled from Austria and made his way to Argentina where he lived under the name Ricardo Klement. In May 1960, Israeli Security Service agents seized Eichmann in Argentina and took him to Jerusalem for trial in an Israeli court. Eichmann testified from a bulletproof glass booth.

The Eichmann trial aroused international interest, bringing Nazi atrocities to the forefront of world news. Testimonies of Holocaust survivors, especially those of ghetto fighters such as Zivia Lubetkin, generated interest in Jewish resistance. The trial prompted a new openness in Israel; many Holocaust survivors felt able to share their experiences as the country confronted this traumatic chapter.

Israeli attorney general Gideon Hausner signed a bill of indictment against Eichmann on 15 counts, including crimes against the Jewish people and crimes against humanity.

Adolf Eichmann, SS official in charge of deporting European Jewry. Germany, 1943.

The charges against Eichmann were numerous. After the Wannsee Conference (January 1942), Eichmann coordinated deportations of Jews from Germany and elsewhere in western, southern, and northern Europe to killing centers (through his representatives Alois Brunner, Theodor Dannecker, Rolf Guenther, and Dieter Wisliceny and others in the Gestapo). Eichmann made deportation plans down to the last detail. Working with other German agencies, he determined how the property of deported Jews would be seized and made certain that his office would benefit from the confiscated assets. He also arranged for the deportation of tens of thousands of Roma (Gypsies).

Eichmann was also charged with membership in criminal organizations–the Storm Troopers (SA), Security Service (SD), and Gestapo (all of which had been declared criminal organizations at the 1946 Nuremberg Trial). As head of the Gestapo’s section for Jewish affairs, Eichmann coordinated with Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller on a plan to expel Jews from Greater Germany to Poland, which set the pattern for future deportations.

For those and other charges, Eichmann was found guilty and sentenced to death. On June 1, 1962, Eichmann was executed by hanging. His body was cremated and the ashes were spread at sea, beyond Israel’s territorial waters. The execution of Adolf Eichmann remains the only time that Israel has enacted a death sentence.