The Eichmann Trial Summary & Study Guide

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The Eichmann Trial Summary & Study Guide Description

The Eichmann Trial Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt.

Years after the Holocaust, the search for war criminals had all but come to an end. A Jew living in Argentina came into information about a high-ranking Nazi official who was living nearby. He contacted Israeli officials and the wheels of justice slowly began to turn. Months passed before the man was identified as Adolf Eichmann who had been responsible for sending thousands of Jews to their deaths. Israelis then faced the daunting task of arresting Eichmann and bringing him to trial. To accomplish that, they literally kidnapped him and took him out of Argentina. The arresting officers had expected an impressive former Nazi officer but found an old man, apparently compliant wearing old clothes and false teeth.

There was no international courtroom for the event and the trial was eventually slated for Israel. Eichmann's defense was not that he was innocent of the crimes but that he had been following orders. The prosecution mapped out the charges they intended to bring against him and sought more than just the crimes to which Eichmann could be directly connected. Toward that end, they brought survivors to testify about the atrocities they witnessed, even with Eichmann couldn't be placed at the scene of a specific event. The prosecution also brought evidence that Eichmann had issued orders, though he continued to insist that he had only followed orders from his superiors. His attorney argued that the judges couldn't be impartial, that the trial was illegal because Eichmann had been kidnapped in order to stand trial, and that witnesses who could clear Eichmann couldn't be called because they would be arrested if they showed up for court. All the objections were dismissed.

There was an international audience as the trial began and there were some who said the trial proceeded more fairly than had originally been expected. Three judges sat as a tribunal to hear the case. Eichmann took the stand in his own defense. When he was questioned, he tended to give long, rambling lectures that often didn't even address the question. Despite being warned by the judges to give direct answers, he continued in this vein.

The judges returned with several parts to their ruling, including that the victims' testimonies, though heart-rending, were irrelevant to the sentencing. Eichmann was sentenced to death. That sentence was carried out and his body cremated. Officials scattered his ashes at sea to preclude anti-Semitics from building a shrine at his burial spot.

Among those covering the trial was a German Jew named Hannah Arendt. Arendt's coverage of the trial drew wide-spread criticism because she compared the Nazis to the Jews, touted a non-Jewish hero but failed to recognize any of the Jewish people who were widely considered heroic, and heaped all Jews into a single category as "victims." It wasn't clear what brought her to this line of thought but it could have been that she was trying to appear impartial and strayed to the opposite side.

In the conclusion, the author said the victims' testimonies, though ruled inconsequential by the judges, were heard internationally for the first time during the Eichmann trial. It was those testimonies that may have prompted such wide-spread interest in the Holocaust.

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