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The Eichmann Trial

May 9, 2009 | by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

The trial of the man who Hitler chose to carry out the "Final Solution".

The world felt a need for a trial at Nuremberg. But Israel knew it needed even a more important demonstration of justice in Jerusalem.

Adolf Eichmann was the man chosen by Hitler to carry out his infamous "Final Solution." It was he who boasted, "I will go to my grave happy that I murdered six million Jews." In spite of this, Eichmann managed to escape after the war and find a safe haven in Argentina. It was extremely painful for Jews to know that their archenemy had eluded justice and was now living a life of comfort while they were still hounded by nightmares. But more than knowing that evil in this case had gone unpunished, Jews were deeply plagued by the realizations that a new type of historic revisionism began to doubt the inhuman details of the Holocaust. Because it was so unbelievable, there were people who refused to believe it ever happened.

And so Israel realized that there had to be at least one trial in which the Holocaust survivors would have an opportunity to tell their stories. Those who were still able to speak would serve as the mouths of the countless victims who prayed only that their deaths not be in vain. That their suffering be somehow remembered. That their memories be allowed to live on even if their corpses were not blessed with dignified burial, and their remains would forever be unmarked.

In a dramatic story that became a movie, the famous Nazi hunter, Simon Weisenthal, discovered Eichmann's whereabouts. Israeli agents kidnapped him in a fantastic cloak-and-dagger operation. And Eichmann was brought to trial so that the world might have a clear and indisputable record of the crime of the centuries. The transcript of the trial is available. The stories, which defy human understanding, can be read by anyone with a stomach for them. They confirm the profound depth of the tragedy. Eichmann, of course, was found guilty and was hanged on May 31, 1962. Among his last words was the remark that would show the extent of his self-delusion, "I am an idealist." Jews could only hope that they executed not only Eichmann but the ideals he represented.

from "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Jewish History and Culture," Alpha Books

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