Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem.pdf - Eichmann in Jerusalem\u2014I | The New Yorker A Reporter at Large Issue Eichmann in Jerusalem\u2014I By Hannah Arendt

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Unformatted text preview: 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker A Reporter at Large February 16, 1963 Issue Eichmann in Jerusalem—I By Hannah Arendt Illustration by Daniel Zender very morning, the words “Beth Hamishpath” (“The House of Justice”), shouted by the court usher at the top of his voice, make us jump to our feet as they announce the arrival of the three judges, who, bare-headed and in black robes, walk into the courtroom from a side entrance to take their seats on the highest tier of the raised platform at the front of the long hall. They sit at a long table, which is eventually to be covered with innumerable books and more than fteen hundred documents. E 1/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker Immediately below the judges are the translators, whose services are needed for direct exchanges between the defendant or his counsel and the court; otherwise, Adolf Eichmann, the German-speaking accused party, like all the other foreigners in the courtroom, follows the Hebrew proceedings through the simultaneous radio transmission, which is excellent in French, bearable in English, and sheer comedy— frequently incomprehensible—in German. (In view of the scrupulous fairness of all the technical arrangements for the trial, it is among the minor mysteries of the new State of Israel that, with its high percentage of German-born people, it was unable to nd an adequate translator into the only language the accused and his counsel could understand. The old prejudice against German Jews, once very pronounced in Israel, is no longer strong enough to account for it.) One tier below the translators are the glass booth of the accused and the witness box, facing each other. Finally, on the bottom tier, with their backs to the spectators, are the prosecutor, Attorney General Gideon Hausner, with his staff of four assistant attorneys, and Dr. Robert Servatius, counsel for the defense—a lawyer from Cologne, chosen by Eichmann and paid by the Israeli government (just as at the Nuremberg Trials all attorneys for the accused were paid by the tribunal of the victorious powers), who during the rst weeks is accompanied by an assistant. Whoever planned this auditorium in the newly built House of the People, Beth Ha’am—now guarded from roof to cellar by heavily armed police, and surrounded by high fences, as well as by a wooden row of barracks in the front courtyard, in which all comers are expertly frisked—obviously had a theatre in mind, complete with orchestra and balcony, with proscenium and stage, and with side doors for the actors’ entrances. At no time, however, is there anything theatrical in the conduct of the judges—Moshe Landau, the presiding judge, Judge Benjamin Halevi, and Judge Yitzhak Raveh. Their walk is unstudied; their sober and intense attention, visibly stiffening under the impact of grief as they listen to the tales of suffering, is natural; their impatience with the prosecutor’s attempt to drag out the hearings is spontaneous and refreshing; their attitude toward the defense is perhaps a shade over-polite, as though they had it always in mind that, to quote the judgment they handed down, “Dr. Servatius stood almost alone in this strenuous legal battle, in an unfamiliar environment;” their manner toward the accused is always beyond reproach. They are so evidently three good and honest men that one is not surprised to see that none of them yields to the greatest of all the temptations to play-act in this setting—that of pretending that they, all three born and 2/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker educated in Germany, must wait for the Hebrew translation of anything said in German. Judge Landau hardly ever waits to give his answer until the translator has done his work, and he frequently interrupts the translation to correct and improve it, appearing grateful for this bit of distraction from the grim business at hand. In time, during the cross-examination of the accused, he even leads his colleagues to use their German mother tongue in the dialogue with Eichmann—a proof, if proof were still needed, of his remarkable independence of current public opinion in Israel. There is no doubt from the very beginning that it is Judge Landau who sets the tone, and that he is doing his best—his very best—to prevent this trial from becoming a “show” trial under the direction of the prosecutor, whose love of showmanship is unmistakable. Among the reasons he cannot always succeed is the simple fact that the proceedings happen on a stage before an audience, with the usher’s marvellous shout at the beginning of each session producing the effect of a rising curtain. Clearly, this courtroom is well suited to the show trial that David Ben-Gurion, Prime Minister of Israel, had in mind when he decided to have Eichmann kidnapped in Argentina and brought to the District Court of Jerusalem to answer the charge that he had played a principal role in “the Final Solution of the Jewish question,” as the Nazis called their plan to exterminate the Jews. And Ben-Gurion, who has rightly been given the title of “architect of the state,” is the invisible stage manager of the proceedings. He does not attend a single one of the sessions; in the courtroom, he speaks with the voice of his Attorney General, who, representing the government, does his best—his very best—to obey his master. And if his best often turns out not to be good enough, the reason is that the trial is presided over by someone who serves Justice as faithfully as Mr. Hausner serves the State of Israel. Justice demands that the accused be prosecuted, defended, and judged, and that all the other questions, though they may seem to be of greater import—of “How could it happen?” and “Why did it happen?,” of “Why the Jews?” and “Why the Germans?,” of “What was the role of other nations?” and “What was the extent to which the Allies shared the responsibility?,” of “How could the Jews, through their own leaders, coöperate in their own destruction?” and “Why did they go to their death like lambs to the slaughter?”—be left in abeyance. Justice insists on the importance of Adolf Eichmann, the man in the glass booth built for his protection: medium-sized, slender, middle-aged, with receding hair, ill- tting teeth, and nearsighted eyes, who throughout the trial keeps craning his scraggy neck toward the bench (not once does he turn to face the audience), and who desperately tries to 3/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker maintain his self-control—and mostly succeeds, despite a nervous tic, to which his mouth must have become subject long before this trial started. On trial are his deeds, not the sufferings of the Jews, not the German people or mankind, not even antiSemitism and racism. And Justice turns out to be a much sterner master than the Prime Minister. The latter’s rule, as Mr. Hausner is not slow in demonstrating, is permissive; it permits the prosecutor to give press conferences and interviews for television during the trial (the American program, sponsored by the Glickman Corporation, is constantly interrupted —business as usual—by real-estate advertising), and even “spontaneous” outbursts to reporters in the court building (he is sick of cross-examining Eichmann, who answers all questions with lies); it permits frequent side glances into the audience, and the theatrics characteristic of a conspicuous vanity, which nally achieves its triumph in the White House with a compliment on “a job well done” by the President of the United States. Justice does not permit anything of the sort; it demands seclusion, it requires sorrow rather than anger, and it prescribes the most careful abstention from all the nice pleasures of putting oneself in the limelight. Yet no matter how consistently the judges shun the limelight, there they are, seated at the top of the platform, facing the audience as from a stage. The audience is supposed to represent the whole world, and in the rst few weeks it indeed consisted chie y of newspapermen and magazine writers who had ocked to Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth. They were to watch a spectacle as sensational as the Nuremberg Trials; only this time, Mr. Hausner noted, “the tragedy of Jewry as a whole was the central concern.” In fact, said Hausner, “if we charge him [Eichmann] also with crimes against non-Jews . . . this is” not because he committed them but, surprisingly, “because we make no ethnic distinctions.” That was certainly a remarkable sentence for a prosecutor to utter in his opening speech; it proved to be the key sentence in the case for the prosecution. For this case was built on what the Jews had suffered, not on what Eichmann had done. And, according to Mr. Hausner, that amounted to the same thing, because “there was only one man who had been concerned almost entirely with the Jews, whose business had been their destruction, whose role in the establishment of the iniquitous regime had been limited to them. That was Adolf Eichmann.” Was it not logical to bring before the court all the facts of Jewish suffering (which, of course, were never in dispute) and then look for evidence that, in one way or another, would connect 4/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker Eichmann with what had happened? The Nuremberg Trials, where the defendants had been “indicted for crimes against members of many and various nations,” had left the Jewish tragedy out of account, Hausner said, for the simple reason that Eichmann had not been there. Did Hausner really believe the Nuremberg Trials would have paid greater attention to the fate of the Jews if Eichmann had been in the dock? Hardly. Like almost everybody else in Israel, he believed that only a Jewish court could render justice to Jews, and that it was the business of Jews to sit in judgment on their enemies. If the audience was to be the world and the play was to be the huge panorama of Jewish suffering, the reality was falling short of expectations and failing to accomplish its purpose. The journalists remained faithful for no more than two weeks, and then the audience changed drastically. It was now supposed to consist of Israelis, and, speci cally, of those who were too young to know the story or, as in the case of Oriental Jews, had never been told it. The trial was supposed to show them what it meant to live among non-Jews, to convince them that only in Israel could a Jew be safe and live an honorable life. (For correspondents, the lesson was spelled out in a little booklet on Israel’s legal system, which was handed to the press. Its author, Doris Lankin, cites a decision of Israel’s Supreme Court whereby two fathers who had “abducted their children and brought them to Israel” were directed to send them back to their mothers, living abroad, who had a legal right to their custody. This, says the author—no less proud of such strict legality than Hausner of his willingness to prosecute a murder charge even when the victims of the murder were non-Jews—“despite the fact that to send the children back to maternal custody and care would be committing them to waging an unequal struggle against the hostile elements in the Diaspora.”) But in actuality there were hardly any young people in the audience, and it did not consist of Israelis, as distinguished from Jews. It was lled with “survivors”—middle-aged and elderly people, immigrants from Europe, like myself—who knew by heart all that there was to know, and who were in no mood to learn any lessons and certainly did not need this trial to draw their own conclusions. As witness followed witness and horror was piled upon horror, they sat there and listened in public to stories they would hardly have been able to endure in private, when they would have had to face the storyteller. And the more “the calamity [in Hausner’s words] of the Jewish people in this generation” unfolded, and the more grandiose Hausner’s rhetoric became, the paler and more ghostlike became the gure in the glass booth, and no nger-wagging (“And there sits the monster responsible for all this”) could summon him back to life. 5/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker It was precisely the play aspect of the trial that collapsed under the weight of the hairraising atrocities. A trial resembles a play in that both focus on the doer, not on the victim. A show trial, to be effective, needs even more urgently than an ordinary trial a limited and well-de ned outline of what the doer did, and how. In the center of a trial can only be the one who did—in this respect, he is like the hero in the play—and if he suffers, he must suffer for what he has done, not for what he has caused others to suffer. No one knew this better than the presiding judge, before whose eyes the trial began to deteriorate into a bloody spectacle, or, as the judgment called it, “a rudderless ship tossed about by the waves.” But if his efforts to prevent this were often defeated, the defeat was, strangely, in part the fault of the defense, which hardly ever rose to challenge any testimony, no matter how irrelevant or immaterial it might be. Dr. Servatius (as everybody invariably addressed him) was a bit bolder when it came to the submission of documents, and the most impressive of his rare interventions occurred when the prosecution introduced as evidence the diaries of Hans Frank, wartime Governor General of Poland and one of the major war criminals hanged at Nuremberg. “I have only one question,” Dr. Servatius said. “Is the name Adolf Eichmann, the name of the accused, mentioned in those twenty-nine volumes [in fact, it was thirtyeight]? . . . The name Adolf Eichmann is not mentioned in all those twenty-nine volumes. . . . Thank you, no more questions.” Thus, the trial never became a play, but the show that Ben-Gurion had had in mind did take place—or, rather, the “lessons” he thought should be offered to Israelis and Arabs, to Jews and Gentiles; that is, to the whole world. These lessons to be drawn from an identical show were meant to be different for the different recipients. Ben-Gurion had outlined them before the trial started, in a number of articles that were designed to explain why Israel had kidnapped the accused. There was the lesson to the non-Jewish world: “I want to establish before the nations of the world how millions of people, because they happened to be Jews, and one million babies, because they happened to be Jewish babies, were murdered by the Nazis.” Or, in the words of Davar, the organ of Ben-Gurion’s Mapai party: “Let world opinion know this, that not Nazi Germany alone was responsible for the destruction of six million Jews of Europe.” Hence, again in Ben-Gurion’s own words, “We want the nations of the world to know . . . and they should be ashamed.” The Jews in the Diaspora were to remember how “four-thousandyear-old Judaism, with its spiritual creations, its ethical strivings, its Messianic aspirations, had always faced a hostile world,” how the Jews had degenerated until they 6/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker went to their death like sheep, and how only the establishment of a Jewish state had enabled Jews to hit back, as Israelis had done in the War of Independence, in the Suez adventure, and in the almost daily incidents on Israel’s unhappy borders. And if the Jews outside Israel had to be shown the difference between Israeli heroism and Jewish submissive meekness, there was a complementary lesson for the Israelis; for “the generation of Israelis who have grown up since the holocaust” were in danger of losing their ties with the Jewish people and, by implication, with their own history. “It is necessary that our youth remember what happened to the Jewish people. We want them to know the most tragic facts in our history.” Finally, one of the motives in bringing Eichmann to trial was “to ferret out other Nazis—for example, the connection between the Nazis and some Arab rulers.” VIDEO FROM THE N YORKER Greta Gerwig in “Yeast” If these had been the only justi cations for bringing Adolf Eichmann to the District Court of Jerusalem, the trial would have been a failure on most counts. In some respects, the lessons were super uous, and in others they were positively misleading. Thanks to Hitler, anti-Semitism has been discredited, perhaps not forever but certainly 7/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker for the time being, and this is not because the Jews have become more popular all of a sudden but because not only Ben-Gurion but most people have “realized that in our day the gas chamber and the soap factory are what anti-Semitism may lead to.” Equally super uous was the lesson to the Jews in the Diaspora, who hardly needed a great catastrophe in which a third of their people perished to be convinced of the world’s hostility. Not only has their conviction of the eternal and ubiquitous nature of antiSemitism been the most potent ideological factor in the Zionist involvement since the Dreyfus Affair; it must also have been the cause of the otherwise inexplicable readiness of the German-Jewish community to negotiate with the Nazi authorities during the early stages of the regime. This conviction produced a fatal inability to distinguish between friend and foe; the German Jews underestimated their enemies because they somehow thought that all Gentiles were alike. The contrast between Israeli heroism and the submissive meekness with which Jews went to their death—arriving on time at the transportation points, walking under their own power to the places of execution, digging their own graves, undressing and making neat piles of their clothing, and lying down side by side to be shot—seemed a telling point, and the prosecutor, asking witness after witness, “Why did you not protest?,” “Why did you board the train?,” “Fifteen thousand people were standing there and hundreds of guards facing you—why didn’t you revolt and charge and attack these guards?,” harped on it for all it was worth. But the sad truth of the matter is that the point was ill taken, for no non-Jewish group or non-Jewish people had behaved differently. Sixteen years ago, while still under the direct impact of the events, a former French inmate of Buchenwald, David Rousset, described, in “Les Jours de Notre Mort,” the logic that obtained in all concentration camps: “The triumph of the S.S. demands that the tortured victim allow himself to be led to the noose without protesting, that he renounce and abandon himself to the point of ceasing to affirm his identity. And it is not for nothing. It is not gratuitously, out of sheer sadism, that the S.S. men desire his defeat. They know that the system which succeeds in destroying its victim before he mounts the scaffold . . . is incomparably the best for keeping a whole people in slavery. In submission. Nothing is more terrible than these processions of human beings going like dummies to their death.” The court received no answer to this cruel and silly question, but one could easily have found an answer had he permitted his imagination to dwell for a few minutes on the fate of those Dutch Jews who in 1941, in the old Jewish quarter of Amsterdam, dared to attack a German security police detachment. 8/47 11/15/2017 Eichmann in Jerusalem—I | The New Yorker Four hundred and thirty Jews were arrested in reprisal, and they were literally tortured to death, being sent rst to Buchenwald and then to the Austrian camp of Mauthausen. Month after month, they died a thousand deaths, and every single one of them would have envied his brethren in Auschwitz had he known about them. There exist many things considerably worse than death, and the S.S. saw to it that none of them was ever very far from the mind and imagination of their victims. In this respect, perhaps even more signi cantly than in others, the deliberate attempt in Jerusalem to tell only the Jewish side of the story distorted the truth, even the Jewish trut...
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