The question then becomes, not is there an Adolf Eichmann in each person, for undoubtedly there is. The question becomes, how well can people discern the difference between ideals with which they agree, and those things that are immoral; and perhaps most importantly, how effectively can people decide to do that which is morally correct even when faced with such unpopular consequences as standing out from the crowd and siding against a popular government (Alford)?
Those who held opinions that were opposed to Eichmanns trial in Israel did not wait to be heard. One notable contemporary in particular believed that the methods undertaken to achieve the trial were questionable at best. In 1961, Victor Gollancz published a pamphlet on the very trial in question. It was a plea to abstain from executing Eichmann, but it touched on issues related to the motives surrounding the trial. The Israeli Prime Minister wanted the trial to take place in Israel in particular because he wanted the young Israelis to know what atrocities the Nazis had committed, and to expose the evil of anti-Semitism. But Gollancz urges in his pamphlet that this was a psychological miscalculation by the Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Gollancz indicates that, “the horrific story told by the witnesses may repel the youth, on the one hand, and stimulate, on the other, the anti-Semitic frenzy” (N.B. 87). It seems that Gollancz may have had a point because there was a flare of anti-Semitic activity in Argentina not long after Eichmann was abducted (Rein).
Another contemporary objection levied against the Eichmann trial in Israel had to do with the judges themselves. The concern stated here echoed that which Eichmanns defense had previously presented. The worry was based on the Israeli judges ability to be impartial in a trial that related crimes directed specifically at them and their countrymen. Peter Papadatos, in his book The Eichmann Trial, shows that Eichmanns lawyers were not the only ones concerned with the way in which Eichmann was prosecuted. In addition to the concern about the impartiality of the judges, Papadatos mentions Israels right to punish persons for war crimes, Eichmanns abduction, and questions about the retroactivity of the Israeli law as important concerns to be considered (Papadatos 198).
Part of Eichmanns defense was clearly erroneous, but does that provide for Israel the legal justification to ignore Eichmanns human rights? Eichmann claimed that he was merely following the orders of his superiors, but this is a claim that is not supported by the facts of the events. Eichmann is said to have had an obvious passion for the duties he performed. It was clear that he was not only good at his work, but he also enjoyed performing his work-related duties quite a bit. Although he claimed that he had “regret and condemnation for the extermination of the Jewish people which was ordered by the German rulers,” it was in fact clear that he was “dedicated and devoted to his task” (Draper 489). Eichmann “toiled long and hard and with considerable administrative and negotiating skill to ensure that this planned extermination should be thorough.
If any Jews were to remain alive in Europe nobody would be able to blame Eichmann for that oversight” (Draper 489).
It seems as though both Eichmann and the Israeli court had a point of contention in this case. For Eichmann, the fact that he was brought to Israel against his will by the Israeli government to stand trial for crimes that were not committed on Israeli soil is a good point to argue against the validity of his trial. For Israel, the fact that Eichmann willingly and thoroughly facilitated the extermination of nearly 6 million Jews is enough to justify the trial and execution of a guilty man. But if both sides are right and wrong at the same time, what separates them? What makes one side “more correct” than the other, therefore giving that side the ability to administer the justice that it sees fit?
Eichmanns trial makes it clear that “the limits of mans inhumanity to man are solely those of time, opportunity, and scientific knowledge” (Draper 485). As scientific knowledge increases exponentially, cases such as that of Adolf Eichmann become increasingly relevant, even as the public memory of them becomes increasingly distant. Is it inevitable that the worldwide nuclear arms race will create the “final solution” to the problem of humanity populating the earth? With humanitys propensity to be inhumane to one another, how is it that organized political societies will avoid destroying each other?
Today, the trial is still disputed in some circles. When seen from a more global perspective, it appears as though Israel acted purely in its own interest. It seems as though they were decided on punishing this man who was responsible for the deaths of so many of their family members, friends, and fellow citizens. They were so bent on it, in fact, that they violated the defendants human rights in order to manufacture a legal reason to execute him. Since the issue of Israels right to illegally abduct a criminal and act on its own behalf in the name of war crimes committed against several nations has never been fully resolved, the question remains: was justice served in the Adolf Eichmann trial?
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