Documentary Films Depicting Nazi Brutalities Shown at Eichmann Trial
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Documentary Films Depicting Nazi Brutalities Shown at Eichmann Trial

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Spectators were cleared today from the courtroom where the trial of Adolf Eichmann is taking place and documentary films were shown there bringing to life the horrors suffered by the millions of Jews in the Nazi camps prior to their being sent to the gas chambers. Most of the films were taken by Nazi cameramen, but there were also films taken by photographers of the Allied armies who were among the first on the spot when the inmates were liberated from the camps.

Brutally slain men, women and children came to life briefly as their faces–contorted in horror or in the last agonies of dying–passed across the screen. The first film showed the Einsatzgruppen in action. Thousands of victims of all ages, some naked, some in tattered clothes, were shown running before the machine guns mowing them down before mass graves. Then came a documentary on Auschwitz, showing acres of low barracks and the stream of hapless and doomed human beings flowing through the gates.

The camera focused on heaps of passports and identity cards, with faces smiling on photographs taken long before the Nazi barbarians seized the owners. There were glimpses of executions before grey stone walls. The pictures were haphazardly scheduled. There were scenes from the liberation followed by those of Jews herded into deportation trains, smiling SS men, followed by a shot of Gen. Eisenhower visiting a liberated camp. The haphazardness seemed to fit the total absence of any human order in the Nazi-created inferno.

There were Nazi hospital scenes, with the camera focusing on scalpels, bandages and the other instruments of healing but these were instruments for monstrous medical experiments on helpless men, women and even children.

The camera then moved from cell to cell inside the gas chambers, occasionally fixing on the dark openings from which the lethal cyanide gas poured down on millions of victims. Other pictures portrayed the burning of bodies in the open when the jammed crematoria could not accommodate the flow of gassed bodies.

There was a powerful scene, taken by Allied photographers, of half-dead survivors slowly moving in a stupor in which they hardly seemed to know that their previously unending agony was over. This was followed by a scene showing a transport of tiny children, some of them barely reaching to the top of the polished boots of the SS men herding them into the gas chambers.


One of the films showed heaps of glasses, gold teeth, a mound of babies’ shoes, heaps of hair shorn from women victims before the gassing and then huge reams of cloth woven from the hair. In another, thousands of naked men and women marched in the deep snow before SS guards. There was a shot of headless bodies laid out in neat rows like sardines and next to them barrels of heads. This scene was filmed at the Institute for Racial Research at Strasbourg which had asked Eichmann for 100 skeletons but was supplied instead with 100 Living victims “for disposal.”

There were shots of an occasional close-up of a face of a victim among the mountains of corpses. There were scenes of Germans brought back to a camp, following their capture after liberation, so that they might look on what they had done. They walked gingerly among the dead, taking care not to soil their shoes, holding handkerchiefs to their delicate noses to avoid the unpleasant smell of the charnel houses they had created and operated.

The final film was of scenes at Bergen Belsen after the liberation. SS men, guarded by Allied troops, carried the corpses to mass graves, the limbs of the dead swinging over their backs. The mounds of bodies seemed to refuse to grow smaller despite the removals.

Nobody moved when the lights were turned on again in the courtroom. The three judges sat on the bench, faces buried in their hands. Judge Raveh was weeping silently. The grey faced Eichmann, after his second viewing of the films, watched them with almost hypnotic intensity. He showed no emotion as he was led from the prisoner’s dock while the audience of newspapermen solemnly left the courtroom.

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