Eichmann Trial Left Little Understanding of Nazi Acts, Survey Shows
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Eichmann Trial Left Little Understanding of Nazi Acts, Survey Shows

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The trial of Adolf Eichmann in Israel, in 1961, which had been thoroughly reported in all American news media, generated a “sympathetic response toward Jews” but failed “to deepen understanding of the horrors of the Nazi era, ” the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith reported here today on the basis of the findings of a scientific study.

The study, conducted under an ADL grant but developed and conducted as an independent work of scientific research, was made by the University of California Survey Research Center. It will be published this month by Harper and Row under the title “The Apathetic Majority.” The authors are three sociologists: Charles Y. Glock, director of the research center, Gertrude J. Selznick and Joe L. Spaeth.

The study was based on 463 hour-long interviews with a representative sample of the population of Oakland, Calif., after the evidence at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem had been reported, but before the Israeli court had rendered a verdict in the Eichmann case. Oakland has one daily newspaper but is served also by considerable circulation of the two dailies published across the bay in San Francisco. In addition, it is served by more than 20 Bay Area radio stations and five television channels.

The study revealed that, although 84 percent of those queried were aware of the trial, and 77 percent of these thought it was “a good thing” that Eichmann had been brought to trial, only 13 percent were knowledgeable enough to be able to answer correctly four elementary questions on the trial’s details and background.

After more than a year of headlines at the time the study was made in 1961, 41 percent did not know that Eichmann was a Nazi, and 9 percent thought he was Jewish. Sixty-eight percent did not know he was captured in Argentina; 50 percent did not know that Israel had arrested him; 67 percent did not know the number of Jews killed by the Nazis.

Citing as the dual purpose of the trial, “to bring a criminal to justice” and to serve as “an educational instrument” for understanding the Nazi era, the sociologists declared that the proceedings failed to involve a complacent public and to achieve their educational objective.

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