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Eichmann’s Lawyer Pleads for Mercy; Prosecutor Demands Death Sentence

December 14, 1961
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Gideon Hausner, Adolf Eichmann’s chief prosecutor, demanded today the death penalty for the former Gestapo colonel. The Attorney General told the three judge court which convicted Eichmann Tuesday that no other penalty would be suitable for a criminal “who was at the center of the bloody work perpetrated against the Jewish people and against humanity.” The verdict will be announced Friday morning.

Following the prosecutor’s demand, Eichmann declared that the verdict shattered his hopes for a “just” sentence. He insisted that his superiors in the Nazi hierarchy, and not he, had been responsible for the wholesale slaughter during the war of millions of European Jews. He repeated his principal defense argument that he had only obeyed orders.

After Eichmann finished his statement, his attorney Dr. Robert Servatius made a plea for mercy. Dr. Servatius argued that the Nazi crimes were the crimes of a state while Eichman was simply under orders which he was obligated to carry out.

Contending that Eichmann’s attitudes were a response to the “dynamics” of a group of rulers and that he could not have avoided succumbing to the psychology of the prevailing environment, Dr. Servatius said the court was not obliged to impose the maximum sentence and he asked consideration of the fact that Eichmann was “a mere subordinate”–a judgment which had been specifically and totally rejected by the court in its verdict.

The West German attorney contended that conviction of Eichmann had served the purpose of the trial and that the punishment was not important. Asserting that the case “will certainly go down in history,” Dr. Servatius argued that “it will not be a historical trial in the full sense unless the court takes into consideration the fact that the factors which caused the political acts resulting in the crimes of the indictment cannot be decided by the judicial process.”

The “deep feelings” aroused by the trial should be “relegated” to “the kingdom of mercy” where all human problems “will find justice” he pleaded. He indicated that he would appeal the verdict regardless of what it was.

EICHMANN DOES NOT DESERVE MERCY, PROSECUTOR TELLS COURT

In asking for the imposition of a death sentence on Eichmann, chief prosecutor Hausner confined his brief address to the legal and material aspects of the long trial and the 100,000-word verdict against Eichmann without reviewing the nature of the defendant’s crimes. He said that enough had been said by survivors and prosecution witnesses and he did not wish “at this stage” to add to “the to rents of blood and tears.”

He argued that the court had no choice but to mete out the maximum penalty, that the death sentence in the Eichmann case was mandatory since the Israeli law under which the Nazi was convicted provided no alternative.

The pale-faced defendant appeared to be making a special effort to maintain the mask of stolidity he managed to maintain throughout most of the four-month trial, Seating himself in his bullet-proof enclosure after the announcement was made at the start of the 120th session, Eichmann braced himself against his chair. He fixed his attention on the prosecutor.

When Hausner made it immediately clear that he was demanding the death sentence as the only possible punishment, all eyes in the courtroom were fixed on Eichmann for signs of any reaction. The defendant maintained his composure and showed no signs of response to the demand for his death.

The prosecutor asserted that Eichmann removed himself from human society and that he therefore “can not claim society should deal with him as a human being. He was born human but turned into a wild jungle tiger. He crossed the barrier separating human beings from bestiality.”

Continuing, the prosecutor asserted that the Nazi should be sentenced “as a creature that placed himself outside the human framework, who gave freedom to the very lowest instincts. With his activities, he lost the right to remain among human people and it is essential to remove him from society if only to safeguard that society from people of Eichmann’s type.”

“He does not deserve mercy,” the prosecutor thundered, “because he had no mercy in his heart. He wanted all of his victims to die. Look at the pictures of the young boys and girls clad in slacks. Their eyes said fear. One can hear even now cries of ‘mama, help!’ from the children of the ghettoes.”

The prosecutor dismissed any possible claim of the defense counsel that a long time had passed since the wartime crimes were committed and that this should be taken into consideration. He said: “Can we forget 1,250,000 Jewish children done to death? These children were to have been the continuation of our generation.”

He declared that Eichmann deserved the most severe punishment it was possible to give a person “but even death would not to the smallest degree measure up to what is really due him. Even if he was put to death a thousand times, even if he died from hunger daily, this would not come up to the horrors he inflicted on even one child.” The prosecutor cited the Jewish poet Bialik who said “revenge for the death of one child was not created even by Satan.”

If Eichmann was not to hear the punishment for the Nazi wartime slaughter of 6,000,000 European Jewish men, women and children, the prosecutor asserted, “there is no one else that should bear it. Here is an annihilator of a nation, an enemy of the human race, a murderer of innocents. I ask that this man should die.”

EICHMANN SAYS HE ‘CANNOT ACCEPT’ THE COURT’S ‘SEVERE VERDICT’

Immediately after Presiding Justice Moshe Landau announced sentence would be pronounced Friday morning, Eichmann made his final statement to the court. Standing erect and referring to notes made during the reading of the verdict, the Nazi said his hopes for justice had been “disappointed” by the “severe verdict which I cannot accept.” He reiterated that what he did as a Gestapo officer was not his responsibility but rested entirely with “political leaders.”

He said again that he had wanted to fight on the front line but was kept at his “dark” assignment. “My only guilt was my discipline, my obedience, my adherence to my oath. I never persecuted Jews from any desire on my part. This the rulers of Germany did, a leadership which took advantage of my discipline. It was the leadership that gave the orders. Now those who received them are the victims.”

He alleged that he had been overpowered by his captors in Buenos Aires, chained for a week and brought under anesthetic into the plane that brought him to Israel. He agreed this indicated he was considered to bear a major responsibility for the wartime mass murders of European Jews. But he again charged “some Nazi leaders” had spread falsehoods about his wartime role “which somehow continued to float about for 15 years” to help themselves.

CLAIMS HE WAS NOT ONE OF ‘THE FANATICAL JEW PERSECUTORS’

He said it had been contended he should have disobeyed his orders but that under the circumstances then prevailing “this was impossible.” He claimed that it was “incorrect” to list him with “the fanatical Jew persecutors” and the fact that he was so portrayed “bothered” him during the whole postwar period. He insisted that his superiors had intentionally made it so appear to place the major blame on him.

He told the court that many of the witnesses who testified for the prosecution had stated “untruths” and that prosecution documents had been produced and arranged with the “specific objective” of evoking an “erroneous picture.” He declared that from his earliest days he had wanted to live “according to ethical principles” but since “certain days,” he had been prevented from doing so and had to submit to a “different kind of world.”

“I would ask the forgiveness of the Jewish people and admit I am filled with shame for what was done to them but in the light of the verdict, this might be interpreted as hypocrisy,” he said. “I am not inhuman and the monster I have been painted.” Thanking his attorney Dr. Servatius, Eichmann concluded with the comment: “I am convinced I have to bear the penalty for the deeds of others. I must bear what fate was destined to send.”

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