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American Jewish Scholar Testifies at Eichmann Trial on Nazi Atrocities

April 25, 1961
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An American expert in Jewish history, testifying as a witness at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader charged with directing the annihilation of 6,000,000 Jews in Europe, today told the court that the Nazi atrocities against Jews were unprecedented in all of civilized history.

“Nothing like this had happened even in the Middle Ages,” said Dr. Salo W. Baron, professor of Jewish History at Columbia University. He emphasized that the Nazis wiped out “overnight” the achievements of full emancipation reached by the Jews in Europe as a result of 200 years of struggle for equal rights.

Unfolding a map of Europe, and tracing the march of nazism from 1938 on, over various European countries, Dr. Baron showed where Jews were mas murdered in cold blood. He told the court that, if not for the holocaust, there would have been 20,000,000 Jews today throughout the world, with slightly more than half of them living in Europe. In Poland alone, where there are now only about 30,000 Jews, there were 3,300,000 before the Nazis started sending Jews to the gas chambers, he said.

The American Jewish scholar turned the court room into a college classroom as he recited the history of European Jewry, showing that, despite oppressions and persecutions over the centuries, the Jewish communities in Europe had made vast contributions to learning in all fields until “the Nazi movement set the clock back.”

Professor Baron stigmatized the Nazi regime as a system that made anti-Semitism the official policy of a Government based on the new thesis of racial and biological anti-Semitism. “The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 introduced new elements, turning back the clock of history,” he said. “The Crystal Night destruction of Jewish property and synagogues in 1938 was conducted by the official Nazi apparatus itself. Even in the Middle Ages, Jews could retain some sort of order, could enjoy some rights, even if those rights were restricted. But under the Nazi regime, the Jews became a classless society.”


Under cross-examination by Dr. Robert Servatius, chief defense counsel, Dr.-Baron dwelt on major differences between age-old anti-Semitism and the Nazi-type of anti-Jewish persecution. “In ancient times,” said the American scholar, “the anti-Semitic scourge was religious. But in modern times it was simply what the sociologist calls ‘dislike of the unlike,’ the hatred of something different.”

“There are many other reasons, rational and irrational,” said Professor Baron, “but one fundamental difference between the millennia of anti-Semitism and the-manifestations of the Nazi-era is this: Never, not even during the many pogroms, did anti-Semitism result in mass-murder and genocide.”

Judge Binyamin Halevi asked Dr. Baron about the influence upon anti-Semitism of the notorious falsehoods, embraced in the so-called “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” The scholar outlined the history of this falsification, detailing its origin in Czarist Russia. “But only after World War-One,” he said, “was it translated into many languages, becoming a major weapon of anti-Semitism.”

Following Dr. Baron’s testimony, Attorney General Hausner entered into evidence various documents intended to prove Eichmann’s self-preparation for his role as a “Jewish expert” under the Nazi regime. One document showed Eichmann had filed an expense account for paying tuition to a rabbi from whom he learned Hebrew.

Another document was a recommendation by one of his superior officers, who praised Eichmann for his “exemplary initiative in the removal of Austrian Jews, thanks to which tremendously valuable assets were transferred to the Reich.”

Prior to Dr. Baron’s testimony, the court heard Israel’s Chief Police Inspector Avner Less, who stated that no influence was exerted on Eichmann before or during the seven months of police interrogation. The Police Inspector told the court that Eichmann was given “free rein to relate his version of the events that transpired during the Nazi regime, and his role in those events.” He added that Eichmann “was not prompted as to what he should say or what he wanted to withhold.”

In his tape-recorded statement during the police interrogation Eichmann has alleged that he was kept chained to a bed for eight days after his abduction in Buenos Aires last May. “I would have been ready to say anything, so I would be left in peace,” he told police.

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