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Eichmann Found Guilty; Reading of Judgment to Conclude Tomorrow

December 12, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel’s three-man District Court here, which tried Adolf Eichmann on a 15-count indictment, today found the ex-Nazi guilty on all counts. The verdict was unanimous.

Presiding Justice Moshe Landau announced, when the court reconvened at 9 a.m. in the hushed chambers at the Beth Haam, that the prosecution had “established the entire bill of indictment” against the defendant, Following that announcement, the court started reading the judgment. Three sessions were held today–morning, afternoon and evening–and it is expected that the reading of the judgment will be concluded by Wednesday morning.

Eichmann had been charged specifically with crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and membership in organizations declared “criminal” by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946. Twelve of the 15 counts in the indictment carry the maximum penalty of death. The court had taken exactly four months, since the trial was concluded on August 11, to deliberate the case and formulate its judgment. The trial itself lasted four months, having opened last April 11.

The former Gestapo colonel, now convicted of having directed the annihilation of 6,000,000 European Jews during World War II, stood ramrod straight in his bullet-proof; glass-enclosed booth in the courtroom, as Justice Landau opened the morning session. He showed no emotion whatever as he heard the verdict. After requesting him to sit down, Justice Landau started reading the 300-page judgment. Later, that task was shared by the two other jurists on the court, Judge Yitzhak Raveh and Judge Binyamin Halevi.


“The charges of unsurpassed severity, ascribed to the accused,” stated the judgment, “refer to the period of Hitler’s regime in Germany, and paragraphs in the indictment encompass the catastrophe which befell the Jewish people during that period–a story of bloodshed and suffering that will be well remembered to the end of time. The catastrophe has been discussed in court proceedings, dealt with extensively at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and elsewhere, But, this time, it occupied the central place in these court proceedings.

“There was a desire–understandable in itself–to give a comprehensive and precise historical description of events that occurred during the catastrophe and, in so doing, emphasize also the unbelievable feats of heroism performed by ghetto fighters, those who mutinied in camps, and by Jewish partisans.

“There are also those who regard this trial as a platform for clarification of questions of great import, some of which arose from the catastrophe while others, of long standing, have emerged once again in more acute form because of unprecedented sufferings that were visited upon the Jewish people and upon the world as a whole in the middle of the Twentieth Century.”


Justice Landau then posed some of these questions, asking: “How could this happen in the light of day, and why was it just the German people from which this great evil sprang? Could the Nazis have carried out their evil designs without the help given them by other peoples in whose midst the Jews dwelt? Would it have been possible to avert the catastrophe, at least in part, if the Allies had displayed greater will to assist the persecuted Jews?

“Did the Jewish people in lands of freedom do all in its power to rally to the rescue of its brethren and to sound the alarm for help?” Justice Landau continued. “What are the psychological and social causes of the group hatred which is known as anti-Semitism? Can this ancient disease be cured, and by what means? What is the lesson which Jews and other nations must learn from all this in regard to every man’s relationship to others?”

The court then cited its authority in this case, pointing to the Israel law of 1955 authorizing the trial and punishment, upon conviction, of Nazis and their collaborators. The defense had, at the beginning of the trial last April, questioned the court’s jurisdiction. This point is fully expected now to form the basis for an appeal from the court’s findings to Israel’s Supreme Court.


Judge Halevi, taking up the reading of the judgment at this point, stated that the 1955 law had given “expression to the historic change in the political situation of the Jewish people who, having the greatest and gravest account against the Nazis, had no political status for trying Nazi criminals until the establishment of the State of Israel.”

In regard to Israel’s “unequivocal” law, said Judge Halevi, numerous legal authorities have shown that “Israel is mindful to accord with the principles of international law.” The crimes charged in the trial, he held, “are crimes not only under Israel law, but are, in essence, against the law of the nations.”

Judge Halevi rejected defense claims that the crimes by Eichmann had been committed “in the course of duty and are, thus, acts of State” for which only the German state is responsible. He pointed out that this theory concerning “acts of State” was repudiated by the Nuremberg Tribunal, and that the Nuremberg judgment was affirmed by the United Nations in 1946.

“The State of Israel,” he said, “is a sovereign State of Jewish people which the Nazis wanted to exterminate. Half of Israel’s population came from the decimated European community in the last decade. In the light of the United Nations recognition of the Jewish people and their right to establish their State; in the light of the recognition of this State by the family of nations, Israel and the Jewish people constitute an integral part of the law of the law of nations.


“It was apparent,” the judgment continued, “that, if the Nuremberg Tribunal was a triumph of human justice over totalitarian concepts, this trial in Israel was all that as well as historic justice. A small state, restored after two thousand years, has rendered the judgment of its people against the most hated enemy.”

“However,” Judge Halevi declared, “the court itself cannot be enticed into provinces which are outside its sphere. It is the purpose of every criminal case to clarify whether the charges against the accused are true–and, if the accused is convicted, to mete out due punishment to him. Only that which requires clarification, in order that these purposes may be achieved must be determined at the trial. Not only is any pretension to overstep these limits forbidden to the court–it would certainly end in failure.

“The court does not have at its disposal the tools required for investigation of the general questions referred to above. For example, in connection with the description of the historical background of the catastrophe, a great amount of material was brought before us in the form of documents and evidence, collected most painstakingly, and certainly in a genuine attempt to delineate as complete a picture as possible. Even so, all these materials are but a tiny fraction of all that is extant on the subject.”

Judge Halevi pointed out that the court, “by its very nature,” cannot initiate inquiries or proof, but must limit itself to such proof as is adduced before it. Accordingly, be said, the court’s ability “to describe general events is limited. “As to questions of principle,” he continued, “which are outside the realm of law, no one has made us judges of these. Therefore, no greater weight is to be attached to our opinion on them than to the opinion of any other person devoting study and thought to these questions.”


“These prefatory remarks,” stated the judgment, “do not mean that we are unaware of the great educational value, implicit in the very holding of this trial, for those who live in Zion as well as for people beyond the confines of this State. To the extent that this result has been achieved in the course of the proceedings, it is to be welcomed.

“Without doubt, the testimony given at this trial by survivors of the catastrophe, who poured out their hearts as they stood in the witness box, will provide valuable material for research works and historians. But, as far as this court is concerned, they are to be regarded as byproducts of this trial.”

At the opening of the afternoon session, Judge Raveh went on with the reading of the judgment. He started a count-by-count examination of the 15 clauses in the Eichmann indictment.

Judge Raveh drew on the testimony and documents presented during the summer trial to prove Eichmann’s “personal responsibility” for anti-Jewish actions before and during the war. He cited facts to show that Eichmann’s acts, far from forming a base for the protection of Jews as he claimed, amounted only to a base for robbery of Jewish property and the enslavement of the Jews.

In each instance, the court’s judgment agreed with the arguments presented by the prosecution, placing personal responsibility for anti-Jewish depredations on Eichmann himself.

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