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Eichmann Pleads ‘not Guilty’; Prosecutor’s Opening Speech Moves Audience

April 18, 1961
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A stirring picture of terrible horrors suffered by 6, 000,000 Jews annihilated on orders of Adolf Eichmann, who is now on trial here for his crimes against humanity, was unfolded today by Attorney General Gideon Hausner as he opened his case against Eichmann.

Everybody in the courtroom, including Eichmann’s lawyers, was visibly shocked as the prosecutor outlined in detail the almost inconceivable acts of boundless inhumanity carried out by the Nazis in the cold-blooded process of exterminating hundreds of thousands of Jews in gas chambers. Only Eichmann continued to sit stone faced after having pleaded “not guilty” to all these crimes.

Eichmann entered his plea of “not guilty” to all 15 counts of the indictment after Supreme Court Justice Moshe Landau opened today’s proceedings with an announcement that the three-judge court unanimously rejected the challenge of the defense to Israel’s right to try Eichmann. Judge Landau said that the reasoning of the court for rejecting the challenge of the defense to its competence would be embodied in the court’s final decision at the end of the trial.

The three-judge court also rejected the arguments of Eichmann’s lawyer, Dr. Robert Servatius, regarding the circumstances of the apprehension of Eichmann and his being brought before the Israeli court. Justice Landau pointed out that since the court found itself competent to try the defendant, there is no importance to the manner in which he was brought. Therefore, he said, there is no need to hear testimony of El Al officers, as requested by the defense.


Attorney General Hausner, in opening his case against Eichmann, said: “In rising to present the case against the accused, I am not alone. I am accompanied and surrounded by 6,000,000 prosecutors who, alas, cannot stand and point their finger of accusation against the man in the dock declaring ‘I Accuse.’ Their ashes are either at Auschwitz and Treblinka, or in graves scattered all over Europe. Their blood cries out but their voices are silent and unheard. It is in their name that I present this terrible awesome indictment. “

The prosecutor then pointed out that never in the history of persecution of Jews had any man arisen who succeeded in dealing “such grievous blows” to Jewry as did Hitler’s iniquitous regime with Eichmann as the executive arm for the extermination of the Jews. “In all human history, ” the Attorney General stated, “there is no other example of a man against whom it would be possible to draw up such a bill of indictment as has been read here. “

Murder has been with the human race since the time of Cain, Mr. Hausner said, but only in the 20th Century did we see a new kind of murder–the result of calculated decision and painstaking planning, not against a single victim, but against an entire nation.

“It was Eichmann’s word that put gas chambers into action. He lifted the telephone, and railroad cars left for extermination centers. It was his signature that sealed the doom for tens of thousands. His command troopers routed, beat and tortured Jews, stole their property and finally, after their very hair had been taken, transported them in masses to slaughter, ” the Attorney General told the court.

It was Eichmann who planned, initiated, organized and instructed others to spill this ocean of blood, Mr. Hausner continued. He must therefore bear responsibility as if his own hands had knotted the hangman’s noose, who lashed victims into gas chambers, who shot in the back and pushed into the open pit every single one of the millions who were slaughtered. Such is the responsibility according to every standard of conscience and morality, the prosecutor told the court.

“There was only one man, ” the Attorney General declared, “in the satanic structure of nazism who was almost entirely concerned with the Jews and whose business was their destruction. This was Adolf Eichmann, who for years saw his destiny and calling–to which he was devoted with enthusiasm and endless zeal–the extermination of the Jews.

“However obnoxious, ” Mr. Hausner said,”it is necessary to sketch the background of the Nazi crimes in which leaders of a nation–professors, scholars, academicians, bankers and economists–participated in a cold blooded manner. Hitler knew that, for success, he must use the age-old weapon of hate. This object was the Jew, The Jew was weak and defenseless and could be pilloried as a Communist, the enemy of the German people. In the same breath the Jew was branded as a banker.

“Confused and blind, the world was not alarmed by the campaign of hatred and the denial of human rights to Jews. It was not understood that this was only the beginning of an onslaught on the entire world, ” the Attorney General said.


Only a small minority of Germans, the prosecutor told the court, opposed the Nazi regime. Some even rebelled against it. Some were imprisoned including hundreds of ecclesiastics. There were Germans who concealed Jews and shared their nations, who, at the risk of their lives,-helped them hide or obtain Aryan papers; and there were others who maintained an anti-Hitler underground.

During the war there were Germans who protested to Hitler at the disgrace the Gestapo was bringing on the German people by acting like “beasts of prey” as they described the extermination of Jews. There were also soldiers who tried to frustrate killings by direct intervention. But these, the Attorney General stressed, were the small minority. The decisive majority of the German people made peace with the new regime and were phlegmatic witnesses of the most terrible crime ever perpetrated in human history.

Turning to the role of the accused in the holocaust, the prosecutor told the court that the SS, whose Jewish section Eichmann headed, was a distinctly independent body; a state within a state, which dominated the entire nervous system of Germany. The SS set up all concentration camps and extermination centers and was described at Nuremberg as an enormous conspiracy for the execution of crimes and horrors without precedent.

SS troops were employed for atrocities in various countries, for the extermination of millions of Jews and were responsible for experiments on human beings, Mr. Hausner reminded the court. He said the SS knew well how to exploit all the human frailties of their victims. They knew that starvation and torture could break even strong men and that by means of brutality and humiliation it is possible to efface the divine image, leaving a man insensitive, inert; an obedient robot who will do as he is told even when he is ordered to dig his own grave.


Mr. Hausner told the court that the prosecution will prove that “even after the downfall of the Nazi monster, Eichmann remained faithful to his ideas and principles, ” “He has not repented, ” Mr. Hausner said, “he still believes he did what was right and proper in destroying millions: We are entitled to assume that, if the swastika flag were raised again, if again hysterical howls were heard, if the electrified barbed-wire fences were re-erected, Adolf Eichmann would rise, salute and return to his work of oppression and slaughter. “

The prosecutor said his side will prove that Eichmann had been designated to implement the decision to liquidate the Jews in the territories occupied by the Nazi forces. “We shall prove, ” Mr. Hausner stated, “what the meaning was of the ‘special handling’ that was assigned to Eichmann. That designation was–for murder. ” Mr. Hausner then described to the court the methods employed by the Gestapo “to exterminate the Jews from the entire world. “

The prosecutor traced, step by step, the various measures taken against the Jews by the Nazi regime, from the stage of pressure upon Jews to emigrate, to deportations, mass murders and “killing in the gas chambers by the tens of thousands. “


Because the world failed to act, he said, the Nazis saw that they could go still further. The physical liquidation of Jews, by expulsion, or killing and pillage of their property, became the fixed pillars of German policy. “One single promise was kept by Hitler, the most terrible of the deeds which brought eternal disgrace, the promise of the execution of the Jews–that promise was kept, and for that Adolf Hitler used another Adolf, Adolf Eichmann, ” the prosecutor said.

As the invasion of the Soviet Union approached, continued Mr. Hausner, “the Nazis started the final solution in the sense of the physical destruction of the Jews. In the summer of 1941, we find Eichmann at Auschwitz, with Rudolf Hess, choosing the spot for the extermination apparatus and determining other technical details. “

“In October of 1941, ” the prosecutor said, “we find a representative of the German Ministry for Occupied Territories reporting an agreement with Eichmann to use gas chambers for the solution of the Jewish problem. ” It was Eichmann, he said, who organized the Wannsee conference which decided that Jews must be removed to ghettoes and thence to the East “for special handling. “


The Nazi annihilation plans went on under Eichmann, Mr. Hausner said, even though “glorious heroism” and “supreme acts of valor” were shown by some Jews, like those in the Warsaw Ghetto who rebelled against the Nazi forces. In the Warsaw Ghetto revolt, he

Mr, Hausner related “the various schemes” worked out by the Nazi regime for the annihilation of Polish Jewry, and said that Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi security services, had made Eichmann-responsible for implementing those plans. The herding of the Jews into “inhuman, over-crowded ghettoes, ” where epidemics broke out, was in itself “part of the extermination instrument, ” he declared.

As head of the Gestapo’s Jewish Affairs Department, Mr, Hausner-said, Eichmann “bears direct responsibility as initiator and implementer of this blood-bath. We shall prove his initiative and control over the ghettoes, his responsibility in establishment and operation of ghettoes, his responsibility for establishing extermination camps for the destruction of Polish Jewry. “


A hush fell over the courtroom as Mr. Hausner proceeded with his recitation of Eichmann’s personal responsibility for the holocaust. He went into details about the murder “of a million Jewish children whose blood was spilled like water throughout Europe. ” He told how executioners tore children from their mothers’ bodies and threw the babies alive into furnaces and into graves.

These “horrible deeds, ” he said, “had nothing whatever to do with the German war effort. ” Various German military and civilian officials, he said, had urged postponement of the “final solution” of the Jewish problem until after the war, so that the Jews might be used as slave labor to help win the war for the Nazi regime, “But Eichmann and his associates, ” he stated, “won out, and the slaughter continued. “

After a period of trying to keep these atrocities secret, Mr. Hausner said, it was found that the information about the killing of Jews became widely known. “Finally, ” he said, “the facts about the Jews became known to many, many millions of Germans, as thousands of soldiers had come from the fronts, mailment spread the word that they had to return mail addressed to Jews, and clerks in registration offices had to cross out the names of Jewish deportees. “

Mr. Hausner’s recitals seemed to make a strong impression even upon Dr. Servatius who, several times, fixed his eyes on the prisoner in the dock, as if he, too, were now seeing Eichmann in a new light.

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