The United Nations Holocaust Programme partnered with the State of Israel to observe the 50th Anniversary of The Eichmann Trial
“The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: 50 Years Later”
(23 April 2012)
The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme organized a roundtable discussion on 23 April at United Nations Headquarters to mark the 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the most important events in Holocaust history.
Distinguished speakers included Minister Peled of Israel, a child survivor; Mark S. Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association; Amos Hausner, an attorney and son of Prosecutor Gideon Hausner; Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta and author of The Eichmann Trial; and Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, United Nations Messenger of Peace and human rights activist who covered the trial for the newspaper The Forward. The panellists explored the psychological, social and legal aspects of the trial, including its influence on justice and accountability in the twenty-first century.
Minister Peled shared his heart wrenching experience as a child survivor who had been raised by a Christian family. He described his emotions and disbelief upon learning at the age of nine that he had been adopted by a surrogate family. Hundreds of Jewish children were hidden or raised as gentiles in order to protect them during the Holocaust.
Minister Peled of Israel (Photo: Shahar Azran)
Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association focused his remarks on the principal of universal jurisdiction. He explained how the Holocaust had changed the paradigm of international law and how the Eichmann case brought the concept of universal jurisdiction to the forefront. The case set a precedent for the Courts for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which led to the creation of the International Criminal Court. He challenged the audience when he asked, “Will the legacy of the Eichmann case and its strong position in promoting universal jurisdiction be the same 50 years from now?”
(Photo: Shahar Azran)
Amos Hausner, son of Prosecutor Hausner, spoke about his father’s role and the legacy of the Eichmann trial. He said that everything Eichmann did was legal in the country where he acted, however the Israeli court rejected Eichmann’s plea of innocence for following orders. As at the Nuremberg trials, the individual would be held accountable for his actions. Mr. Hausner also underlined the importance of international laws that would serve as a deterrent to genocide.
Professor Lipstadt emphasized that the Eichmann trial forever changed the world’s perception of victims of genocide. She explained how the testimonies of the survivors “opened the world’s eyes to genocide in an unprecedented fashion”. According to Ms. Lipstadt, another important element of the trial was that for the first time the Jewish people were able to sit in judgement on crimes committed against their own people.
Ambassador Ron Prosor (Israel) with Elie Wiesel (Photo: Shahar Azran)
Professor Wiesel gave his impressions of the trial from a journalist’s point of view. During the trial, Professor Wiesel had noted how Eichmann showed no sign of remorse – he slept well, ate well, and appeared to be inhuman. Professor Wiesel ended his remarks with the observation “what we have learned from those bitter times is that it was human to be inhuman”.
An entrance ticket to the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Jerusalem, 1961