Time.news – “I inform you that our security forces have tracked down one of the greatest Nazi criminals of all time: Adolf Eichmann“. When Israeli Prime Minister Ben Gurion he turned to Knesset to break the news the world seemed to stop. Because it had been a legendary operation, the one carried out by Mossad to bring to justice the “technocrat of the Shoah”, one of the major perpetrators of the horror of the Third Reich, the man who had operated the massive death machine of extermination, the one who after the war had managed to flee to Argentina by giving himself a new identity, Riccardo Klement, thanks to which to escape the judgment of history, before that than to the judgment of men.
Not even twelve months later, that is on April 11, 1961, the trial against the “SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer“Eichmann, the man who had contributed to planning and organizing the deportation and the” final solution “down to the smallest detail.
A trial that represents an essential chapter – in some respects perhaps even more than Nuremberg – in the extremely difficult story of the relationship of the free world with the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Because Eichmann not only embodies the “banality del Evil “- as codified at the time by the” correspondent “of exception Hannah Arendt – that is the apparently resigned bureaucrat who with meticulous precision contributes to the realization and operation of the Hitlerian extermination organization, but also the prototype of the German who is staged as a simple cog in a mechanism larger than himself, where nothing else could be done than “obey orders”.
In fact, beyond any doubt, Eichmann was one of the main material perpetrators of the Shoah, as coordinator and head of deportation logistics: although it did not belong all’èlite national socialist, it was he who physically organized the railway convoys that transported the deportees to Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps.
For his part, the former SS Otto officer before the judges of Jerusalem Adolf Eichmann perfectly entered the part of the obscure bureaucrat. The one who had been welcomed into the Jewish state with an immense emotional wave – made at the same time of exultation at the arrest and hatred of the person responsible for the extermination of entire families – the accused presented himself in a subdued manner, as an official without of real power that did not hate Jews at all: basically minimizing his responsibilities and limiting himself to affirming, in fact, “to have followed orders as any soldier should have done during a war”.
It seemed that in Jerusalem in 1961 the judgment of the twentieth century was celebrated, broken in two by Nazism, it seemed that at the stand there was also the horror attempt to get away with it: in the end, after having managed to escape overseas in 1950 through the so-called ‘ratline‘via Italia thanks to senior members of the Church and a Red Cross pass as well as a series of false identities, and after having spent, following his spectacular arrest, a year in a three by four meter cell and visited every day by the doctor (the fear that he might escape trial by committing suicide), here he is, yes, Eichmann, with his mild gaze behind a large bulletproof glass: and there was the whole world watching when the Israeli prosecutor Gideon Hauser listed the 15 points of the accusation. Which included, among others, crime against the Jewish people (in 4 points), crimes against humanity (in 7 points), war crime (1 point).
At the trial, which had unprecedented media coverage, 108 witnesses were heard, including concentration camp survivors, experts and historians, as well as more than 1600 documents were scanned. After eight months – during which the defendant appeared essentially inscrutable – the judges confirmed practically all the points of the indictment: the sentence of capital punishment came on December 15 of that same year. Certainly the Eichmann trial represented a crucial watershed in the Israeli collective consciousness, beyond the infinite number of films, books, documentaries that have been made since then. Not just because you open the door of the “unspeakable” – that is, the first confrontation with a rupture of civilization of this size – but also because the former SS officer was objectively among those who had planned down to the details the complete extermination of the Jewish population throughout Europe.
Eichmann had been one of the protagonists of the conference at the Wannsee, held on January 20, 1942 at the lake of the same name near Berlin – “conceived” by Hitler himself and organized on the orders of Hermann Goering – in which, in practice, the modalities of the “final solution of the Jewish question” were decided.
Although in fact already in place, including the first “experiences” with the gas chambers, he was al Wannsee that the issue was “systematized”, put down in black and white and planned: given the impossibility of transporting 11 million European Jews out of the continent, the basic idea to which we turned – with great agility and an ultra-bureaucratic language – it was that of “extermination through labor”. In short, as Eichmann himself explained at the bar of the 1961 trial, “there was talk of killings, elimination and extermination”.
On the other hand, the Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels he had already noted it in his diary: “Regarding the Jewish question, the Fuehrer is determined to make a clean sweep. The world war already exists, the destruction of Judaism must be the necessary consequence “.
Thus, during the conference, the relative Protocol was drawn up, in 30 copies (of which only one copy has reached us, as revealed a few years ago by the time): well, the text of this document in its very first draft was written by Eichmann himself. But despite the flight to Argentina, the account of history eventually reached the bureaucrat of annihilation as well: who, after having refused the last meal preferring half a bottle of dry Israeli red wine, died by hanging a few minutes before midnight on Thursday 31 May 1962. It is said that the levers of the rope were pulled simultaneously by two people: no one was to know for sure by which hand the condemned man had died.