Lipstadt (Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies/Emory Univ.; History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, 2005, etc.) revisits the historic trial of the man in the glass booth.
Kidnapped in Buenos Aires, where he was working at a Mercedes-Benz assembly plant, the high-ranking Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was tried and sentenced to death by an Israeli court in 1961 for his role in the Jewish genocide. In this authoritative book, published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the trial, the author offers a concise account of the courtroom drama, from the prosecutor’s opening statement (“With me in this place and at this hour, stand six million accusers”) to the testimony of survivors about mass shootings and deportations to death camps. Despite incriminating evidence, Eichmann showed no remorse for his actions, insisted he was following orders and gave incomprehensible speeches that remain maddening to anyone reading the transcripts today. Many observers found the defendant dull—an “automaton…who failed to understand that what he had done was wrong” according to political theorist Hannah Arendt, who covered the trial for the New Yorker. Others, writes Lipstadt, discerned Eichmann’s passion and rage. Faulting Arendt’s controversial view of Eichmann as a bureaucrat who showed no “fanatical anti-Semitism” and exemplified “the banality of evil,” Lipstadt argues that a deep-seated Jewish hatred animates both perpetrators and deniers of the Holocaust. She notes that Arendt—whose perspective informs the thinking of many—treated historical data haphazardly and refused to acknowledge anti-Semitism’s fundamental role in the Holocaust. The author draws nicely on her experiences as defendant in a 2000 libel suit brought against her by author David Irving, whom she had described as a leading Holocaust denier. Lipstadt writes that intense worldwide coverage of the Eichmann trial brought the term “Holocaust” into the lexicon for the first time, and greatly accelerated the growth of scholarly study of the Final Solution.
A welcome reassessment of a monumental trial.