‘Hannah Arendt. The Courage to Think ‘: The Nazis Stole Their Identity From Jews | Ideas

The Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann during the trial that sentenced him to death from Israel, on June 22, 1961.
The Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann during the trial that sentenced him to death from Israel, on June 22, 1961.GPO (Getty Images)

Journalists attended the sessions for two weeks, and then the composition of the audience changed radically. It was said that the audience would be made up of Israelites who, due to their youth, were unaware of the sad history lived by their elders, and others, such as Eastern Jews, who never had information about it. The trial was intended to show them what it meant to live among non-Jews, to convince them that Jews could only live with dignity in Israel. This lesson was explained to press correspondents in a brochure, distributed free of charge, on the Israeli legal system. Its author, Doris Lankin, cited a Supreme Court ruling, by virtue of which two men who had “kidnapped their respective children and transferred them to Israel” were forced to return the children to their mothers, who lived abroad. , since to these corresponded the legal custody of the minors. The author, as proud of this rigid application of the law, as the prosecutor Hausner was of his desire to include in the accusation the murders of non-Jewish individuals, added that the sentence referred to had been handed down “despite the fact that by giving the mothers the custody of the children, they would be forced to live in terms of inequality, between hostile elements, in the Diaspora ”. When the correspondents left, the audience was not made up of young people, nor Israelites, but rather the “survivors”, mature or elderly people, emigrants from Europe, like myself (…), who some needed to witness the trial to draw their conclusions. While the witnesses, endlessly, recounted scenes of horror, the assistants listened to the public account of stories that they would not have been able to bear if their protagonists had told them face to face. As the magnitude of “the hardships suffered by the Jewish people in the present generation” was revealed, and as Hausner’s rhetoric became more bombastic, the figure of the man inside the glass booth grew paler and paler. ghostly. That figure showed no signs of life, not even when the accusing finger pointed at it. [al acusado, Adolf Eichmann], and the indignant voice cried out: “And here is sitting the monster responsible for what happened!”

The account of the chilling atrocities had the effect of nullifying the theatrical aspect of the trial. Every public trial resembles a dramatic representation, in that both begin and end based on the active subject, not on the passive subject or victim. A theatrical trial, spectacular, needs much more than an ordinary trial a clear and well-defined account of the events, and the way in which they were executed. The central element of a trial can only be the person who committed the acts – in this respect he is like the hero of a drama – and if such a person suffers, he must suffer for what he has done, not for the sufferings suffered by others by virtue of their actions. And among all those present, the president of the court knew best what we have just said, despite the fact that he had to see how the trial was transformed into a succession of atrocious stories, into “a ship without a rudder, at the mercy of the waves ”. (…)

The trial never became a drama, but the spectacle that David Ben Gurion [entonces primer ministro israelí] he proposed to offer the public if it took place, or, to put it another way, the “lessons” that he intended to give to Jews and Gentiles, to Israelites and Arabs, to the entire world, were actually given (…). Ben Gurion had outlined them, before the trial began, in various newspaper articles aimed at explaining why Israel had kidnapped the accused. One of the lessons was addressed to the non-Jewish world: “We want to make it clear to all nations that millions of people, just because they are Jews, and millions of children, just because they are Jewish children, were murdered by the Nazis”. Or in the words of Davar, organ of Ben Gurion’s Mapai movement: “We want public opinion to know that it was not only Nazi Germany that was to blame for the destruction of six million European Jews.” Let us use once again the words of Ben Gurion: “We want all nations to know (…) that they should be ashamed”.

The Jews of the Diaspora had to remember that Judaism, “four thousand years old, with its creations in the spirit world, with its ethical endeavors, with its messianic aspirations”, had always faced a “hostile world”; that the Jews had degenerated to the point of obediently heading, like lambs, to death; and that only the formation of a Jewish state had made it possible for the Jews to defend themselves, just as Israel did in its war of independence, in the Suez adventure, and in the almost daily incidents of dangerous Israelite borders. And while Jews living outside of Israel would have a chance to see the difference between Israelite heroism and abject Jewish obedience, it was also true that the Jews of Israel would learn a different lesson: “The generation of Israelites formed after the Holocaust” was in danger of losing their sense of attachment to the Jewish people and, consequently, to their own history: “It is necessary that our youth remember what happened to the Jewish people. We want you to know the most tragic facet of our history ”. Finally, another of the reasons for trying Eichmann was to “discover other Nazis and other Nazi activities, such as, for example, the existing relations between the Nazis and some Arab leaders.” (…)

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The contrast between the heroism of Israel and the abject obedience with which the Jews went to their death – they arrived at the embarkation points on time, on their own feet, they went to the places where they were to be executed, they dug their own graves, they undressed and they left their clothes neatly stacked, and lay on the ground side by side to be shot — it seemed an excellent argument, and the prosecutor made the most of it by asking the witnesses, one after the other, questions such as: “ Why didn’t you protest? “,” Why did you get on that train? “,” There were fifteen thousand men there, and only a few hundred guards, why didn’t they run over them? ” But the sad truth is that the argument was baseless, because, in those circumstances, any group of human beings, Jewish or not, would have behaved as they did.

Sixteen years ago, while we were still under the recent impression that events had made on us, David Rousset, who had been held in Buchenwald, described what happened in the concentration camps: “The triumph of the SS demanded that the tortured victims they will be led to the gallows without protest, that they will renounce everything to the point of ceasing to affirm their own identity. And this demand was not gratuitous. It was not due to whim or simple sadism. The SS men knew that the system that succeeds in destroying its victim before he rises to the gallows is the best, from all points of view, to keep a people in slavery, in total submission. There is nothing more terrible than those processions advancing like dolls towards death ” (The days of our death, 1947).

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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