The Eichmann Trail

The featured stamp is named "Justice In Jerusalem, 1961". Apparently, the Israel Postal Authority didn’t want the name "Eichmann" to appear on an Israeli stamp; yet, the stamp is all about the famous Eichmann Trail.

SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer (a paramilitary Nazi Party rank equivalent to Lieutenant colonel) Adolf Eichmann was head of the Department for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo from 1941 to 1945 and was chief of operations in the deportation of three million Jews to extermination camps. Before WW-II he was already working in the Jewish Section of the Gestapo, where he was investigating possible "solutions to the Jewish question." He was even sent to Palestine to discuss the viability of large scale immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel. British authorities, however, forced him to leave. It was Eichmann who organized the Wannsee Conference of Jan. 1942, which focused on issues related to the "final solution of the Jewish question." From this point Eichmann assumed the leading role in the deportation of European Jews to the death camps, as well as in the plunder of their property.

At the end of the war, Eichmann was arrested and confined to an American internment camp, but he was able to escape unrecognized. He fled to Argentina and lived, with his family, under an assumed name for ten years until Israeli Mossad agents abducted him on May 11, 1960 and brought him to Israel on May 21, 1960.

As an historic event, the Eichmann Trial lasted two years. It began on May 23, 1960, with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion's astonishing announcement to the Knesset: "I would like to inform the Knesset that some time ago Israel's Security Service ascertained the whereabouts of one of the greatest Nazi criminals, Adolf Eichmann, who was responsible, together with the Nazi leaders, for what they called "The Final Solution of the Jewish problem" i.e. the murder of six million European Jews. Adolf Eichmann is now under arrest in Israel and will soon stand trial here, in accordance with the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, 5710-1950." This announcement rocked the Israeli public in a way that few things ever did.

The trial opened nearly a year later, on Apr. 11, 1961. The District Court proceedings continued through mid-August and the guilty verdict was handed down on Dec. 12, 1961. Three days later Eichmann was sentenced to death under the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law.

The words of Gideon Hausner, the Attorney General of Israel and trial prosecutor, are well remembered to these days: "When I stand before you, oh judges of Israel, to lead the prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I do not stand alone. With me here are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger at the man in the dock with the cry "J'accuse!" on their lips. For their ashes are piled high on the hills of Auschwitz and in the fields of Treblinka and washed away in the rivers of Poland. Their graves are scattered throughout Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voices are not heard. Thus I shall speak for them. In their name I shall unfold this terrible indictment."

Eichmann's appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected on May 29, 1962 and the President did not accept his request to be pardoned. In the early morning hours of May 31, 1962, two years after Ben Gurion's announcement, Eichmann was hanged at Ramla prison. His body was cremated and the ashes were scattered at sea outside the State of Israel's territorial waters.

Events that shape public consciousness occur in every nation and every generation – experiences that continue to impact that consciousness for many years. The Eichmann trial, one of the most publicized events in Israeli history, was such an event. It was linked to the two key events in the history of the Jewish people in the 20th century – the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. And it led to two basic understandings. The first was related to the significance of having a sovereign Jewish state, only after the establishment of which, were the Jewish people able to bring to justice those who had caused them harm. And the second was the transition that Israeli consciousness went through regarding the Holocaust, from a state of information to a state of knowledge.

The Nuremberg trials, conducted by the Allies immediately after WWII, revealed a large portion of the information to the public. But at that time the essence was not yet internalized or understood properly. The Eichmann trial turned that information into knowledge.

Two of the long term consequences of this process were a change in the public standing of Holocaust survivors, as they became the living bridge between Israelis and their past, and a change in the central place that the Holocaust has occupied ever since in Israelis' national identity as well as in the public, legal, ethical, educational `and cultural discourse in the world and in Israel alike.

The words about the Eichmann Trial were written by Prof. Hanna Yablonka.

The stamp was issued in 2012, design: Liat Dessau.

Description of the Stamp:

The stamp features a drawing by the artist Miron Sima from Jerusalem, depicting the accusing finger of Gideon Hausner (the drawing appears courtesy of the Museum of Art collection, Ein Harod).