How Adolf Eichmann's trial revealed the horrors of Auschwitz

Historians and witnesses explain how the Adolf Eichmann trial was a turning point for Holocaust survivors who found that their testimonies were being taken seriously for the first time.

Over 100 witnesses, 16,000 documents and 56 days of prosecution evidence was presented against Adolf Eichmann at his trial in Jerusalem.

Historian Prof. David Cesarani discusses the power of opening statement of the lead prosecutor, Gidon Hausner, who stated,

“I am speaking in the name of six million who are not here to accuse you because you killed them.”

This, Professor Cesarani points out, was the main thrust of the prosecution argument against Eichmann. Yehuda Bakon, who survived Auschwitz, recalls how the trial was a turning-point for survivors who now found that their experiences and testimony were being taken seriously for the first time.

Teacher Notes

Ask students to locate evidence about Eichmann's personal involvement with deportations.

The journalist Hannah Arendt, who attended the trial, claimed that Eichmann was a formal and hard-working bureaucrat whose work was genocide.

Evidence of Eichmann the ‘evil man’ is difficult to locate in the trial papers, however, the events of Hungary in 1944 and the deportation of 437,000 Jews from ghettos to Auschwitz-Birkenau was not done from Eichmann’s desk in Berlin. He travelled personally to Hungary to supervise.

Students can use various sources to learn about how in a matter of hours Jews were selected, absorbed, processed and murdered in a matter of hours. Using photographs and witness testimonies, students could build up an understanding of how industrialised murder took place in order to understand the wider role played by faceless administrators like Adolf Eichmann.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching History. This topic appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC KS4/GCSE in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4/5 in Scotland.