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VINE VOICEon November 7, 2015
This book had been on my shelf for a while, among my other WWII and Holocaust volumes, and I just happened to pick it up immediately after finishing Lipstadt's book on her libel trial in England. So, I understand the reviewers who observe that this book includes numerous references to her trial. For me, that was part of the value of the book, and it makes a fascinating read after the other work.

I have read several books previously about the Eichmann capture and trial, and at first, I wondered whether there was anything new to be said about it. I now know that Lipstadt does have much to add to the scholarship about Eichmann, including an extensive, detailed, and nuanced analysis of Hannah Arendt's famous work on the case (despite the fact, as I learned from Lipstadt, that Arendt actually attended very little of Eichmann's trial!). I consider myself pretty knowledgeable about these topics, but I learned many new things from Lipstadt . . . e.g. Simon Weisenthal is the source for the much repeated but completely untrue assertion that the Nazis killed 5 million non Jews in the extermination camps.

Events such as the Eichmann trial benefit from being revisited from time to time as time goes by. Lipstadt explains all of the effects that the Eichmann trial has had on subsequent history and on the historyof the Holocaust. I think this is a really excellent piece of work and it makes me want to read more from Lipstadt. She seems so reasonable and factual, while at the same time candid about her own emotions and biases. I am curious about her statement that comparisons of the Nazis' treatment of Jews to Israel's treatment of Palestinians are absurd. I disagree and would love to hear/read her explanation for this broad statement, which surprised me, coming from her, and does not seem supported by the facts in the Holy Land.

That one open question, which, of course, is in many ways beyond the scope of this book, does not detract from this work. It is a thorough explanation of the Eichmann trial, with astute observations about the court process and clashes between the judges and the prosecutor (as a trial lawyer, this really interested me, and I would have sided with the judges, but I appreciate how Lipstadt uses the passage of time to demonstrate that the prosecutor may have been wiser than he was given credit for at the time), and about the history of the history of the trial. Really great read.
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On the last day of the sixth grade in 1962, as my mother was taking me home from school, the news on the radio was that Adolf Eichmann had been hanged in Israel. If there was a defining moment that influenced my choice of a career and course of study, it would be that car ride.I started reading that afternoon. Each question I had only led to more questions. At first I did not know who Eichmann was.Then, I could not understand how he had been prosecuted in a country which was not even in existence during the Second World War. I wanted to know how the Israelis had gotten hold of him. I was fascinated by the glass booth.

I became a history major at Emory where I continued my struggle with the Eichmann trial. In law school at Georgia I studied international law with Professor Dean Rusk who had been Secretary of State in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Professor Rusk set forth the legal basis for any country to prosecute crimes against humanity. After law school I served as a law clerk to a federal judge where issues of the application of laws for extra-territorial crimes were often present.

In short, I thought I knew all I needed to know to answer the questions which perplexed me as a twelve year old. Professor Lipstadt has proved me wrong.

This is a magnificent account of the crimes, capture, confinement, trial, appeal and execution of Adolf Eichmann. Professor Lipstadt, who teaches history at Emory, was given access to Eichmann's memoir in the 1990s during her own defense of an English libel trial brought by a Holocaust denier. But for that access it is doubtful this important work would have ever come to be.

Lipstadt unflinchingly examines the myths, realities and politics of these events. Simon Wiesenthal's claim of involvement in Eichmann's capture from Argentina is debunked. The American Jewish Committees peculiar reticence to the indictment and trial is explored. The Argentine government even gets a surprising semi-kudo when she demonstrates it observed Eichmann's takedown and did nothing to interfere with the Mossad team.

Historians and lawyers will find answers to many questions in these readable and engrossing pages.
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on April 10, 2011
April 11, 2011 is the 50th anniversary of the start of the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the event that brought the full significance of the Holocaust to the world's attention.

The Holocaust has played a major role in my life. First, my parents were fortunate to escape from Vienna shortly after Hitler and the Nazis marched into Austria in 1938 - "Anschluss," as it was called back then. My parents were then able to get their parents out of Vienna a year later. I was born in 1942 in England and my parents and I moved to the U.S. in 1950. Other members of my family were not so fortunate. Many of them died in the Holocaust. On several occasions in my first 15 years after we moved to the U.S., I was the recipient of anti-Semitic remarks. All of these events made me feel that Jews were a much hated people.

In 1993, I learned that the late Gideon Hausner, the chief prosecutor in the Eichmann trial, was a distant cousin. I got to know his widow, son and daughter and we became very close. I learned that Gideon was attorney general of Israel at the time of the trial. Later, he was the founding President of the Yad Vashem, the Israel-based center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust. He also served as a member of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) for many years, and a minister at large in Golda Meir's Cabinet. Historian Deborah Lipstadt has just written a vital account of the trial of Eichmann, the SS officer who managed the logistics of setting up death camps and transporting Jews to them.

In "The Eichmann Trial," (Nextbookpress), Lipstadt makes the point that it was the volume of witnesses who testified that finally put a face on the horror of the Final Solution. Even though many who testified were not directly affected by Eichmann's cruelty, their eyewitness accounts of calamity and destruction were riveting. They ensured that the unspeakable tragedy did, in fact, have a voice.

In contrast, Lipstadt notes, the Nuremberg trials just after the close of World War II were chiefly examinations of documents. The most poignant moment of those trials was the use of film of emaciated survivors taken by liberators of the concentration camps.

The decision by Gideon Hausner to call a multitude of witnesses was a risk. Lipstadt writes that it was a questionable legal strategy and that Eichmann's judges questioned the relevance. But the personal narratives won out.

The testimony "would transform the trial from an important war-crimes trial into an event that would have enduring significance," Lipstadt said. "It would give a voice to the victims that they had not had before."

The Eichmann trial was one of the first times the world heard that many Jews actively fought German tyranny. Witnesses recalled the Warsaw ghetto uprisings, fierce and brave resistance ultimately crushed by the Nazis who leveled the area with tanks and heavy artillery. This challenged a prevailing view of passivity in the face of the German regime's power.

The trial was significant in showing that the Holocaust was unique and was not just another example of anti-Semitism throughout world history. The enormity of the testimony proved the Holocaust "was an unprecedented crime....No one had ever tried to wipe out an entire people and then erase any vestige either of them or the crime," Lipstadt wrote. The trial's location also was key. The Eichmann trial was the first of the Holocaust aftermath to be held in Israel. It became a national obsession, with citizens glued to radios for hours listening to the proceedings. Although Hausner was opposed to the death penalty and later supported the banning of capital punishment from Israeli law, he made an exception in Eichmann's case.

The significance and reach of this legal case has been much debated, particularly by political theorist Hannah Arendt, who wrote "Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil," a book that was highly critical of the trial. Arendt particularly took Jews to task for failing to fight back against the Nazis, and even in some cases helping to facilitate their own destruction. Lipstadt points out that they did fight back in some instances and that in any case, the rest of the world made very little attempt to help the Jews.

Lipstadt also disagrees with prosecutor Hausner's version of Eichmann's role, which was described in his book, "Justice in Jerusalem." Hausner considered Eichmann as the chief architect behind the entire Holocaust, including the concentration camps, ghettos and mass graves. He believed that Eichmann developed the plans that led to most of the deaths in the Holocaust. But Lipstadt describes Eichmann as the chief operating officer carrying out orders, pointing out he made only minor changes to commands. Yet she details how Eichmann allowed a number of people to escape by leaving Europe instead of reporting to death camps. Such autonomy seems to argue against her view that he was more functionary than commander.

Lipstadt is both complimentary and critical of Hausner's handling of the trial. I am not in a position to assess her comments as I have not reviewed the trial's tapes. However, as noted earlier, she particularly acknowledges that Hausner's decision to call 100 witnesses was most important because it placed a face on the holocaust. The world felt the full significance of the Holocaust and that endures to today. .

Lipstadt also underplays the significance of Simon Wiesenthal in the Eichmann trial and Wiesenthal's role in capturing many other Nazi war criminals. She correctly notes that he did not play the key role in Eichmann's capture in Argentina. However, as was described by author Tom Segev in his recent biography of Wiesenthal, Weisenthal fought the efforts of the Eichmann family to have their relative declared legally dead. This led to the continued efforts to find and ultimately capture him.

Like the Eichmann trial, Lipstadt herself played a significant role in convincing the world that the horrors of
the Holocaust actually occurred. She and her publisher, Penguin Books, were sued by David Irving over her earlier book, "Denying the Holocaust." She had described some of Irving's writings and public statements as denying the Holocaust. An English court ruled in Lipstadt's favor after a highly publicized trial, constituting an important victory against deniers.

Similarly, fifty years ago, the Eichmann trial played an essential role in convincing the world of the truth of genocide. Although it strains credulity that deniers continue to exist, the dismissive statements of some world leaders in Iran and elsewhere show that attention must be paid to eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust. "The Eichmann Trial," as well as a video of the trial produced by the Public Broadcasting System in 1997 are needed antidotes to the resilience of misinformation that pollutes truth.

See New York Times book review section on 42011 for an excellent review of the book.

(Tony Hausner lives in Silver Spring, Md.)
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on June 5, 2012
As Lipstadt placed the information about the libel suit against her in the book's intro, I feel that it did follow along with her motivations for her purposes in writing the book and taking a lead in the research on the holocaust.

However, I would much rather she spent more of the time in this incredibly small volume on the true topic, as indicated by the title. I would much rather read about her memoires and background WITH a giant amount of information FOLLOWING her personal experience. They do combine the present and past well, but she does not go into detail enough regarding the past... and disqualifies (using HINDSIGHT and sparse evidence and little if no explanation for her remarks) many well-respected researchers, Nazi hunters, and others who not only had good intentions but did use the endless but unorganized information that was available in all of its vagueness to the best of their abilities: including the famed (and deservedly so) Simon Weisenthal. Her divisiveness regarding him and others who committed their lives to holocaust awareness and research was shocking...and not explained in an unbiased way. The question is "WHY?" Rather than finding a way to fuse speculation among those types of admirable legends with what was actually a fairly well-supported (yes, supported even in research and documentaries produced in the 2000's) estimates is almost unforgivable. Why, one wonders, is it so important to attack or deride Weisenthal and others is a great wonder. Disowning those who repeatedly tried to relate their incoming information on fugitive Nazis to the Allied nations, the UN, and the Israeli government is just so capricious and odd. There is, forgive me, a great deal of near "bit-xx-iness". As a woman I feel free to remark on the combative and disrepectful treatment of the Jewish heroes of the 1960's and 70's.

Other speculations made by good men of the past are dismissively tossed away as "incorrect" without any explanations on her part, even in footnote form.

The truth is, she could have taken a note from Robert Conot's lengthy but thorough book Justice at Nuremberg. Details are what make history fully-faceted, but lack of proof for conclusions is inexcusable in a historian worth his or her salt. Very unhappy with the book in general. It does, as some reviewers point out, take on more of an self-referential and biased style with plenty of memoire rather than a true account that holds water. There are a lot of laurels being laid upon, and I am so disappointed. If anything this is "History Lite."
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on March 28, 2011
A thoroughly powerful book with critical relevance to the world we live in today. Dr. Deborah Lipstadt (the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University) presents a meticulously researched and detailed account of the events leading to the capture and the resulting trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Readers will find detailed descriptions of the atrocities attributed to Eichmann to be very disturbing but should not be daunted if to only remind one that genocide continues to be a blight on humanity. Of particular interest is the author's examination of Hannah Arendt's writings, especially her 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt witnessed the trial, and her observations and subsequent publications were met with commentary ranging from disgust to exuberate praise. Lipstadt seeks to clarify and challenge Arendt's opinions and observations of the trial, and this is one of her main contributions to the field. What results is an extraordinary review of both Arendt and Eichmann. Overall, The Eichmann Trial is a remarkable book that clearly reinforces the fallacy that "I was just following orders" is an excuse for unspeakable crimes against humanity.
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on December 22, 2011
Prof. Lipstadt (historian), famous inter alia for her steadfast, cogent, and successful court defense against slander and libel charges by a British 'Holocaust Denial' historian, writes clearly and succinctly. She challenges some hearsay myths about the capture of Eichmann, the evidence presented at trial, and about some of the famous personalities involved in and reporting it. It's hard for me to believe that it's 40 years ago... In a related matter, i just viewed a movie, "The Nurnberg Trial; Lessons for Today". This film was/is the official War Department documentary of the 1st trial. It was produced and directed by Bud and Walter Schulberg (at the time US Army officers) with the active participation of the Chief Prosecutor, (Supreme Court) Justice Robert H. Jackson. This film was finished in 1948 and immediately suppressed and sequestered by the State Dept. and Dept. of Defense because by the time the editing was done, our ally, the Soviet Union, was then our enemy; and our enemy in the proceeding, Germany, was then our ally. It was recently discovered and painstakingly restored by Walter's daughter. Though of poor visual quality by today' standards, along with "The Eichmann Trial" this is an important record of something which is fast slipping into (dry) history books, as the Spanish-American War was for me as a boy.
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VINE VOICEon May 18, 2012
This is a personal response or rebuttal of sorts to Arendt, as well as a reflection of the author's own trial and comparison of the same to the Eichmann trial.

Although well steeped in the topic, I still learned plenty -- in particular the real-time reaction to the capture and trial as it was happening and the criticism of same from both American Jewish and non-Jewish quarters. I also found the the whole topic of how we were coming to terms with survivors and transitioning from "displaced persons" to the Holocaust and what that meant to be very insightful and well-done.

Though not essential, Ms. Lipstadt offers a different perspective and one well worth exploring.
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on April 16, 2011
I recall the Eichmann trial, but this book provides not only detail on the actual trial but the historical background and results of the trial. It is fascinating to read of the tensions within the Jewish community over the conduct of the trial. Likewise, it is fascinating to read of the powerfully increased understanding of Holocaust survivors which results from the trail. And I found her discussion of Hannah Arendt deeply engaging. While this is not a long book, it covers the subject well.

Much of this book is painful to read-recalling the horrors of the Holocaust. And much of this book is satisfying to read-seeing the great changes which came from the trial. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about this part of our collective past.
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on March 19, 2011
On a trip to Israel several years ago, I visited Beit Lohame Hagetaot ("The Ghetto Fighters' House"), the first museum in the world dedicated to the Holocaust. Beit Lohame Hagetaot, which is located on Lohame Hagetaot, a kibbutz near the border of Lebanon that was founded in 1949 by Holocaust survivors, including several from the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, has an extensive collection including many items which are on loan to the more famous Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem. One artifact that the Ghetto Fighters' House retained to display in its own facility is perhaps the most chilling of the objects and images I've seen at either museum - the infamous three-sided "glass booth" that surrounded Adolf Eichmann during his trial in Jerusalem. I didn't know the museum had the glass booth, and when I came across it on the top floor of the building, my blood ran cold. In this enclosure had stood the man who was responsible for the removal of one and a half million Jews from their communities, and their transportation to concentration camps via rail, death marches and other means. This was a man whose name conjured up evil itself, not only an orchestrator of untold suffering, but an enemy of all that is right and good. While the glass booth embodied the person who occupied it, it also represented the victory of justice: Eichmann was caught, tried, and executed by the Jewish people.

As I examined the materials accompanying the exhibit, I thought about stepping into the booth, however, my revulsion for Eichmann was so strong that I wasn't sure I wanted to occupy the same confined space that he had, even though more than four decades had passed since his trial. After overcoming my hesitation, I entered and sat in one of the jumpseats built for the guards who were always by his side during the proceedings; however, when I sat in the defendant's chair I experienced a feeling of contamination, a tangential contact with ultimate evil that haunted me for the remainder of the day. On a return trip to Israel a year ago, I revisited Beit Lohame Hagetaot, this time with my wife and sons; and while I made sure that they saw the glass booth, my encounter with it was brief, as I was still haunted by the disturbing memory of my previous experience.

A number of books have been published on Eichmann over the years, the most famous of which is Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem." Arendt's book is also the most controversial, and not without reason. I read a good deal of it about twenty years ago, however, I found much of it disturbing and never finished it. Arendt's lofty, detached tone along with her argument that Eichmann was merely an unthinking clerk rather than an unrepentant anti-Semite who dispatched millions to their deaths with excessive zeal were among the things that bothered me. Shortly afterward I read "Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police," a fascinating selection from the 275 hours of interviews conducted by Avner Less prior to the start of the trial. Here Eichmann revealed himself to be a master of both evasion and self deception, simultaneously self-pitying and snake-like, but also pathetically obsequious. He knew exactly what he was doing - there were none of Arendt's high-minded philosophical explanations about the "banality of evil," or her theories of a man, and practically an entire people who were guilty of "not thinking" or "understanding" what they were doing.

Given my relatively recent visit to Beit Lohame Hagetaot, I decided to read "The Eichmann Trial," especially as 2011 marks the fiftieth anniversary of this seminal event.

"The Eichmann Trial," at 203 pages, is relatively brief, but packs a tremendous punch. Author Deborah Lipstadt is uniquely qualified to write on this subject, given that she herself was embroiled in a long civil trial in 2000 when she was sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving. Lipstadt's extensive introduction to "The Eichmann Trial" elaborates on her own experience and while she links the present (Irving) to the past (Eichmann), if the truth be told, a few paragraphs would have sufficed in this regard. Once she leaves her own trial behind, she's completely on target. The story begins with the locating of Eichmann, who was living in Argentina in a cinderblock house with no electricity or running water, a far cry from the lifestyle he enjoyed as an SS colonel in the Third Reich. From this point on Lipstadt recounts the controversy surrounding Eichmann's abduction and the issue of Israel's right to try him, the reaction by much of the press (e.g., The Washington Post ran two editorials asserting that any trial in Israel would be "tainted with lawlessness") and so forth. No space is wasted as Lipstadt zeroes in on one relevant issue after another, highlighting central points in the testimony that have broad-reaching implications. Only a few quotations are necessary for the reader to see that Eichmann, who portrayed himself as merely a small cog in a very big wheel, and a soldier who was simply following orders, was in fact an outrageous liar. He had damned himself by dictating a memoir in Argentina several years before his capture, the transcripts of which came back to haunt him. Lipstadt writes that "In the newly released memoir, Eichmann expressed himself as an inveterate Nazi and anti-Semite. In contrast to the claims made by Hannah Arendt that he did not really understand the enterprise in which he was involved, the memoir reveals a man who considered the Nazi leaders to be his 'idols' and who was fully committed to their goals." In his own words, "I do a job if I can understand the need for it or the meaning of it, and if I enjoy doing it. [Then] time will just fly by, and that was how it was with the Jews."

Lipstadt, who is incredibly fair-minded in her comprehensive retelling of the trial and its various themes and personalities, devotes the last chapter of "The Eichmann Trial" to Hannah Arendt and her controversial "Eichmann in Jerusalem." There were many who were outraged by Arendt's theories, which almost seemed to exonerate Eichmann of personal culpability. There were also those on the other side of the fence who thought she was totally objective. Lipstadt points out that while there are merits to the arguments both pro and con, and she cites many specifics in Arendt's favor and not, the scale is ultimately tipped, and decisively so, against her. Eichmann's own memoir, writes Lipstadt, "reveals the degree to which Arendt was wrong about Eichmann. It is permeated with expressions of support for and full comprehension of Nazi ideology. He was no clerk. This was a well-read man who accepted and espoused the idea of racial purity." But that's just a preamble. Not only did Arendt get many of her facts wrong, Lipstadt writes, "[she] may also have been subliminally writing for her teacher and former lover, the revered philosopher Martin Heidegger, who joined the Nazi Party in 1933, ejected Jewish professors from the university where he served as rector, affirmed Nazi ideals, and never recanted his wartime actions.... In 1960, a few months before the trial, Arendt considered dedicating one of her books to Heidegger but decided not to, because it might upset others. In an unused dedication, she described him as 'my trusted friend to whom I have remained faithful and unfaithful.' She helped resurrect his postwar career by minimizing his Nazi affiliations and fighting to get him readmitted to the scholarly world. When 'Der Spiegel' exposed his wartime record she protested that people should 'leave him in peace.'" (Incredible as it may seem, Hannah Arendt was Jewish.) Lipstadt goes on to lambast Arendt, saying "She was guilty of precisely the same wrong that she derisively ascribed to Adolf Eichmann. She - the great political philosopher who claimed that careful thought and precise expression were of supreme value - did not 'think.'" While all of this may appear to be a sidebar, in fact it's quite the opposite. Lipstatdt isn't overstating it when she claims that Hannah Arendt's work, which mistakenly ignores the central role that historical anti-Semitism played in the scheme of the Holocaust, "has shaped contemporary perceptions of the Final Solution."

Let's hope that "The Eichmann Trial" undoes some of the damage caused by Arendt's flawed theories of fifty years ago.
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on May 5, 2011
You will find this book hard to put down. It is a careful review of the trial of the man who ran the mechanics of the "Final Solution" Adolph Eichmann. Professor Lipstadt shows that Eichmann far from being a "banal beaurocrat" was in fact ardent a fanatic anti-Semite who excuted his position with vigor and enthusiasm. He is shown not only following orders but going beyond them in murdering Jews. An important but chilling portrait.
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