Adolf Eichmann’s Trial of 1960: Was it legitimate?


The Eichmann trial is claimed to have served justice to the persecuted Jews in Germany and Nazi-occupied territories back in the mid-20th century but did the trial serve justice in terms of international law and national Israeli law?

The way Eichmann was abducted from Argentina is significant to address along with how he was put on trial by Israeli authorities because under international law, If Adolf Eichmann was forcibly abducted from Argentina by agents of the State of Israel, this, therefore, constituted an international tort. If Eichmann was abducted by the Israeli Mossad(secret agency) then it was a violation of international law. If Eichmann was abducted by private individuals who pretended to be Mossad without consent from the Israeli government then it was not Israel’s crime against Argentinian law but an internal
matter for Argentina.

The Eichmann case is surrounded by at least three factors: International law, Israeli law and course of action taken, Argentina’s non-defense against Eichmann, and its obligation to the United Nations which makes it of grave importance to analyze conditions of law and contributing to it.

Who Was Adolf Eichmann?

Karl Adolf Eichmann joined the Nazi Party in April 1932 which was under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. Soon enough after his joining, He became a member of Heinrich Himmler’s security service called Sicherheitsdienst with a head office in Berlin working in the department that dealt with Jewish affairs. Eichmann was responsible for the removal of more than 1.5 million Jews from all around Europe to final killing destinations.

Hannah Arendt, a German-born American historian and political philosopher quotes in her book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” that “Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his advancement, he had no motives at all… He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing…

It was sheer thoughtlessness—something by no means identical with stupidity—that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of that period.” It can be inferred from this quote that Eichmann was simply a tool to implement the anti-semitic Nazi ideology just like many others who were a part of this entire process of exterminating the Jews.

The period when the Nazi regime flourished greatly embarks the flourishment of a thought process where each person was filled with thoughts of anti-semitism just as how the Nazis wanted. This made their rule survive more than it was supposed to. Eichmann in this case sees his benefits relentlessly pursuing this task to be credited for his efficient work and being promoted to higher ranks.

It was his thoughtlessness and un-realization of actions that made him the greatest war criminal of the Nazi era, he simply overly exaggerated the extermination of Jews which made the process more ruthless. Time and once more she increases questions that initiate and disturb such as the abduction of Eichmann from Argentina became illegal; the trial became a show trial; Israel’s marriage legal guidelines had been comparable to the racist Nuremberg legal guidelines of the Nazis; Eichmann’s crimes had been crimes towards humanity, so worldwide law needed to have handled the case.

Eichmann and His Motivation

Eichmann was closely inspired by the ideas of Emmanuel Kant, a famous German philosopher. Everything he did in his life including killing mass numbers of Jews and submitting himself to Nazi authority was closely related to Kant’s philosophy.“The legislator is the moral self, and all people are legislators”, according to Kant’s definition of the categorical imperative. According to Eichmann’s formulation, Hitler was the legislator.

It was an overstatement to say that he lived according to. He used the term “duties” to explain his interpretation of Kantianism. Arendt writes: “Kant’s moral philosophy is so closely related to human judgment that it precludes blind obedience, so at first glance, it was outrageous and incomprehensible.”

Eichmann: A victim of Nazis?

For Adolf Eichmann, Hannah had the simplest contempt, refusing even to dignify him with hatred:
He is depicted simplest as a bumbling mediocrity, “surely incapable of uttering an unmarried sentence that became no longer a cliché.” He is presented as a victim of the great Nazi campaign who did not have control of his thoughts and committed the crimes, unknowingly.

In “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” Hannah Arendt suggests an Adolf Eichmann who, causally ordered the extermination of Jews and did not consider the future impacts of the same. And whilst he repeatedly, and self-destructively, says, “I will soar into my grave laughing,” due to the fact having the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews in his moral sense offers him “wonderful satisfaction,” he appears to achieve this, by and large, to reduce what in his thoughts is an excellent figure.

This can be understood as the sheer ignorance of his actions. This means that Hannah viewed Adolf Eichmann as a person hidden among millions of other Nazis who were widely feared for his ruthlessness but instead, he was another part of the Nazi propaganda. He was influenced by his peers and he efficiently obeyed the orders given by them without thinking of his actions.

Before the Trial in Jerusalem

During his time in Argentina, Eichmann remained dedicated to the Nazis. He proudly signed pics with the title -“Adolf Eichmann — SS–Obersturmbannführer (retired)”. Eichmann was proud of his role in the holocaust: “It became sincerely a success that became in no way matched earlier than or since.” quoted Eichmann. In 1957, Willem Sassen, a journalist, and collaborator with the Dutch Nazis invited Eichmann to join a gathering place of former SS members.

Sassen taped the conversations to use them later to understand Nazi battle plans. But Eichmann’s phrases do simply the opposite. These statements show that Eichmann knowingly and vigilantly took part in the genocide.

These statements show that Adolf Eichmann knowingly and vigilantly took part in the genocide and
was not unaware as claimed by Hannah Arendt above in the investigation. However, Arendt portrayed Eichmann as an alcoholic, nostalgic Nazi who is obsessed with the past whereas Bettina Stangneth, A German philosopher, drawing on files and studies, reaches a distinctive conclusion that he was rather a “grasp manipulator”. “Whether he was in the Third Reich, Argentina, or Israel, Eichmann gave detailed and well-informed accounts of the murder of millions.

He simply adjusted the account of his own role, and his attitude toward the murders, to his changing circumstances,” she writes in her book, “Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a mass murdered.”

“I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction” stated Eichmann in 1945 which was used as evidence against him in the Jerusalem trial 1961. This statement by Adolf Eichmann is solid evidence showing Eichmann’s sadistic pleasure in conducting his so-called “duties”. He did not regret his actions but enjoyed them.

Eichmann During the Trial

During the trial, numerous Adolf Eichmann documents compiled through the German Intelligence Service continue to be classified, and criminal battles to completely declassify them are nevertheless being fought in German courts. If sooner or later, we could access Eichmann’s documents showing his relationship with Hitler, we would truly understand the role he played just like other Hitler henchmen. During the trial, Eichmann’s address was a mix of prepared remarks, official language, and repetitions of his ideas.

Adolf Eichmann argues that conscience was merely the “morality of the fatherland… the voice of blood” in other places, just-ti-flying his participation in mass murder. In a similar vein, Eichmann maintained that the urge to preserve one’s self is more powerful than any so-called moral judgment. Eichmann fervently held the belief that the Jew was the enemy preventing the Nazis from prevailing and that for this reason, they needed to be eradicated.

Götz Aly, a famous German historian, and political scientist quoted “Much of the research on the Nazi era makes a science out of distancing oneself from it or conjuring its demons. The conceit is that people were monsters then – as if they were completely different from people today.” It can be inferred that each person including Eichmann that took part in the holocaust was aware of their actions and willingly murdered the Jews. The term “monsters” refers to the Nazi officials notably Eichmann whose thinking of anti-semitism was raised to such an extent that they forgot human morality and values.


It can be inferred from Arendt’s stance that Adolf Eichmann was not conscious of his actions and carried out mass murder for personal gains and not to appease Hitler. On the other hand, Bettina argues that Eichmann was conscious of his actions and willingly took part in the execution of Jews for the simple fact that he was an anti-semite much before taking part in the Nazi ‘final solution’. Each author provides various pieces of evidence to support their respective claims about Eichmann.

However, in my opinion, Eichmann was aware of his deeds and knew the magnitude of his crime. It is true that he was an anti-semite and willingly took part in the events of the Holocaust. Therefore, his trial can be considered legitimate despite some contradictions based on international law.

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Abhilaksh Dhankhar is a Orator, Writer, Analyzer of geopolitical scenarios and military strategies. He has attended numerous conferences around the world on politics and has been conferred with more than 5 international awards. Abhilaksh also served as esteemed jury member in diplomatic meets. His vision to expand the ideals of international diplomacy made his self-initiated project "Drona" to be recognized as top ten most sustainable projects in India. 11 times, he has been selected for Harvard's Asia conferences and international relations programs. He worked with UNESCO under project RAISE to remove the gender disparity in the society. Abhilaksh constantly likes to spread his ideas and delivers effective seminars and sessions around the world, so far teaching more than 200 youngsters.

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