Nazi Ice Provides Chilling Sequel to the Eichmann Trial

TEL AVIV – Six decades after the historic Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the Holocaust’s chief engineers, a new Israeli documentary series has delivered a dramatic coda: proud confessions of Nazi war criminals, in his own voice.

Hours of recording of the old tape, which had been denied by the Israeli prosecutor at the time of Mr Eichmann’s trial, formed the basis for a series, entitled “Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tape”, which created out of deep interest in Israel as it has aired over the past month.

The tapes fell into different private hands after being created in 1957 by a Dutch Nazi sympathizer, before finally being placed in the German government archives, in 2020. awarded to the Israeli co-creators of the series – Kobi Sitt, producer; and Yariv Mozer, director – permission to use the recordings.

Eichmann went to the gallows to assert that he was merely a follower of orders, denying responsibility for the crimes for which he was accused. Describing himself as a minor state henchman who was in charge of train schedules, his celebrated mediocrity gave rise to philosopher Hannah Arendt’s theory of the mediocrity of the ordinary. evil.

The documentary series alternates Mr. Eichmann’s cold words, in German, defending the Holocaust, with reenactment of Nazi sympathizers’ gatherings in 1957 in Buenos Aires, where the copies recording is done.

Exposing Mr. Eichmann’s anti-Semitism, his zeal for the anti-Semitism and his role in the mechanism of mass murder, the series brings the missing evidence from trial to trial for the first time. with a mass audience.

Mr. Eichmann can be heard swishing a fly around the room and describing it as having “Jewish nature”.

He told his interlocutors that he “didn’t care” whether the Jews he sent to Auschwitz lived or died. When he denied knowing their fate during his trial, he said on tape that the order was “Jews fit to work should be sent to work. The Jews who were not healthy enough to work had to be sent to the Final Solution, the period,” which meant their physical destruction.

“If we kill 10.3 million Jews, I will say with satisfaction, ‘Good, we have destroyed the enemy.’ Then we have fulfilled our mission,” he said, referring to all the Jews in Europe.

“This is proof against Holocaust deniers and a way to look at it,” said Mozer, director and writer of the series and himself a grandson of Holocaust survivors. Eichmann’s true face.”

“With all humility, through the series, younger generations will understand the challenge and ideology behind The Final Solution,” he added.

The documentary was recently shown to intelligence corps commanders and officers – an indication of the importance it has been viewed in Israel.

Eichmann’s trial took place in 1961 after Mossad agents kidnapped him in Argentina and took him to Israel. The shocking testimonies of survivors and the full horror of the Holocaust have been sketched in grisly detail for the Israelis and the rest of the world.

The court has a lot of documents and testimonies to use as a basis for convicting Mr. Eichmann. The prosecution also obtained more than 700 pages of transcripts of tapes recorded in Buenos Aires, marked with corrected Eichmann’s handwriting.

But Mr Eichmann insists that the transcript distorts his words. Israel’s Supreme Court did not accept them as evidence, other than handwritten notes, and Mr Eichmann challenged the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, to produce the original tapes, believing they were well hidden.

In his account of the trial, “Justice in Jerusalem,” Mr. Hausner recounts how he managed to get hold of the tapes until the last day of Mr. Eichmann’s cross-examination, noting, “He was. It’s hard to deny your own voice. “

Mr. Hausner wrote that he was offered the tapes for $20,000, a large sum at the time, and that he was prepared to approve the expenditure “considering their historical importance.” But the unidentified seller attached a condition that they not be taken to Israel until after the trial, Mr. Hausner said.

The tapes were made by Willem Sassen, a Dutch journalist and Nazi propagandist during World War II. As part of a group of Nazi defectors in Buenos Aires, he and Mr. Eichmann embarked on a recording project with the aim of publishing a book after Mr. Eichmann’s death. Members of the group meet for hours each week at Mr. Sassen’s home, where they drink and smoke together.

And Mr. Eichmann talked and talked.

After Mr. Eichmann was captured by the Israelis, Mr. Sassen sold the transcript to Life magazine, which published a brief two-part excerpt. Mr. Hausner described that version as “estheticized”.

After Mr. Eichmann’s execution in 1962, the original tapes were sold to a European publisher and eventually acquired by a company that wished to remain anonymous and deposited the tapes in the federal archives. Germany in Koblenz, with instructions that they should be used. for academic research only.

Bettina Stangneth, a German philosopher and historian, based in part on her 2011 tape “Eichmann Before Jerusalem”. More than two decades ago, German authorities released only a few minutes of the audio to the public, “to prove it exists,” said Mr. Mozer.

Mr. Sitt, the producer of the new documentary, made a film for Israeli television about Mr. Hausner 20 years ago. The idea of ​​getting the Eichmann tapes has bothered him ever since, he said. Like the director, Mr. Mozer, he is the Israeli grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“I am not afraid of memory, I am afraid of forgetting,” Mr. Sitt said of the Holocaust, adding that he wanted to “provide a tool to breathe life into memory” as the generation of survivors fades away. .

He approached Mr. Mozer after watching his 2016 documentary “Ben-Gurion, The End,” which revolved around a long-lost taped interview with Israel’s founding prime minister.

German authorities and the tape’s owner gave the filmmakers free access to 15 hours of leftover audio. (Mr. Sassen recorded about 70 hours, but he re-recorded many of the expensive videos after transcribing them.) Mr. Mozer said that the owners of the tapes and archives eventually agreed to allow the recordings. filmmakers visit, trusting that they will treat the material respectfully and responsibly.

The project has grown into a nearly $2 million Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer co-production; Sipur, an Israeli company formerly known as Tadmor Entertainment; and Kan 11, Israel’s public broadcaster.

A 108-minute version premiered as the opening film at the Docaviv film festival in Tel Aviv this spring. A 180-minute television version was broadcast for three episodes in Israel in June. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is looking for partners to license and broadcast the series around the world.

Mr. Sassen’s living room conversations are interspersed with archival footage and interviews with surviving trial participants. The archival footage has been colored because, the filmmakers say, young people think of the black-and-white footage as unrealistic, as if it were from another planet.

Professor Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, says she heard Eichmann’s trial “from morning to night” on the radio as a 12th grader.

“Israeli society as a whole listened – the taxi drivers listened, it was a national experience,” she said.

Professor Porat says that the last major Holocaust-related event in Israel was probably the trial of John Demjanjuk in the late 1980s and he later successfully appealed it to the Supreme Court of Israel.

“Every few decades you have a different type of Israeli society that listens,” she notes. “The youth of today is not what it was decades ago.”

The documentary also examines the interests of Israeli and German leaders at a time when cooperation is developing, and how they may have influenced the court proceedings.

It asserted that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s prime minister at the time, preferred the tapes not to be heard because of the embarrassing details that could emerge regarding a former Nazi working in the prime minister’s office. Germany, and because of the split of Rudolf Kastner, a Hungarian Jew who helped many Jews get to safety but was also accused of collaborating with Mr. Eichmann.

Listening to the tapes now, Mr. Eichmann’s clear confessions are startling.

“It is a difficult thing I am telling you,” Mr. Eichmann said in the recording, “and I know I will be judged for it. But I can’t tell you otherwise. It’s true. Why should I deny it? “

“Nothing bothers me more,” he added, “than someone who then denies the things he did.”

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