JUSTICE FOR THE HOLOCAUST: EICHMANN’S JERUSALEM TRIAL
Keith D. Nunes*
The culmination of international jurisdiction against German war criminals was, paradoxically, not the Nuremberg trials or the subsequent United States (US) trials of 1946-49.1 Instead, it was Israel’s assertion of national and universal jurisdiction over SS leader Adolf Eichmann, kidnapped by Israeli agents from Argentina and forced to stand trial in the newly established Jewish homeland, which gave rise to an expanded view of international authority over genocide. The Israeli courts, asserting jurisdiction over Eichmann for crimes committed in Europe even before the establishment of the State of Israel, enhanced (and, indeed, created) a new form of jurisdiction over perpetrators of crimes against humanity. As the sixtieth anniversary of the Eichmann trial approaches, and many countries including the US consider the legality of forced rendition, this article addresses the legal developments that arose out of the Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann.2
For Hannah Arendt, the political scientist and then-correspondent for The New Yorker, Eichmann was a clerk in a shop rather than the greatest mass murderer in history. He was, for her, "the deÂ´classeÂ´ son of a solid middle class family" with "the personality of a common mail-man" who was certified by the psychologists who examined him as normalâ"more normal," said one, "than I am after having examined him."3 Arendt does seem to challenge Eichmann’s claim that it was from reading Kant that he had derived his notion of obedience in implementing the final solution at Hitler’s order. Critics question, however, Arendt’s portrayal of Eichmann as a passive recipient of orders who took no personal initiative to destroy the Jews.