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Attorney-General of Israel vs. Eichmann

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Attorney General v. Adolf Eichmann
Court

District Court of Jerusalem, Israel

Case number

Criminal Case No. 40/61

Decision title

Judgment

Decision date

11 December 1961


Parties

Attorney General of the
Government of Israel



Adolf Eichmann

Other names



Eichmann Case

Categories

Crimes against humanity,
Genocide, War crimes

Keywords

crimes against humanity,
deportation, extermination,
genocide, persecution, pillage,
war crimes

Links



Judgment

Other countries involved



Argentina

The trial commenced on 11 April 1961 with the indictment
charging Eichmann with 15 counts of crimes against the
Jewish people, crimes against humanity, war crimes and
membership in an organisation declared criminal by the
International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg 15 years earlier.
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Related developments
Eichmann appealed the decision of the District Court. The
Supreme Court dismissed his appeal on 29 May 1962.
Eichmann was executed on 31 May 1962.
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Summary
The crimes perpetrated by the Nazis during Hitler’s reign
against Jewish citizens were some of the worst recorded in
history. Although accurate figures may never be known, it is
estimated that some 6 million Jewish individuals died – men,
women, and children from all over Europe. They were deported
from their homes in large freight trains in appalling conditions,
others starved or froze to death, others still were taken away to
concentration camps where the fit were forced to perform
manual labour whilst the weak were shot to death or later,
gassed to death in their thousands.
The Accused, Adolf Eichmann, was an Austrian by birth who
volunteered to work for the Security Service (SD) in Berlin. He
rose through the ranks and eventually occupied the position of
Head of Section (Referant) for Jewish Affairs charged with all
matters related to the implementation of the Final Solution to
the Jewish Question. In this capacity, he oversaw the transport
and deportation of Jewish persons, set up and personally ran
an operations centre in Hungary in order to implement the
Final Solution there, organised the transfer of money from
evacuated Jews to the State and was responsible for the
administration of the camps at Terezin and Bergen-Belsen.
He was captured by Israeli Security Forces in Argentina and
handed over to the District Court of Jerusalem to stand trial for
war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes against the
Jewish people. He was convicted of all 15 counts and
sentenced to death. He was unsuccessful in contesting the
jurisdiction of the Court or defending his actions by relying on
superior orders.
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Procedural history
In May 1960, the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, abducted
Eichmann from his hiding place in Argentina and transferred
him to Jerusalem to face an Israeli court.

Legally relevant facts
Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Accused was a
member of the Austrian SS and later volunteered for a position
with the Head Office of the Security Service (SD) in Berlin
(para. 59). When the SD merged with the State Secret Police
(Gestapo) to form the Head Office for Reich Security (RSHA),
the Accused occupied the role of Special Officer of Zionist
Affairs (para. 61). He was transferred to Vienna in 1938 to
administer the Central Office for the Emigration of Austrian
Jews (para. 64). His success was such that approximately
150,000 Austrian Jews were forced to emigrate and he was
appointed head of the new Reich Central Office for Jewish
Emigration in October 1939 (para. 65).
From the outbreak of the War to mid-1941, the Accused
devised and carried out the mass deportation of Jewish
persons from his role as the Special Referent for Emigration
and Evacuation within the RSHA (paras. 71-75) and explored
the possibility of setting up a slave Jewish state in Madagascar
(para. 76).
In early 1942, the Accused was appointed the Referant of the
RSHA in matters connected to the Final Solution (para. 88). In
implementing the Final Solution, the Accused received
information as to the number of persons to be expelled (para.
90), organised the transfer of money from evacuated Jews for
the disposal of the SS (para. 91), and oversaw the handling of
the transport of Jews (para. 93), not only in the Reich but also
in other countries (para. 98). In particular, he headed the
Eichmann Special Operations Unit in Hungary and did his
utmost to carry out the Final Solution (para. 111). These
Transport Jews» were taken to concentration camps and those
who were unfit for hard labour were exterminated immediately
(para. 145).
In autumn 1942, a cover up effort was begun as bodies in
mass graves were burned in an effort to hide the slaughter
(para. 148). The concentration camps were evacuated (para.
149) – the Accused in particular was responsible for all
administrative matters connected with the Terezin Ghetto
(para. 152) and the camp at Bergen-Belsen (para. 153).
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Core legal questions


Does the District Court of Jerusalem have jurisdiction
to try the case in light of the fact that Eichmann is a foreign
national and crimes were committed on foreign territory?



In the affirmative, is jurisdiction negated by the
abduction of the Accused from a foreign country?



Is obeying superior orders a defence excluding
criminal responsibility?

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Specific legal rules and provisions



Section 19 of the Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936.
Sections 1(a)(1),(2),(3), 1(b) and 8 of the the Nazis
and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law.

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Court's holding and analysis
The Court’s jurisdiction is founded upon it by the Nazis and
Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law 5710-1950. This law
does not violate the principles of international law (para. 10).
Israel’s “right to punish” is founded on two elements. First, the
universal character of the crimes in question, which are grave
offences against the law of nations itself and, in the absence of
an international court, grant jurisdiction to any domestic court
(para. 12). Second, the specific character of the crimes, which
was the extermination of the Jewish people, provides the
necessary linking point between the Accused and the newlyfounded State of Israel, a State established and recognised as
the State of the Jews (para. 34). The crimes committed by the
Accused concern the vital interests of the State, thus it has a
right to punish the Accused pursuant to the protective principle
(para. 35).
This jurisdiction is not negated by the manner in which the
Accused was brought before the Court. It is an established rule
of law that a person standing trial for an offence against the
laws of a State may not oppose his being tried by reason of the
illegality of his arrest or the means by which he was brought to
the jurisdiction of the court (para. 41). This rule applies equally
in cases where the accused is relying on violations of
international, rather than domestic, law (para. 47). Such a
violation of international law constitutes an international tort,
which may be “cured” by waiver. In the present instance, the
joint decision of the Governments of Argentina and Israel of 3
August 1960 “cured” the international tort committed by Israel
when it entered Argentinian territory to abduct the Accused
(para. 50).
Having examined the command structure in place at the SS
and the scope of the Accused’s authority, the Court concluded
that the latter acted in accordance with general directives from
his superiors but he retained wide powers of discretion (para.
180). Under Section 8 of the Punishment Law, the defence of
superior orders (contained in Section 19(b) of the Criminal
Code Ordinance of 1936) is not available in case of offences
enumerated by the afore-mentioned Law but may be taken into
account as a factor at sentencing (para. 218).
The Accused was convicted on all fifteen counts and
sentenced to death (para. 244).

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Further analysis









S. Liskofsky, 'The Eichmann Case', American Jewish
Yearbook, 1961;
P. Rassinier, 'The Eichmann Trial or the Incorrigible
Victors', Institute for Historical Review, 2002;
D. Lasok, 'The Eichmann Trial', The International and
Comparative Law Quarterly, 1962, Vol. 11, pp. 355-374;
A. Eban, 'The Eichmann Trial In Retrospect', The
Reporter, 21 June 1962;
H. Gluzman, 'On Universal Jurisdiction – Birth, Life
and a Near-Death Experience?', Law and Globalisation,
2009, Paper no. 2009/08;
G. Scholem, 'On Sentencing Eichmann to
Death', Journal of International Criminal Justice, 2006, Vol.
4, pp. 859-861;
K.
Jaspers,
'Who
Should
Have
Tried
Eichmann?', Journal of International Criminal Justice,
2006, Vol. 4, pp. 853-858;
'The Eichmann Trial Fifty Years On', German History,
2011.

Instruments cited



Israel, Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936.
Israel, 1950
Nazis
and
Nazi
Collaborators
(Punishment) Law, Sefer Ha-Chukkim No. 57 of 5710, p.
281; LSI vol. IV, p. 154, 5710-1950.

Related cases


Supreme Court of Israel, Attorney General Against
Adolf Eichmann, Judgment, 29 May 1962.

Additional materials




‘The Eichmann Trial: Fifty Years After, A Behind the
Scenes View of the Arrest and Trial of Adolf
Eichmann’, Israel StateArchives;
‘Eichmann Trial’, United States Holocaust Memorial
Museum;
‘1962: Israel Finds Eichmann Guilty’, History Central.

Social media links



‘The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Timeline’;
A.J.B., ‘Universal Jurisdiction and the Eichmann and
Pinochet Trials’, Respondeat, 9 February, 2010.

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