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The Eichmann trial


Adolf Eichmann is captured
Uri Avnery Social activist
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After a few years, Kastner had been somewhat forgotten. It was in the mid-1950s, we're coming to the end of the 1950s. One day, there was a dramatic announcement from Ben-Gurion: 'We have caught Eichmann and he is in Israel!' A sensation worldwide. And for Ben-Gurion this was the performance of his life. Eichmann was imprisoned and interrogated by a police officer named [Avner] Less, who happened to be the brother of a very good friend of mine. And Eichmann – if I may engage in some 'popular psychoanalysis' against which my wife cautions me – I think that Eichmann was miserable in Argentina. He had been responsible for the fate of millions of people, and there he was sitting somewhere going by the name of Klemens [sic] or something like that. A minor German refugee in Argentina. Hiding. In hiding. And I think that when Israeli agents captured him and brought him to Israel, he suddenly felt important again. And I think he was quite happy with the trial. I believe so. Anyway Less, who was probably a very capable interrogator, said: 'Sit down and write the story in your own language'. Eichmann dictated or wrote a sort of notebook, yeah, thick, with the story of his life and his deeds. A fascinating document that was given to me to read, and I wonder where it is now? This was all before the trial. Then during the trial, there was testimony, so it did not seem to matter what he had written. It was a fascinating document written by a fairly small man from a rather low-level family in Austria. He presented himself as knowledgeable. He had come once to Israel and they did not let him get off the ship in Haifa. He had a way of presenting himself as if he was very knowledgeable about Jewish affairs.  So the SS appointed him as head of the Jewish Department. All quite by chance. Altogether he was a negligible individual who did not know anything at all about Judaism. A small man who suddenly found himself at such a crucial junction in the lives of so many people.

אחרי כמה שנים, קסטנר כבר קצת נשכח. זה היה באמצע שנות ה-50', אנחנו מגיעים לסוף שנות ה-50’. יום אחד ההודעה הדרמטית של בן גוריון: "לכדנו את אייכמן והוא נמצא במדינת ישראל!" סנסציה עולמית. ובשביל בן גוריון זה היה ההצגה של חייו. אייכמן ישב בכלא ונחקר על ידי קצין משטרה בשם לֶס, שהיה במקרה אח של חבר מאוד טוב שלי. ואייכמן, אם אני אעסוק קצת בפסיכולוגיה בגרוש כפי שאשתי הייתה מזהירה אותי, אני חושב שאייכמן היה אומלל בארגנטינה. הנה הוא היה מושל על גורל של מיליונים ושם הוא יושב באיזה שם, קְלֶמֵנְס, או משהו. גרמני קטן, פליט בארגנטינה. מתחבא. מסתתר. ואני חושב כשהסוכנים הישראליים תפסו אותו והביאו אותו לישראל, הוא הרגיש פתאום שוב חשוב. ואני חושב שהוא היה די מאושר במשפט הזה. נדמה לי. על כל פנים לס, שהיה כנראה חוקר מאוד מוכשר, אמר לו: "שב וכתוב בלשון שלך את הסיפור”. ואייכמן הכתיב, או כתב, חוברת כזאת, בעובי כזה, את תולדות חייו ומעשיו. מסמך מרתק, שנתנו לי אותו לקרוא ואני תמה איפה הוא היום נמצא. זה היה הכל לפני המשפט אחר כך במשפט באו העדויות, אז זה כאילו לא היה חשוב מה שהוא כתב. זה היה מסמך מרתק של אדם די קטן ממשפחה די משכבה נמוכה באוסטריה שהגיע די במקרה. הוא הציג את עצמו כמבין. הוא הרי בא פעם לארץ ולא נתנו לו לרדת מהאונייה, בחיפה. היה לו כישרון להציג את עצמו כאילו הוא המבין הגדול בעניינים יהודיים. אז באס.אס. מינו אותו לראש המחלקה היהודית. הכל במקרה. בסך הכל איש קטן, שביהדות לא ידע שום דבר בכלל. איש קטן שפתאום מצא את עצמו בצומת גורלית כזאת לגבי חיים של כל כך הרבה אנשים.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Argentina, Israel, David Ben-Gurion, Otto Adolf Eichmann, Avner Werner Less, Rezső Kasztner, Rudolf Israel Kastner

Duration: 3 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017