Afraid that no one would believe them

President Reuven Rivlin said, “The Eichmann trial broke the conspiracy of silence.”

By
January 28, 2016 04:48
4 minute read.
Israeli police flank Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS colonel who headed the Gestapo's Jewish Section

Israeli police flank Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi SS colonel who headed the Gestapo's Jewish Section and was responsible for millions of Jews' deaths in Nazi concentration camps, as he stands trial inside a bulletproof booth in a Jerusalem court. (photo credit: REUTERS)

More than half a century after the Eichmann trial, in which he was the assistant prosecutor, retired Supreme Court justice Gabriel Bach still receives requests every month to talk about aspects of the trial to lawyers, schoolchildren and other interested parties.

Bach told this to reporters on Wednesday following a unique event at the President’s Residence attended by Auschwitz and other Holocaust survivors, reporters who covered the trial, members of the investigating and legal team, and Rafi Eitan, who headed the Mossad operation in which Adolf Eichmann, one of the organizers of the Holocaust, was kidnapped in Argentina in May 1960, spirited out of the country and brought to Israel, where he stood trial for crimes against the Jewish People and crimes against humanity.

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Also present on Wednesday were progeny of some of the participants including three generations of the family of the late attorney-general Gideon Hausner who had been the lead prosecutor at the trial held in the capital’s Beit Ha’am.

Hausner’s great-granddaughter Nina Barosh, 12, read the opening lines of his passionate address to the court in which he had said that he did not stand alone but with six million accusers who pointed their fingers at the man in the dock with the cry “J’Accuse.” For the past two years, she said, she has been talking to her peer generation about the Eichmann trial, “because it is very important to carry and pass on the torch of memory.”

Her grandmother Tami Raveh, at whose initiative the gathering was held, said she remembered the stream of Holocaust survivors who came to the Hausner home, so her father could hear their testimony first-hand. Many had been reluctant to speak, saying that no one would believe them.

Following Eichmann’s capture, she recalled, Israel was censured by the United Nations whose members demanded that Eichmann be sent back to Argentina or repatriated to Germany.

Haim Gouri, noted poet, author and journalist, and a native son of Tel Aviv who covered the Eichmann trial for the now defunct Lamerhav newspaper, said on Wednesday that his work with and about Holocaust survivors had changed his life. After participating in the bombing of British radar ships that were being used to intercept Aliya Bet ships that were carrying illegal immigrants, most of who were Holocaust survivors, Gouri was sent to Europe to help survivors emigrate.

In 1962, he published a book about the trial called Facing the Glass Booth, based on the fact that Eichmann spent the whole trial behind a glass booth. Gouri also made a powerful documentary film called The 81st Blow that was based on the true story of Michael Goldman-Gilad, or Miki as he is known, who was a survivor of several camps including Auschwitz Birkenau.

After the war he spent a year and a half in Cyprus because the British Mandate forces would not allow the ship on which he was sailing to reach the shores of what was then Palestine. Soon after the establishment of the state he settled in Tel Aviv and joined the police force.

Following Eichmann’s arrest, a special investigative unit known as Bureau O6 was set up and Goldman-Gilad was recruited into it. He also served as a personal aide to Hausner.

After the trial started, one of the witnesses, a Dr. Ya’akov Buzminsky arrived early, saw Goldman-Gilad in his police uniform and asked where he could find Hausner. Goldman-Gilad asked what he wanted, and when he explained that he had come to give testimony, the two started talking about what camps and ghettos they had been in during the war, and it transpired that Buzminsky had witnessed the young Goldman who was then a teenager, being whipped by a Nazi in the Przemysl Ghetto. Goldman had not counted the lashes, but Buzminsky had. Goldman had been whipped 81 times. The two had not seen each other since and Buzminsky was convinced that the boy had died.

Later on the witness stand, he told the story. Hausner asked him if he could see the boy anywhere in the courtroom.

Buzminsky pointed to Goldman-Gilad.

Later, during a break after Buzminsky’s testimony, Hausner asked Goldman- Gilad how could it have transpired that he would hear Goldman Gilad’s story from someone who had met up with him by chance, when Hausner and Goldman-Gilad had spent so many evenings together talking about the case and reading numerous hours of witness testimony. “Miki, why didn’t you tell me?” he asked. “Because I thought you wouldn’t believe me,” replied Goldman-Gilad.

“The Eichmann trial broke the conspiracy of silence,” President Reuven Rivlin said. The ability of young State of Israel to put its hands on the Nazi foe created a feeling of basic security for the survivors – and they began to talk, and everything changed as memories spilled out.

Later in the day, he hosted 70 Holocaust survivors who live in the Warm Home in Haifa and are cared for by the Yad Ezer LeHaver (Helping Hand to a Friend) organization that was founded in 2001 by brothers Baruch and Shimon Sabag. Among the services which the organization provides are soup kitchens and housing as well as furniture, appliance and clothing warehouses.

Rivlin praised the survivors for the contributions they have made to the building and development of the state and told them that Israel has not done enough for them. They were all entitled to live in dignity and with sufficient social welfare for their needs, he said. “This should be a No. 1 priority,” he declared.


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