Reporters recall covering Eichmann trial 50 years later

Journalist Noah Kliger remembers, "the trial explained to the Israeli public not only what happened in Europe but that it happened."

young eichmann 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
young eichmann 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Eichmann trial, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, changed Israel and the world, Yediot Aharonot journalist Noah Kliger said Tuesday, during a special symposium marking International Holocaust Day.
Kliger, who lived through the Holocaust and was imprisoned at Auschwitz, said that the trial explained to the Israeli public not only what happened in Europe but that it happened because there were those who did not believe it.
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“In fact, many survivors had stopped talking about the Holocaust altogether because no one believed them,” he continued.
“The trial proved that we had not made these things up, as if it were possible to make such things up.”
Kliger and two other wellknown figures, author Haim Guri and retired judge Gavriel Strasman, all of whom covered the four-month long trial, recalled the experience from their particular vantage point at the symposium. Guri covered the story for LaMerhav and Strasman for Ma’ariv.
“The Eichmann trial was highly significant for the nation,” Guri said. “It was a formative event in Israel’s development.”
He said that after the trial, he went to talk to school children about the Holocaust. In one classroom of 13- and 14-yearold students, one girl asked her teacher, “If what he says really happened, why didn’t the IDF intervene?” Guri said he was ready for the assignment of covering the trial because, as a member of the Palmach, he had been sent to Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia after the war and met with many survivors.
“The meeting with these people changed my life,” he said.
“So, I was prepared for the trial.”
For Guri, the most powerful element in the trial was listening to the witnesses who testified about their experiences. Once they started talking, he ignored everything else, including Eichmann, sitting in his glass box.
“The witnesses and their stories had enormous power and I was shaken up by them,” he said. “I was aware that an event was taking place here that would remain in the nation’s memory for many generations to come.”
Kliger said that he faced one advantage and one disadvantage in covering the trial.
“The advantage was that I knew the story from a first source, myself,” he said. “The disadvantage stemmed from the same reason. Nothing could surprise me. Like Haim said, the witnesses were shocking, but I had been there.”
He said he understood “why the Sabras, that is, those born in the Land of Israel, the strong, the brave and the proud, could not understand how such a thing could have happened. I understood them, although I wasn’t very happy about it.”
But the trial changed all that, he added.
Strasman recalled the trials and tribulations of being a reporter at the trial. Because of the trial’s importance, Strasman’s editors decided that the paper must contain a story about it each day. The hearings began at 8:30 a.m. and on Fridays, the newspaper also came out at 8:30 a.m. Strasman somehow had to come up with a fresh story for the morning edition.
One day, he collared the first witness who was due to testify that day and asked him to tell him what he intended to say in court. Fifty years later, Strasman then read out the beginning of that article from an original copy of the newspaper.