Nazi tapes provide a chilling sequel to the Eichmann trial

TEL AVIV — Six decades after the historic Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the Holocaust’s chief engineers, a new Israeli docum...

TEL AVIV — Six decades after the historic Jerusalem trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the Holocaust’s chief engineers, a new Israeli documentary series has delivered a dramatic coda: the boastful confessions of the Nazi war criminal, his own voice.

Hours of old tape recordings, which had been denied to Israeli prosecutors at the time of Eichmann’s trial, served as the basis for the series, titled “The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes”, which sparked keen interest in Israel when it aired. over the past month.

The tapes fell into various private hands after being made in 1957 by a Dutch Nazi sympathizer, before eventually ending up in German government archives, which in 2020 yielded the series’ Israeli co-creators – Kobi Sitt, the producer; and Yariv Mozer, the director — permission to use the recordings.

Eichmann went to the gallows insisting he was just a civil servant following orders, denying any responsibility for the crimes of which he had been found guilty. Describing itself as a small cog in the state apparatus in charge of train timetables, its alleged mediocrity gave rise to philosopher Hannah Arendt’s theory of the banality of evil.

The documentary series alternates Eichmann’s chilling words, in German, in defense of the Holocaust, with re-enactments of rallies of Nazi sympathizers in 1957 in Buenos Aires, where the recordings were made.

Exposing Eichmann’s visceral and ideological anti-Semitism, his zeal for hunting Jews, and his role in the mechanics of mass murder, the series brings the missing evidence from the trial to a mass audience for the first time.

Eichmann can be heard swatting a fly buzzing around the room and describing it as having “a Jewish nature”.

He told his interlocutors that he “did not care” whether the Jews he sent to Auschwitz lived or died. Having denied knowledge of their whereabouts during his trial, he said on tape that the order was that “Jews fit for work must be sent to work.” Jews who are not fit for work must be sent to the final solution, period,” that is, their physical destruction.

“If we had killed 10.3 million Jews, I would say with satisfaction, ‘Well, we have destroyed an enemy.’ Then we would have fulfilled our mission,” he said, referring to all Jews in Europe.

Mr. Mozer, the director, who was also the writer of the series and himself the grandson of Holocaust survivors, said: “This is evidence against Holocaust deniers and a way to see the true face of Eichmann”.

“In all modesty, through the series, younger generations will know the trial and the ideology behind the Final Solution,” he added.

The documentary was recently screened for commanders and intelligence corps officers – an indication of the prominence with which it has been viewed in Israel.

Eichmann’s trial took place in 1961 after Mossad agents kidnapped him from Argentina and took him to Israel. The shocking testimonies of survivors and all the horror of the Holocaust have been described in horrific detail for Israelis and the rest of the world.

The court had abundant documentation and testimony on which to base its conviction of Eichmann. The prosecution had also obtained more than 700 pages of transcripts of the tapes recorded in Buenos Aires, annotated with Eichmann’s handwritten corrections.

But Eichmann claimed the transcripts distorted his words. The Supreme Court of Israel did not accept them as evidence, except for the handwritten notes, and Eichmann challenged the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner, to produce the original tapes, believing that they were well hidden.

In his account of the trial, “Justice in Jerusalem,” Mr. Hausner recounted how he tried to obtain the tapes until the last day of Eichmann’s cross-examination, noting, “He could hardly have denied his own voice. .”

Mr. Hausner wrote that he had been offered the tapes for $20,000, a huge sum at the time, and that he was prepared to approve the expenses “in view of their historical significance”. But the unidentified seller put a condition that they would not be taken to Israel until after the trial, Mr. Hausner said.

The recordings were made by Willem Sassen, a Dutch journalist and Nazi SS officer and propagandist during World War II. Part of a group of Nazi fugitives in Buenos Aires, he and Eichmann embarked on the recording project with a view to publishing a book after Eichmann’s death. The band members met for hours every week at Sassen’s house, where they drank and smoked together.

And Eichmann talked and talked.

After Eichmann was captured by the Israelis, Sassen sold the transcripts to Life magazine, which published an abridged two-part excerpt. Mr Hausner described this version as “cosmetic”.

After Eichmann’s execution in 1962, the original tapes were sold to a publishing house in Europe and eventually acquired by a company which wished to remain anonymous and which deposited the tapes in the German Federal Archives in Koblenz, with instructions that they should only be used for academic research.

Bettina Stangneth, a German philosopher and historian, partially based her 2011 book “Eichmann Before Jerusalem” on the tapes. German authorities only released a few minutes of audio for public consumption more than two decades ago, “to prove it exists,” Mozer said.

Mr. Sitt, the producer of the new documentary, made a film for Israeli television about Mr. Hausner 20 years ago. The idea of ​​obtaining the Eichmann tapes had preoccupied him ever since, he said. Like the director, Mr. Mozer, he is an Israeli grandson of Holocaust survivors.

“I’m not afraid of memory, I’m afraid of forgetting,” Mr Sitt said of the Holocaust, adding that he wanted to “provide a tool to bring memory to life” so that the generation of survivors fades away. .

He approached Mr. Mozer after seeing his 2016 documentary “Ben Gurion, Epiloguewhich revolved around a long-recorded interview with Israel’s founding prime minister.

German authorities and the owner of the tapes gave the filmmakers free access to 15 hours of surviving audio. (Sassen recorded about 70 hours, but he recorded on many expensive reels after transcribing them.) Mozer said the owner of the tapes and archives eventually agreed to give the filmmakers access, believing they would process materials in a respectful and responsible manner.

The project became a nearly $2 million joint production between Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; Sipur, an Israeli company formerly known as Tadmor Entertainment; Pictures of Toluca; and Kan 11, the Israeli public broadcaster.

A 108 minute version created as the opening film of the Docaviv film festival in Tel Aviv this spring. A 180-minute television version aired in three episodes in Israel in June. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is looking for partners to license and broadcast the series worldwide.

Conversations in Sassen’s living room are intercut with archival footage and interviews with surviving trial participants. The stock footage was colorized because, according to the filmmakers, young people think black and white footage is unrealistic, as if from another planet.

Professor Dina Porat, the chief historian of Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, said she listened to the Eichmann trial “from morning till night” on the radio as a high school senior. .

“The whole of Israeli society was listening – taxi drivers were listening, it was a national experience,” she said.

Professor Porat said the last major Holocaust-related event in Israel was probably the trial of John Demjanjuk in the late 1980s and his successful appeal to the Israeli Supreme Court.

“Every few decades you have a different type of Israeli society that listens,” she noted. “The youth of today is not the same as that of previous decades.”

The documentary also examines the interests of Israeli and German leaders at a time of increasing cooperation, and how they were able to influence court proceedings.

He claims that David Ben-Gurion, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, preferred that the recordings not be heard because of embarrassing details that might emerge about a former Nazi who worked in the German Chancellor’s office, and because of the controversial case of Rudolf Kastner, a Hungarian Jew who helped many Jews to safety but was also accused of collaborating with Eichmann.

Hearing the tapes now, Eichmann’s unambiguous confession is startling.

“It’s a hard thing I tell you,” Eichmann says in the recording, “and I know I will be judged for it. But I can’t tell you otherwise. It’s the truth. Why should I deny it?

“Nothing annoys me more,” he added, “than a person who later denies the things he has done.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Nazi tapes provide a chilling sequel to the Eichmann trial
Nazi tapes provide a chilling sequel to the Eichmann trial
Newsrust - US Top News
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