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Claus Mueller


Claus Mueller is filmfestivals.com  Senior New York Correspondent

He is based in New York where he covers the festival scene, professor at Hunter University, accredited member of the Foreign Press Center,  U.S. Department of State NY.


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About Executing Eichmann, Florence Jammot, USA, 2015, documentary [Icarus Films, New York/ovid.tv platform]

For David Ben Gurion the Eichmann trial had a crucial importance educating a generation of young Israelis and immigrants from the Middle East who fifteen years after the Holocaust had no direct exposure  or experience  with the Nazi crimes.   Given a voice to the victims of the holocaust  would establish a firm relation to the Jewish past and suffering and create a new Jewish man, an Israeli  who would never again submit to  oppression. Shaping a  collective memory of past  victimization as enabled par excellence by the Eichmann trial would serve as a backbone for fighting actual and perceived enemies and their actions.  Yet David  Ben-Gurion had an ambivalent perspective and also articulated that he would be more at ease if Eichmann would pass before his execution or if the trial could be held in a different  country.  The governing parties of Germany in the early 60’s had no interest in holding the trial there with the notable exception of Hessen’s  state Attorney General Fritz Bauer who had identified Eichmann’s location for Israel and was adamant about prosecuting him in Germany as well as other Nazis criminals including Hans Globke who was working for Chancellor Adenauer.

 Martin Buber,  a group of  intellectuals as well as some death  camp survivors expressed their opposition to the trial and death sentence for Eichmann since the proceedings posed some fundamental moral questions and issues about the Jewish and Israeli identity. For Martin Buber traumatic memories reflected in the Eichmann trial were part of but not the core of the Jewish  cultural and spiritual identity. As Jammot also shows there were other critical voices of  Eichmann’s criminal trial. Most testimonies covered matters  with which Eichmann was not directly connected. The procedures were taken over by the state and restricted by political considerations,  monopolizing the quest for revenge. The defense was carried out by German lawyers who did not speak Hebrew nor had any clear understanding of the Israeli legal system . They could not present witnesses testifying for the defense and operated under limiting circumstances.  Several observers  also suggested by  that killing Eichmann, though most accepted the guilty verdict, could not serve as a  possible revenge for the murder of six million Jews  and millions of others who perished under Nazi rule. For Buber and the few supporting him the essence of Judaism  was defined by Jewish culture and spirituality and  memories of the past as well as solidarity with all victims of oppression. . For him becoming part of the family of nations was essential  for Israel but not  its rise of a state  that evolved into a prosecuting nation waging armed conflicts with  actual and suspected adversaries.  In that context he was opposed until the end of his life to the colonization of Palestinian lands  and suggested  as he had argued in preceding decades  the  creation of a confederation of two nations, the Jewish and a Palestinian one or a confederation  that included other Arab countries. He was skeptical about the creation of an Israeli state guided by political Zionism because the Jewish humanism and  spiritual immersion  Martin  Buber embraced  conflicted with the pragmatic application of secular policies. His reservation about political Zionism paralleled  his view of “organized religion which covered  for the faithful the face of God”  as he told me in Jerusalem in December 1961.

On May  29, 1962  a petition was delivered  to President  Yitzhak Ben-Zevi  by  Yehuda Bakon an Auschwitz survivor requesting that Eichmann’s death verdict be commuted, a statement signed by survivors and distinguished intellectuals like Hanna Arendt , Hugo Bergmann, Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem, Yehuda Bakon  and others.  It raised issue like the  status of  Jewish values and  of the Israeli state.  The petition was denied  though Martin Buber had an emergency  meeting with David Ben-Gurion to discuss the petition. When  Ben-Gurion presented it to his cabinet there was little sympathy for it with Golda Meir expressing  strong opposition to any change of Eichmann’s verdict.

Florence Jammot’s documentary is a  superbly balanced  presentation of the divergent perspectives about the Eichmann trial and execution. What elucidates the context of the trial further are the efforts by the German government under  Chancellor Konrad Adenauer  to influence  the Eichmann trial through  an agreement with Israel two months after the  Eichmann trial started. Florence Jammot did not cover that aspect of the trial, possibly because it is very difficult and costly to  access relevant official  documents under Israel’s freedom of information law.  German  authorities  agreed to provide Israel with  240 million deutschmarks for arms. In exchange Israel  apparently   consented to restrict the Holocaust trial to  the case of Adolf Eichmann  thus avoiding  public identification and incrimination of  high-ranking Nazis still working in the sixties for  the German government  and  corporations.  Adenauer had promised Ben-Gurion   before Eichmann’ arrest this  military assistance because of Israel’s economic strains and need for arms.  But his office stonewalled the release of the funds  until after the sentencing of Eichmann. On  June 2, 1961 a meeting in Adenauer’s  chancellery office was held  organized by Adenauer’s Chief of Staff  Hans Globke with high-ranking German and Israeli participants, the German Foreign intelligence service,  BND,  as well as its  Israeli counterpart the Mossad.  The agreement was finalized in a realpolitik fashion at the meeting though all participants knew that Globke had pursued his  career as a committed high ranking Nazi until the very end of the Third Reich  and joined afterwards in  1949 the German government becoming Adenauer’s secretary of state charged with running the German secret services like the BND and retired in 1963.  He was the author of the  infamous  1934  legal commentaries of the Nuremberg Race Laws used by judges to justify severe punishments including execution  for violating the laws by committing Rassenschande [disgracing the race]. As reported in a 2011 investigation by the German SPIEGEL magazine,  during the trial only information  pertinent  to Eichmann could be introduced and  consultation by a German intelligence agent about the closing argument were held  with  the attorney general Gideon Hausner and the chief prosecutor Dr. Bach. The request by the defense to solicit testimony from Globke was denied  by the court and Ben-Gurion vetoed inclusion in the trial of a 40 page commentary Eichmann had written in jail responding to a book about Globke.*    Adenauer expressed to Ben-Gurion his appreciation for the superb execution of the trial and provided final authorization of the military aid in  August 1962.

*Klaus Wiegrefe, DER SPIEGEL,  April 15, 2011  The Holocaust in the Dock : West Germany’s Efforts to Influence the Eichmann Trial

 

Claus Mueller,  filmexchange@gmail.com, New York

 

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