Nazi commander’s 1961 televised criminal trial retold

The Eichmann Show is a new BBC drama televised as part of the British TV channel’s Holocaust season on the 70th anniversary of World War Two.

The drama tells the story of the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in 1961, which was the first criminal trial of its kind to be televised to the world.

Adolf Eichmann was said to be responsible for the Holocaust, as he was central to the development of Hitler’s policy on Jews called the ‘Final Solution’.

The BBC drama has taken actual footage from the 1960s trial showing Eichmann, and mixing that with new actors and sets in order to tell the story behind the filming of the trial.

Eichmann can be seen sitting in the dock of the Israeli court house in Jerusalem looking like a normal middle-aged man. He is bald with glass and a suit and tie, and at the time people found it hard to digest that such a normal looking man could be guilty of such charges of evil. He stood trial for 15 war crime charges, The Telegraph reports.

At the time, Israel was a relatively new nation state, and so wanted to be seen as capable of effectively putting the former Nazi on trial after its intelligence agency had found and captured him in South America. Eichmann had fled Germany after the war to South America where he changed his name and had been hiding ever since.

Only 16 years after the end of World War Two, the devastation and repercussions were still being felt around the world. The televised trial was shown every day for the duration of the almost two month trial and was watched by millions.

Milton Fruchtman was the man and producer behind the original idea to film and broadcast Eichmann’s trial. Fruchtman wanted to ensure that the crimes of the Nazis were never forgotten and saw Eichmann as a central driver of the Nazis intention to commit mass genocide on the Jewish people. During his trial Eichmann pleaded his innocence describing his actions as part of the Third Reich’s regime, and that he could do nothing to change it.

However records and testimonies show that Eichmann revelled in his work and made his career out of anti-Semitism. He is said to have commented to an undercover reporter that he would have killed more Jews had he had the chance, seeing them as the enemy.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE