New TV drama tells story of 1960s Nazi criminal Eichmann trial

A new BBC TV drama is to tell the story of the 1960s Nazi criminal trial of Adolf Eichmann, which was filmed by a TV crew and broadcast to the world.

The trial took place in Jerusalem, Israel in 1961 and lasted for four months. Each and every session was filmed by a TV crew and broadcast. The producer behind the filming was Milton Fruchtman, who at the time had to convince the Israeli authorities and even the then Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion to allow him to televise the trial.

Fruchtman and his team even built cameras behind the courtroom walls with holes for the lenses, so that they would be unobtrusive to the legal process.

In the 1960s the Holocaust was still in the process of being fully understood and the Cold War had governments around the world busy, so Fruchtman took it upon himself to do whatever he could to portray Eichmann’s crimes to the people.

Milton Fruchtman, now 88, says that the philosopher Santayana motivated him to push for the filming of the trial based on his saying that: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

Over the course of the four month trial, over 100 Holocaust survivors gave evidence against Eichmann. They described being held in dairy trucks, violence and torture, being starved and death surrounding them.

The broadcast ensured that the Holocaust became top of discussion and a renewed effort to track down and find Nazi war criminals too place.

Eichmann was, at 55, a normal looking man in suit and tie, however he was the epitome of evil. He had been responsible for the movement of Jews during Hitler’s reign. He was responsible and part of the Third Reich’s policy against Jews. He was behind the orders for Jews to first leave Germany then escalating proceedings to encourage anti-Semitism, and then on to the death camps where hundreds of thousands of Jews were murdered.

Eichmann tried to escape capture after the war, by pretending that he was dead, and then fleeing to South America. He got himself a job and new identity, but was discovered by intelligence officers seeking out Nazi war criminals, The Telegraph reports.

Eichmann did not deny his high-rank within the Third Reich, but put it to the court that he could not be held responsible for the Nazis’ policies. Eichmann was found guilty of 15 criminal charges and was hanged a year after the trial.

Fruchtman won a Peabody award for his televised broadcast of the trial.

Ian Harvey

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