Justice in Jerusalem
by Gideon Hausner
Harper & Row, 528 pp., $12.50
Here is the latest contribution, five years after the event in Jerusalem, to the extensive literature provoked by the trial of Adolf Eichmann. It is the prosecutor’s own story and since it was the prosecution’s handling of the case which gave rise to much of the controversy about the trial, this book will undoubtedly add more fuel to an already overheated debate. To be sure, the author disclaims any intention of answering his most severe critic. Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, he tells us, “has been refuted by many reviewers, most recently in a comprehensive point-by-point rebuttal in Dr. Jacob Robinson’s And the Crooked Shall Be Made Straight…Consequently I refrain from dealing with her book at all in these pages.” But this assertion is hardly the whole truth. In fact, Hausner himself seems to share the reaction of those who doubted the efficacy of Robinson’s rebuttal, for he spends much effort in a new attempt to counter Miss Arendt’s main theses.
But no more than Dr. Robinson does the former Attorney General of Israel succeed in burying the ghost. Indeed at times his book has the unintended effect of strengthening his critics’ case. For example, many observers claimed that the trial had an obvious political intent; some, though not Hannah Arendt, had even used expressions like “legal circus” and “show trial” to describe the often highly dramatized proceedings. Hausner frankly admits that much of the prosecution’s evidence was introduced not in order to strengthen an already overwhelming case against the accused but in order to accomplish political or educational purposes: “In order merely to secure a conviction, it was obviously enough to let the archives speak; a fraction of them would have sufficed to get Eichmann sentenced ten times over. But I knew we needed more than a conviction; we needed a living record of a gigantic human and national disaster.” The youth of Isreal, who were asking why there had not been more resistance, had to learn the full truth in order to achieve “understanding and reconciliation with the past.” The world at large had to be reminded, “with as much detail as possible,” of this gigantic human tragedy. Hence the calling of numerous surviving witnesses who described their harrowing experiences at length, whether these related to the crimes charged to Eichmann or not. Hausner recalls how the judges grew increasingly impatient with the prosecution’s insistence on painting the “general picture” and how they repeatedly admonished the Attorney General to adhere to the framework of the indictment. The Chief Prosecutor then could not understand why the court showed so little sympathy for his educational designs and even today he is still resentful of the judges for failing to agree with him on “the point of the trial: the covering of the whole Jewish disaster.”
HAUSNER HAS NOW WRITTEN a voluminous book on the subject. Some two hundred pages of Justice in Jerusalem are taken up with a description of the …