An exhibit opening in the German capital on Tuesday examines the role Adolf Eichmann's 1961 trial in Israel played in shaping modern understanding of the Holocaust and World War II, giving survivors an unprecedented chance to tell their stories on a public stage.
"Facing Justice Adolf Eichmann on Trial," showing at the Topography of Terror documentation center
in downtown Berlin, draws heavily on the hundreds of hours of now-iconic film footage of Eichmann sitting calmly inside a bulletproof glass booth as he listened to the testimonies of those who survived his efforts to eradicate them.
Andreas Nachama, director of the Topography of Terror, called the trial a milestone in the process of re-examining Germany's World War II history, coming on the heels of the 1950s, when neither the victims nor the ex-Nazis spoke of the suffering they had borne or inflicted.
"The trial that took place in Israel broke this silence," Nachama said.
Eichmann, a top deputy of Adolf Hitler, became known as the "architect of the Holocaust" for his role in coordinating the Nazi genocide policy. After the war, he escaped to Argentina. In May 1960, Israeli Mossad agents nabbed him there and brought him to trial in Jerusalem.
Eight screens in the exhibit highlight excerpts of the footage, from selected witness testimony to Eichmann's own statements.
Eichmann regularly consulted with his attorney about his case and fought doggedly to the end, according to the creators of the exhibit. He rarely denied facts the prosecution put forward, but testified that he had always acted as a subordinate and therefore had no personal responsibility for what had happened.
"It is sensational that the complete trial was filmed, allowing these images of the victims telling their stories and some breaking down while so doing to be received around the world," said Uwe Neumaerker, who heads the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which contributed to the exhibit.
On May 17, the infamous booth where Eichmann sat is to travel to Berlin from Israel, where it is on permanent display, to be part of the exhibit, which also includes written documents and photographs showing Eichmann's life leading up to 1961. On a wall opposite, newspaper and magazine articles from across the globe reflect how the world followed the trial.
"For the first time, survivors were heard and given an international stage," Neumaerker said.
Eichmann was found guilty on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people. He was hanged the following year at an Israeli prison.
Gabriel Bach, an 84-year-old who served as deputy prosecutor in the case, said that he has traveled the globe to discuss the trial.
"Interest in the trial grows every year," said Bach.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.