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May 17, 1985 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-05-17

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Friday, May 17, 1985

Speaking For
Six Million

Gideon Hausner is known
world-wide as Israel's chief
prosecutor at the Eichmann
trial, a trial which has
dominated Hausner's many


Special to. The Jewish News

'Twenty-five years ago, on
I May 23, 1960, Israeli Prime
Minister David Ben Gurion
stood up in the Knesset to
make one of the most dramatic
announcements in the state's
short history. The message
was as brief as it was stunning:
Adolf Eichmann, the SS colo-
nel responsible for implement-
ing the Final Solution, had
been found in Argentina and
brought to Israel to stand trial
for his part in the murder of
six million Jews.
Even before the Israeli pub-
lic had fully absorbed the news
of Eichmann's capture by Is-
raeli intelligence agents in
Buenos Aires and his subse-
quent abduction to Israel, a 46-
year old Jerusalem lawyer,
appointed Attorney General
just three weeks earlier, had
begun the arduous task of pre-
paring the prosecution's case
for one of the most sensational
and controversial trials of the
For the next two years, Gid-
eon Hausner — the chief state
prosecutor — would be totally
immersed in the Eichmann
trials. To him fell the task of
speaking for those who could
not speak for themselves; of
seeking some justice for the
millions who had been
"I knew a great deal about
Eichmann before the trial be-
gan," recalls Hausner, now 71.
"We spent months studying
him, collecting every existing

piece of paper that came from
his office, that mentioned his
name and bore his signature.
"I read the books he read
and examined the notes he jot-
ted in the margins. I studied
his private life, the way in
which he escaped after the
war. I had him take every
known psychological test to
determine whether or not he
was sane.
"But I did not meet him
before the trial, although I was
curious to do so. For while we
were getting to try Eichmann,
the whole world was trying
Israel for having kidnapped
him in Argentina in the first
place. I was afraid that if I
visited him before the trial, it
would give rise to rumors that
we were attempting to in-
fluence him or to talk him into
some sort of bargain."
Hausner came face to face
with his adversary for the first
time when the trial opened in
an austere Jerusalem court-
room. And his first reaction
was one of surprise. "I had
come to the conclusion that
Eichmann, 16 years after the
war, was still a pure, unalloyed
product of Nazism. Yet here
was the devil himself, and he
looked quite ordinary. He was
rather drab, like a teller in a
bank, someone you meet on a
bus. Out of uniform, he looked
very ordinary and frightened.
"Still, he was Eichmann, a
resourceful and clever oppo-
nent even in court. Only rare-

ly did his self-control falter. He
was determined not to show
his true personality. But some-
times, under cross-examina-
tion, I would look at him and
his eyes would flare with a bot-
tomless hatred.
"I hated him, of course,
knowing what he had done.
But I also felt amazement:
How could a human being
come into the world and be-
come an Eichmann? It puzzled
me to this day."
For Hausner, the trial itself
had no particular peaks; rath-
er, it was a continuous stream
of searing, numbing horror sto-
ries by survivors. But the evi-
dence of one • woman — Rifka
Yoselewka, who is now a house-
wife in Ramat Gan, near Tel
Aviv — stands out in Haus-
ner's memory as a symbol of
the destruction and renewal of
Jewish life.
One autumn day in 1941,
Hausner recalls her telling the
court, pandemonium broke out
in the little town of Zadorod-
ski, where she and her family
lived in eastern Poland. "The
JeWish quarter was surround-
ed by SS men on bicycles,
motorbikes and armored cars.
There were terrible shouts and
all the Jews were ordered out
of their homes. Rifka Yosel-
ewska, went with her six-year-
old daughter, Malka," says
"The Jews were concentrat-
ed in the local synagogue for a
whole day without food or

water before they were led out
of the village to a huge ditch,
where they were told to
"Then the shooting began,
the SS men firing point-blank
into the back of each victim's
head and kicking the bodies
into the open pit. Mrs. Yos-
elewska saw her father and
mother shot. Then the Ger-
mans approached her grand-
mother, who was holding two

Eichmann's trial
served many
purposes. Not the
least, says
Hausner, was to
give Israeli youth a
true picture of
what had

little girls in her arms, com-
forting them and pointing to
heaven. In a moment, all three
were shot, and her sister after
"Meanwhile," continues
Hausner, "her little daughter,
Malka, began to cry, 'Mummy,
why are you waiting? They are
killing us, let's run away.' But
there was nowhere to go and
she stood, paralyzed with hor-
ror. Malka was snatched from
her arms and shot. Then Mrs.
Yoselewska herself was shot.
"Hours later, she regained
consciousness. The German

who shot her missed his aim
and merely grazed her head.
She found herself in the ditch,
now a huge mass grave, amid
the bodies, some still alive,
writhing and struggling and
drawing her down.
"Somehow, with a strength
she cannot understand, and
with a desire to live that is
inexplicable, she elbowed her-
self, choking and bleeding, to
the top of the pit, which had
been covered with a thin lay-
er of soil.
"She sat by the grave for
three days waiting for death to
come. People passing by thought
she was a ghost or a mad-
woman and ran away. Then a
peasant came, threw a blanket
over her and led her away into
a forest. She was lucky to be
found by someone who was not
prepared to give up a Jew to
the Germans for a loaf of bread
and half a kilo of sugar.
"In the forest, she joined up
with the partisans, who took
care of her wounds. She fought
alongside them, and after the
war she came to Israel, remar-
ried and had more children.
"When I asked her to come
and give evidence," says Haus-
ner, "she tried to excuse her-
self. She has a heart condition
and was afraid of the tension.
She said to me, 'When I tell
the story to my children, they
think I am exaggerating. So ,
how will I convince the judg-
es?' But she came and told her

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