Hausner’s opening statement was given over the course of three sessions on April 17 and 18, and it took several hours to deliver it. Despite Ben-Gurion’s concerns that Hausner might not rise to the occasion, the first segment of it is considered one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in Israeli history. Hausner succeeded in gripping the imagination of much of the country and placing the spotlight on Holocaust survivors, who previously had been reluctant to speak about their experiences. During Hausner’s remarks, 60% of the Israeli population age 14 and above listened to at least part of the broadcast, an astonishingly high figure. Moreover, in part because this opening had been so gripping, from then until the trial ended in August 1961, hundreds of thousands of Israelis, including large numbers of young people, were glued to their radio sets for hours every day.
As a result of the trial, Israelis’ awareness of the Holocaust became far greater, as did their respect for Holocaust survivors. The integration of Holocaust survivors into Israeli society was affected for the better and even within families, survivors who had never opened up to their own children began doing so. According to many observers, the Eichmann trial also strengthened the Jewish identity of Israelis, especially among the young.
“The history of the Jewish people is steeped in suffering and tears. “In thy blood, live!” is the imperative that has confronted this nation ever since its first appearance on the stage of history. Pharaoh in Egypt decided to “afflict them with their burdens” and to cast their sons into the river; Haman’s decree was “to destroy, to slay, and to cause them to perish;” Chmelnytsky slaughtered them in multitudes; they were butchered in Petliura’s pogroms.Yet never, down the entire bloodstained road travelled by this people, never since the first days of its nationhood, has any man arisen who succeeded in dealing it such grievous blows as did Hitler’s iniquitous regime, and Adolf Eichmann as its executive arm for the extermination of the Jewish people.”
Dr. Daniel Polisar
Daniel Polisar is co-founder and Executive Vice President of Shalem College in Jerusalem, Israel’s first liberal arts college. He previously served as President of the Shalem Center from 2002-2013 and also as its Director of Research, Academic Director, and Editor-in-Chief of its journal, Azure. From 2006 to 2009, he served as the founding chairman, within the Office of the Israeli Prime Minister, of the National Council for the Commemoration of the Legacy of Theodor Herzl. Dr. Polisar received his BA in politics from Princeton University and his PhD in government from Harvard University, where he was the recipient of Truman and Fulbright scholarships, as well as of a Mellon Fellowship. His research interests include Zionist history and thought, Israeli constitutional development, and the history and philosophy of higher education.