THE STATE OF ISRAEL VS. ADOLF EICHMANN

Hanna Yablonka, Author , trans. from the Hebrew by Ora Cummings with David Herman. Schocken $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-8052-4187-7

Israel's 1960 capture in Argentina of Adolf Eichmann, the man who made the trains to Auschwitz run on time, and his trial two years later garnered world headlines, and as Yablonska shows in this thought-provoking work, they were seminal events in Israeli history as well. As she describes it, the trial was a catharsis for an entire country attempting to emerge from the shadows of the Holocaust. (Over 60% of Israelis older than 14 listened to at least part of it on the radio.) On the surface, the decision to execute Eichmann helped Israelis create a sense of nationhood based on strength and pride, rather than on the victimhood and helplessness of those who died at the hands of the Nazis. But the trial played another, somewhat contradictory role in Israeli society. Focusing on both the trial itself, and on individual and media reactions to it, Yablonska, who teaches Jewish history at Israel's Ben-Gurion University, shows how it helped place Holocaust survivors in the center of Israeli society. Before the trial, survivors were seen as remnants of weak Diaspora Jewry. But after the execution, survivors felt more comfortable talking about what they had been through, and cultural explorations of their wartime experiences proliferated. In other words, the Israeli experience came closer to Jewish history. Much of the material here is covered with a broader sweep in Tom Segev's The Seventh Million , but this is a valuable work for those interested in the Holocaust, memory and Israeli society. 24 photos not seen by PW . (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 02/02/2004
Release date: 02/01/2004
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