The Eichmann trial: Towards a jurisprudence of eyewitness testimony of atrocities

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For many years, the Eichmann Judgment has been overshadowed by the Nuremberg proceedings, considered as the more important precedent for international criminal law. In this article, I question this understanding by positioning the Eichmann trial at the head of the series of international criminal trials, which have become more familiar over the past two decades. The main part of this article addresses the role of witnesses in light of the framework of 'jurisprudence of atrocity'. It departs from previous literature, which has sharply distinguished the legal from the historical or didactic role of testimony given by victims during the Eichmann trial. In contrast, adopting a framework based on collective crimes, this article investigates the changing role of the victim as witness and thereby illuminates such distinctive crimes, which are characterized by mass murder and the separationçboth physical and psychological ç of the victimizer from his victims. The District Court of Jerusalem in the Eichmann case granted witnesses this new role by juxtaposing the dry Nazi documents discussing effective methods and numbers with horrifying stories conveyed by victims and survivors. In this manner, the encounter that could not have taken place during actual events was recreated in the courtroom.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermqt075
Pages (from-to)27-57
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of International Criminal Justice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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