By Edward Eichel
Early In 2015 the BBC released The Eichmann Show, a movie about the filming of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi in charge of Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish problem”—the holocaust. The producers of The Eichmann Show posted on the Internet my drawings done at the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961. They stated, “These remarkable drawings which underscore the power of the historic trial, have seen Eichel etch his way into history.”
How did I come to attend the Eichmann trial? In following media coverage of the trial, I was disturbed by confusion about the character of Eichmann. I left Paris where I had been living at the time. I went to Jerusalem to sketch at the trial. Eichmann did not look to me like a bureaucrat just following orders, as suggested by the Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt—an example of “the banality of evil.” I believed that I could capture what couldn’t be put into words. What began as a moment of inspiration became a calling, and then a bit of an obsession—a sense of destiny.
How was I permitted to do drawings at the Eichmann Trial? When I tried to enter the courtroom, two officers stopped me and said I couldn’t do drawings in the courtroom. A booming voice stunned the guards. “Eddie, what do you need?!” It was Dov Karmi, the leading architect in Israel. The police asked Karmi, “You know him?” Karmi replied, “He is my relative!” In less than a few seconds, the officers gave me a pass. I later learned that the Israelis had made a ruling that only victims of the holocaust were permitted to draw in the courtroom. Hence, the officers had to make an exception for me.
I had met Dov Karmi when I spent a year in Israel, on a travelling fellowship from the School of the Chicago Art Institute. He was very taken with my art and would have done anything for me. He was unaware that I had returned to Israel from Paris to attend the Eichmann trial. His presence at the trial seemed like a bit of divine intervention. Haim Gouri, the Israeli reporter covering the trial, saw my drawings and had them published in his book The Glass Cage.
In 2011, I met an Israeli who attended an art exhibition of my artwork in a New York City gallery. When he saw a copy of one of my sketches from the Eichmann trial, he said, “I was of the generation that never learned about the holocaust—until the Eichmann trial…..Israelis are familiar with one particular photo of Eichmann—but that photo didn’t get what you caught.” I went home and did an Internet search on “Adolf Eichmann” and learned that it was the 50th Anniversary of the trial. At that time the Dallas Holocaust Museum made an exhibition of my original drawings from the trial.