Fifty Years after the Eichmann Trial in Jerusalem. An evening about the lasting impact of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, organized by the Peace Palace Library

Date and location

Tuesday 11 October, 2011, at 17.30-19.30 (lecture starts at 18.00)
Location: Peace Palace Library, Historic Reading Room

Schedule and speakers

17:30 Reception in the Library’s Reading Room
18:00 Remarks by Dr. Ruth Bettina Birn

Dr. Birn is historian. Between 1991 and 2005, Dr. Birn was chief historian of the war crimes and crimes against humanity division in the Canadian Justice department. She will speak mainly about issues relating to the use of evidence and the historical background to the trial. Dr. Birn studied the Eichmann archives, and found out that the Israeli prosecutor was ill-prepared, that no thorough research of the archives took place, and that he had a poor understanding of the structure of the Nazi regime.

18:30 Remarks by Professor Thomas Mertens
Mertens is Professor of Legal Philosophy at Nijmegen University, and Professor of Human Rights and Human Duties at the Philosophy Faculty of Leiden University. His research focuses on the relationship between morality and the law, also in so-called wicked legal systems, such as Nazism. He works on questions of war and peace and seeks to determine our global responsibilities in this regard. He recently published a book on the Eichmann trial and the controversial reporting by Hannah Arendt.

18:45 Remarks by Professor Harmen van der Wilt
Van der Wilt is a Professor of International Criminal Law at the Amsterdam School of Law, University of Amsterdam. Professor Van der Wilt specializes inter alia in the impact of international criminal law on domestic criminal procedures in mass atrocity cases. His most recent publications include a book on ‘System Criminality in International Law’ (editor, together with André Nollkaemper). He will compare the Eichmann trial with standards and the practice of modern day prosecutions.

19:00 Q&A
In 1961, Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962), a former SS-Obersturmbannführer, was accused, before a court in Jerusalem, of helping Hitler in his plan to exterminate the Jews in the Second World War. One year earlier, Eichmann was kidnapped by the Israeli secret service in Argentina and brought to Israel. He was found guilty on all charges and subsequently hanged in a prison near Tel Aviv in June 1962. The trial was omnipresent in Israeli and global politics, media and academic discussions. Especially due to the work of Hannah Ahrendt, Eichmann became known as the embodiment of the banality of evil, the Schreibtischmörderer who slavishly and uncritically carried out orders from the top of the bureaucracy. Documents recently disclosed and studied by Dr. Birn shed some interesting new light on the case. They give the impression that the Israeli prosecutor in the Eichmann case was ill-prepared, and that his investigation had significant gaps. The relevant archives were not evaluated properly, at least not with a focus on Eichmann's activities. In addition, the prosecution did not have sound knowledge of the organizational structure of the Nazi ‘murder machine,’ of which Eichmann was a part.


If you wish to attend the lectures, we kindly ask you to register in advance. To enter the premises of the Peace Palace, you are required to bring a valid ID (passport, driving license), and show this to the security at the gate of the Palace. They will show you the way to the Library. To register and for more information, please send an email to Mr. Otto Spijkers of the Peace Palace Library at

About the Peace Palace Library Lecture Series

The Peace Palace Library Lecture Series is a lecture series on issues of general international law. Each year, approximately four lectures will be organized. All lectures are held in the Peace Palace Library. The evening starts with a small reception in the library’s new reading room. The lecture itself takes place in the historical reading room. There will be plenty of time for questions afterwards. The Peace Palace Library Lecture Series are open to everyone. They are especially interesting for researchers and students, as well as diplomats, international civil servants, journalists and other professionals working in the field of public international law. More about the Library Lecture Series »

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