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1961: Nazi war crimes trial begins

The trial has begun in Israel of the man accused of helping Hitler in his plan to exterminate the Jews.

Adolf Eichmann faces 15 charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and war crimes.

He sat in a bullet-proof glass dock flanked by two guards specially chosen because their families had not suffered directly at the hands of the Nazis.

The three judges hearing the case in Jerusalem were all refugees from the Nazi regime in Germany.

The charges were read out in Hebrew by chief judge Mr Justice Moshe Landau and translated into German for the prisoner.

It took one hour and 15 minutes to list all the details of the charges against Adolf Eichmann during which time the 55-year-old stood stiffly in the dock.

'No jurisdiction'

The first issue the court dealt with was its competence to hear the Eichmann case at all.

His lawyer, Dr Robert Servatius, argued that as the state of Israel did not exist at the time of the alleged offences it had no jurisdiction.

Dr Servatius said that his client was "free of guilt" and was being prosecuted for things he was drawn into by the Nazi state.

Whatever the judgement, many say it is remarkable the case against Adolf Eichmann has even been brought.

After the end of the Second World War he escaped from a prison camp and avoided facing the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal.

In 1950 he arrived in Argentina which was a safe haven for many Nazi war criminals.

However, last year a team of Israeli secret agents abducted him and smuggled him to Israel.

In Context
In December 1961 Adolf Eichmann was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death.

The following May he was hanged in a prison near Tel Aviv.

Eichmann's case was the highest profile Nazi trial since 1946 when 12 high-ranking Nazis were sentenced to death at Nuremberg in Germany.

Several other trials involving alleged Nazis have been held over the years in Israel, Germany and the UK.

However, in 1993 a court in Israel overturned the conviction of John Demjanjuk for being the notorious Nazi "Ivan the Terrible".

The court accepted Mr Demjanjuk, who had been stripped of his US citizenship, had been the victim of mistaken identity


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