Broadcasting the Eichmann Trial Radio and the Public

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perspective taken here nevertheless leads to some new and. potentially important revelations on the process and its perception. in Israel But perhaps more importantly this perspective captures. something of the public climate surrounding the trial a climate. which seems to have been more diverse than some historical. accounts tend to portray,From the People s Hall to the People s Ears. Preparations for the trial began shortly after Prime Minister Ben. Gurion s announcement at the Knesset of Eichmann s kidnap on. May 23 1960 Teddy Kollek the Prime Minister s bureau chief. was in charge of supervising all administrative aspects of the trial. including public relations 2 From the outset special attention was. given to the press and media coverage David Landor the director. of the Government Press Office outlined the key points as early as. two weeks after the announcement of Eichmann s capture Among. the issues raised by Landor allocating seats for journalists. photographers and cameramen in the courtroom setting up. television transmission to an outside venue arranging for radio. transmission and recording by Kol Yisrael and preparing on site. press rooms and press facilities Initial suggestions also included. publishing a book on the trial initiating a production of a. documentary film and even speculating on future collaboration. with movie producers 3, While being the main broadcasting medium at the time Kol. Yisrael had a rather marginal role in the consultations that took. place before the trial Radio representatives were not invited to. attend the meetings of an interministerial committee responsible. for the publicity of the trial chaired by Landor I read in the. newspaper about the composition of the special committee. handling the Eichmann affair wrote Zvi Zinder Director General of. Kol Yisrael to Landor According to Zinder since no. arrangements had been made to appear before the committee his. memo was to specify the demands of the Israeli radio service 4. The two main tasks as designated by Zinder were recording the. trial from beginning to end and providing updates for Kol Yisrael s. newscasts These tasks were ultimately to be achieved though. not without some serious debates, Requests to record the proceedings were initially ignored by. Major General Yekutiel Keren Israel Police commissioner who. was appointed as chief administrator of the trial Hanoch Givton. Zinder s successor as Director General of Kol Yisrael followed his. predecessor in claiming permission to record the trial this time. stressing the significance of a complete tape recording not merely. for the benefit of broadcasting but mainly for safekeeping in the. State s archive or in other national institute adding that It would. be an irretrievable loss if for whatever reason such voice document. would not be preserved by the State and the Jewish people 5. These requests had remained largely unanswered and it took. Teddy Kollek s intervention to bring Keren to finally concede 6 This. was following the disconcerting realization that Capital Cities. Broadcasting Corporation a New York based film company hired. by the Israeli government was not obliged by contract to capture. the entire trial on film and therefore could not provide a complete. record of the proceedings 7 Kol Yisrael s mandate to record the. Eichmann trial was thus more of a last minute solution than. forethought, Kol Yisrael s three main tasks during the trial were complete. and continuous recording of the proceedings daily reports and live. broadcasts for the Israeli audience and service to foreign. correspondents assigned to cover the trial These tasks presented. an unprecedented technical challenge entailing the construction of. a small radio station inside Beit Ha am complete with specially. purchased equipment The undertaking was described in detail in. Kol Yisrael s weekly magazine Radio published regularly in the. early 1960 s A feature article entitled The Trial in the Ears of the. World which appeared two weeks before the trial commenced. unfolds the technical operation behind it For those involved in the. operation the aim was to allow everyone who wishes to be. present in the trial of the Jewish people against one of its greatest. deadly foes to participate in all but physical presence in what was. repeatedly described as one of the greatest trials in our. generation 8 The article which clearly bespeaks Kol Yisrael s. agenda offers some revealing details on the way the trial was. perceived by Israeli radio executives, For one thing it declares that technical preparations for the.
trial had begun a few days after the announcement of Eichmann s. capture and were carried out and completed as planned quite an. achievement given the general ineptitude demonstrated by other. agencies dealing with the publicity of the trial 9 It is possible that. the courtroom would tend to remind us of the hall s original. purpose cinema and artistic performance comments the. reporter but the eye immediately encounters the court s podium. and the staff s stern faces would instantly thwart any possible. mistake by a passerby 10 Kol Yisrael s technical preparations. further manifest the precariousness surrounding a legal procedure. taking place in a theater house and exposed to worldwide press. and media By special permission of the Minister of Justice eight. microphones were installed in the courtroom one for each judge. prosecution defense witness stand interpreter and accused and. were wired simultaneously to the loudspeaker system to. earphones inside the hall and to Kol Yisrael s transmission booth. Adjacent to the transmission booth and overlooking the entire hall. was the control booth from which a technician activated each. speaker s microphone Fig 2 3 The nerve center was located. on the bottom floor of the building where five mini studios were set. to serve 32 foreign stations and networks working continuously 24. hours a day with the capacity of relaying up to eight overseas. transmissions an hour Fig 4 In the prose of Radio s reporter. Kol Yisrael s technicians were entrusted with a mission exceeding. the technical challenge And here in these tiny studios and. cramped rooms they will have to mix and broadcast and cable the. message of the trial to all corners of the world 11. Figure 2 View of the courtroom from the control booth courtesy of. Kol Yisrael archive, Figures 3 and 4 Equipment in the control booth left and in the. nerve center right, While permission had been given to the setting up of a. microphone system and to the complete recording of the. proceedings the Ministry of Justice stipulated that no tape. recorders were to be allowed inside the courtroom 12 Such. restriction would have undoubtedly impaired the work of many. correspondents wanting to incorporate voice inserts in their. reports The problem was solved by the construction of an. elaborate system of distribution specifically designed to facilitate. recording while respecting the legal stipulation The system. featured an innovative apparatus recording taps which. enabled reporters to plug in listen and record the procedures. without interfering with the formal conduct of the trial Fifty units of. recording taps were installed in a working area at the rear of the. hall from which correspondents could follow the proceedings in. the translation language of their choice Hebrew German English. or French while recording the original signal from the hall The. recording taps system supplied a technical solution to a dilemma. that accompanied the trial from the very beginning wanting to. expose the proceedings to the media and at the same time to. protect the proceedings from the media In this case however a. technological solution was enough to resolve the contradiction. between accessibility and formality, Figure 5 Closed circle television inside Ha am at the center a. recording tap outlet copyright Israel State Archive. As the title of Radio s feature article suggests the belief of. radio executives was that the whole world was listening The joint. effort of technicians producers and reporters was to fulfill the wish. of thousands and of millions to be something like living conduits. virtually without mediation to the voices and the sounds to the. facts of the trial 13 Accordingly Kol Yisrael s mission was to serve. not only Israeli listeners but a worldwide audience by relaying the. event as authentically and faithfully as possible Nakdimon Rogel. the head of the Operations Department in Kol Yisrael is quoted as. commenting on the role of modern media in the making of world. The development of communication media has canceled. notions of time and space with respect to reporting events of. international importance The summit meeting the last. Olympics in Rome and the trial of the American pilot Francis. Powers in Moscow have reached millions of readers radio. listeners and television viewers as if they had taken place in. front of their very eyes and not thousands of kilometers away. from their homes 14, Unlike others dealing with the publicity of the trial Rogel seemed. to have gasped its significance precisely as an event that takes. place on the air as much as in a Jerusalem venue or in other. words as a media event 15 Consequently the fidelity of the. broadcast was not only a matter of professional prestige but also a. matter of political implication In line with the court s decision. media coverage was not deemed inappropriate but rather as. serving important values of doing justice 16 From this perspective. broadcasting was not seen as invalidating the legal procedure On. the contrary in the eyes of Kol Yisrael s executives radio. coverage served to ascertain that what was taking place in Beit. Ha am was a fair and just legal procedure a bona fide trial Some. critics Hannah Arendt for one would later invoke the exposure of. the proceeding to the media in arguing that this court case was in. fact a show trial For those responsible for the broadcasting of the. trial however such exposure meant precisely the opposite that is. corroborating rather than jeopardizing the integrity of the. proceedings,Pre trial Broadcasts,Weekend Special May 28 1960.
It was through the radio that the Israeli public first heard about the. capture of Eichmann A special broadcast of Ben Gurion s. announcement to the Knesset on May 23 1960 sent hordes to the. streets in search of the evening newspapers A special hour long. program was aired on the Saturday following the dramatic. announcement The broadcast began with a replay of Ben. Gurion s short statement and the turmoil that followed at the. parliament The excitement was prolonged by the announcer who. then stated that during the whole week one could not engage in. any conversation at home in the street in a coffee house without. the mention of Eichmann s name or without speculating on how. he was caught and on the punishment he expects The program. continued with reactions of three ordinary people interviewed on. the street The first stating he had lost his entire family during. Holocaust in Poland hopes that this great tormenter who had a. hand in this receives his punishment as soon as possible. Another interviewee explaining that while not undergoing the. suffering of the European Jewry himself but when I heard this for. the first time in the radio announcer s voice a shiver ran though. me The third interviewee remaining unidentified but his accent. is clearly of an East European decent declares that he is pleased. that Eichmann would see his end coming to him by the hands of. the people whose end he himself envisioned,The program then turns to Yadid Halevi the judge. appointed to hand out the warrant for Eichmann s arrest Halevi. confesses that when he was told that Eichmann was in Israeli. hands he was so shaken that he had to drink a cup of coffee to. calm himself down He then instructed the accompanying police. officer to inform Eichmann that he was facing a judge and that the. police have an arrest warrant against him After the police officer. related this to Eichmann in German Eichmann says the judge. he saluted like the Nazis used to salute clicking his shoes. Following the details of Eichmann s arrest the narrative turns. to Arthur Asher Ben Nathan who had been involved in collecting. evidence of the destruction of European Jewry for the pre state. security services Ben Nathan admits that despite the fact that. Eichmann had been active in a number of countries his name. remained relatively unknown He then relates the difficulties in. ascertaining Eichmann s whereabouts after the war which took a. turning point following the capture of Dieter Wisliceny which. divulged important information and led to the discovery of much. needed pictures of Eichmann This was critical since according to. Ben Asher Eichmann had avoided being photographed and had. made efforts to destroy existing pictures He also recounts a plan. to kidnap Eichmann s wife and children whose location had been. known and thereby force Eichmann to surrender himself The. plan was ultimately rejected by the Hagana authorities. The presenter moves to an interview with Tuvia Friedman a. survivor and Ben Nathan s assistant who devoted the last 15 year. to collecting evidences whether in speech or writing pertaining to. Yet the story of radio during the trial is not simply of professional accomplishment making it of interest only to those invested in the profession Rather the untold story of radio in the Eichmann trial encompasses some of the most fundamental challenges and dilemmas that accompanied this unprecedented legal event Looking into the preparations and the transmissions before during and after

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