Gabriel Bach and the escape from Germany
This is the story of Gabriel Bach, who was born the son of a Jewish family on March 13, 1927 in Halberstadt. His family moved to Berlin when, two months after his birth, the Hirsch-Kupfer and Messingwerke, a copper and brass production company for which Gabriel’s father worked as Chief Executive Officer, relocated their headquarters to the capital. Gabriel’s father, Victor Bach, was one of Germany’s leading Zionists. Naturally then, his son attended Theodor-Herzl-School. The school’s address in 1933: Adolf-Hitler-Platz.
Life under the Nazi regime became increasingly unbearable for the Bachs, and eventually Victor decided he would dare the attempt to flee with his family. Only two weeks before the November Pogrom in 1938, the Bachs successfully escaped to the Netherlands. They could, however, not stay there for very long. In 1940 the Nazi invasion was imminent. Briefly before German troops occupied the Netherlands, the Bachs managed to flee yet again – this time to Palestine; a decision which saved their lives and allowed them to live unharmed through the Nazi terror regime.
Adolf Eichmann, the Holocaust’s principal organizer
Until the very end, Eichmann made every effort to carry out the so-called Final Solution, the extermination of all Jews by the Nazis. When the military defeat against the allies became probable in the course of events in 1944, an undaunted Eichmann announced: “It is imperative to win the war against the Jews; no matter if all else is lost.”
But what driving forces were behind this man’s rationalizations? What were his motives? How did he evolve into a cold-blooded bureaucrat poised to send millions of Jews to death? Excruciating questions like these would come to later haunt the young Gabriel Bach during Eichmann’s trial.
Criminal Case 40/61: Gabriel Bach and the Trial of Eichmann
As officer and legal adviser, Gabriel Bach was leading the police authorities’ investigation against Eichmann in 1960. Taking quarters in the prison building that Eichmann was confined to, Bach was his primary contact person. During the trial’s eight months, he fulfilled his duties as assistant to the chief prosecutor, Gideon Hausner.
But Bach played yet another role in this critical trial. The fact that he was a German Jew – a “Jecke” as they are sometimes condescendingly called in Israel – added a new dimension to the prosecution’s case. A Jew of German ancestry who had only narrowly escaped the Holocaust with his family came to represent the jurisdiction of the newly founded Jewish State of Israel; even, as some would argue, its general capability to act. To Adolf Eichmann, this circumstance must have made the defeat of his meticulously planned Final Solution tangible in a dramatic way.
“The most important case in my life”
On December 11, 1961, Adolf Eichmann was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death by hanging. Eichmann was executed in the night of May 31, 1962; his ashes were scattered over the Mediterranean Sea.
It was the most important case Gabriel Bach ever brought to court and he was aware of its meaning: to document the Holocaust for future generations so comprehensively and definitely as to never allow room for its denial or for doubts about Israel’s right to exist.