This drama, broadcast by the BBC, tells an important story in an understated but powerful way. When Adolf Eichmann was captured by the Israeli’s and put on trial in 1961, there was a move to televise the trial so that the world could learn what had taken place in the Holocaust. Not everyone was keen on the idea but Milton Fruchtman was convinced that the world had to hear (and see) the court proceedings. He hired Leo Hurwitz to direct, a move that was brave and bold as Hurwitz had been blacklisted in the USA in the 50s for his strong left-wing views.
The judges had to agree to the plan to televise the plan and did so because the producer and director had the idea to hide the cameras in false walls and behind screens.
Throughout this drama, real footage from the actual trial is blended with the colour of the dramatised film so that the viewer also feels present at the making of the programme.
I had no idea that Jewish refugees from Europe at the end of the war felt like outsiders in the land that became Israel. The message many of them received was that they were an embarrassment for not having fought back. For some, relating their experiences in court was the first time they had told of the horrific crimes perpetrated against them and their families.
The drama shows the effect on the crew of capturing this testimony and in an exchange that should not have surprised, the television company complains that the trial is being beaten in ratings wars by events in Cuba and in space.
The motivating factor for Milton Fruchtman and Leo Hurwitz was holding fascism to account. Telling the truth and reminding people about what happened is an effective way of making sure it does not happen again. In the most moving scene in the film Anthony LaPaglia as Hurwitz listens while his hotelier, played by Rebecca Front, says to him that nobody believed her when she told them what happened before she came to Israel. As a result she, and others like her, stopped talking about it. “They are listening now!” she says.
‘The Eichmann Show’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?