Given the chance, Holocaust survivor Hannah Lewis would have climbed over the glass box that housed Adolf Eichmann during his trial for war crimes and shot him herself, writes Fiona Leckerman.
The 78-year-old then changes her mind. “I might have to put him in the gas chambers to show him how effective they were” she says, conceding “a bullet is too easy a way out for such a man.”
Hannah, from St John’s Wood, was eight when she and her mother were walked to the Adampol work camp in Poland.
“We were rounded up and went to the work camps where gradually everyone disappeared.”
This is where she spent the last two years of the war and witnessed her mother’s murder at the hands of the Nazis. Watching the BBC film The Eichmann Show this week brought back a blaze of recollections from when she watched the trial live in 1961, reliving the same emotions as she did then. “I kept remembering him in the glass box. I will never forget feeling this absolute fury when I saw this wimp of a man sitting completely impassive. I was livid that this man, this non entity, had had the power of life and death.”
She thought the film was great. And while guest-editing this week’s Jewish News, other than meeting her fellow survivors, it was the Eichmann trial that she says “was the one thing that really got me”. She adds: “I was so furious and shocked that he could be so totally detached, show not one glimmer of remorse. I often think of what was lost. He was responsible for it all, including all of my family.”
Hannah talks about the Friday night dinner when her good friend Topel asked to bring a guest. “He arrived with this man who didn’t see well and starts telling us this story; this is the man who captured Eichmann.”
She describes this moment as “coming full circle”.
Lewis explains that she bears the weight of responsibility to retell what happened and does so by providing talks throughout the country. However, she remarks sadly: “The real tragedy is there are other Eichmanns in other uniforms with other agendas doing the same thing.”