When reading “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and “Death and the Maiden,” the trials that are conducted to bring about truth and justice are carried out by those in power; Ben-Gurion and Israel in “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and Paulina in “Death and the Maiden.” Ben-Gurion ordered the capture of Eichmann only have to him put on trial in a land he had never inhabited and Paulina held Roberto hostage by possessing a gun and keeping him tied up. The obvious imbalance of power in both ‘trials’ allows the distortion of truth and undermines the validity of whatever ‘justice’ is administered. This leads me to the question, “Who has the ability to define and administer justice?” And the most pertinent response to that would be those who are in power, but that leads me to then ask, “Is that really justice?”
While there are plenty of disparities between the two trials; the settings, audiences, and circumstances regarding the truth on whether or not the accused actually committed the alleged crimes being the primary ones, the biased presuppositions of those conducting the trials, the ones in power, predetermined the ruling of guilty for both Eichmann and Roberto. Even though Eichmann did in fact have a role in the Third Reich and there in uncertainty regarding Roberto’s role in Paulina’s torture, both of their prosecutors had the ability to impose any ruling they chose on the defendant. The one’s in power had the ability to create whatever version of the truth necessary to reach a guilty verdict and is what happened in both instances. The Israeli court accused Eichmann of anything they could to find him guilty, such as the minuscule (when compared to the entirety of the Holocaust) and almost certainty false allegation that he killed a man with his own hands, even though his role in the atrocities of the Nazi Regime were already confirmed. Eichmann’s role in the Holocaust was not going to be dismissed even if the degree to which he served in it was limited and inconsequential. The Israeli government was so hell-bent on his guilt and the outcome of the trial, they were willing to fabricate any evidence they could to see it through. Paulina admitted that the only way in which she would not kill Roberto was if he confessed, and when asked about the possibility of his innocence, she responded, “If he’s innocent? Then he’s really screwed.” Paulina, like the Israeli government, had the capability to determine the verdict in favor of her biases because of the power granted to her through the gun and ability to threaten life.
The way power undermines justice is evident in both “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and “Death and the Maiden.” Another instance of it is alluded to in “Death and the Maiden” in the Investigating Commission’s inability to prosecute the crimes of the past government because of the amnesty granted to them through the lasting support of the Army. This is what causes Paulina to search for her own justice, but in doing so, she becomes the very one who, like her government and the Israeli government in “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” is able to twist truth through power and determine what is justice.
One thought on “The Power to Orchestrate Justice”
Awesome comparative exploration here. I am wondering whether the difficulty of both of these texts stems also, however, from our awareness that a trial freed from power dynamics would be impossible (or at least *also* unjust) under the circumstances. As well as some broader questions about whether justice for survivors of the Holocaust or Pinochet’s regime would *ever* be possible.