Fac­ing the Glass Booth

Haim Gouri
  • Review
By – September 5, 2012

Four decades have passed since Adolph Eich­mann stood in a glass enclosed booth before an Israeli war crimes tri­bunal in Jerusalem. Fac­ing the Glass Booth is a superb trans­la­tion from the orig­i­nal Hebrew account by Haim Gouri con­tain­ing the sen­si­tive and pro­found insights and obser­va­tions of a journalist/​poet who attend­ed the dra­ma unfold­ing in Jerusalem in April, 1961 as a reporter for the news­pa­per Lamer­hav.

Gouri is an award-win­ning Israeli poet, as well as a respect­ed jour­nal­ist and nov­el­ist. Per­haps only a poet could iso­late and extract the lin­guis­tic and psy­cho­log­i­cal sub­tleties and dra­mat­ic nuances of unend­ing and numb­ing­ly detailed tri­al tes­ti­mo­ny and con­struct a pas­sion­ate and riv­et­ing chron­i­cle of a court­room pro­ceed­ing that suc­cess­ful­ly artic­u­lat­ed the Zion­ist ide­al and the great­est moral cat­a­clysm in the his­to­ry of mankind. 

Fac­ing the Glass Booth first appeared in 1962 in Israel. Unique in the inun­dat­ed genre of Holo­caust writ­ing, Gouri’s reportage – cúm – lit­er­ary work pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing account of unimag­in­able evil as well as an extra­or­di­nary epic of sur­vival that lays bare the phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al scars of the vic­tims and the painful self reproach of many survivors. 

In an After­word to the Eng­lish edi­tion, Haim Gouri notes: I was present at the tri­al from begin­ning to end as a jour­nal­ist. Many of those who took part in it— wit­ness­es, inves­ti­ga­tors, judges, and jour­nal­ists from Israel and around the world— are no longer with us. Thou­sands of Holo­caust sur­vivors have since passed on along with them. Biog­ra­phy yields to his­to­ry. The Eich­mann Tri­al itself, which once caused such a storm, has now been con­signed to the archives, to tape record­ings, pho­tographs, and doc­u­men­tary films.” 

It is inevitably true that biog­ra­phy yields to his­to­ry.” But the world has a moral oblig­a­tion to pro­tect the voic­es of those who can no longer speak for them­selves from becom­ing mute tran­scripts in dust-shroud­ed car­tons con­signed to the dark­ened ware­house of col­lec­tive mem­o­ry. In 1961, Haim Gouri’s court­room report­ing allowed the Israeli pub­lic and the world, for that mat­ter, to face the hor­ror of the Shoah in all its man­i­fold aspects. In 2004, it is the trans­la­tion of Gouri’s reportage that reminds us of the nadir of civilization.

Stephen H. Gar­rin is a past man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World and a past assis­tant to the direc­tor of the Jew­ish Book Council.

Discussion Questions