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.