Monday 8 June 2015

Martha Gellhorn's "Eichmann and the Private Conscience"

"I followed the war wherever I could reach it." (Martha Gellhorn)

Martha Gellhorn worked for 60 years as a writer and journalist.  She worked for FERA (Federal Emergency Relief Adminstration) to document the lives of the hungry and the homeless during the Great Depression, alongside photographer Dorothea Lange.  During her coverage of the Spanish Civil War, she met author Ernest Hemingway, whom she married.  However, her thirst for a story kept her away from the home front and the marriage collapsed after five years.

During the Second World War, Martha went to great lengths to get a good story:  she rode with British pilots on night raids over Germany.  She was one of the first journalists to report on Dachau once it was liberated by the Allies.  On D-Day, she was the only woman to land on the beaches of Normandy, stowing away on a hospital ship and masquerading as a medic, complete with a stretcher.  As Martha explained:  "I followed the war wherever I could reach it."

In 1961, the war correspondent covered the trail of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann.  Her article "Eichmann and the Private Conscience", was published in the Atlantic the following year (  Here is an excerpt of Martha's vivid prose:  

"Everyone could not have his special talents:  many people were needed to smash a baby's head against the pavement before the mother's eyes, to urge a sick old man to rest and then to shoot him in the back of the head; there was endless work for willing hands.  How many more like these exist everywhere?  What produced them -- all sane, all inhuman?"

For more information, read The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn (

The world watches as Adolf Eichmann, the face of evil, is put on trail for the death of millions of Jews during the Second World War courtesy

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