Sheldon Kirshner

June Zero: Adolf Eichmann and Israelis

The abduction and show trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann transfixed Israel in the early 1960s. Captured by a Mossad team in Argentina, where he had fled after World War II, he was one of the major figures in the implementation of the Holocaust.

Israelis, particularly survivors of the Shoah, were caught up by the spectacle of a Nazi facing retribution in the Jewish state.

Jake Paltrow’s 105-minute feature film, “June Zero,” which opens in theaters in Toronto on July 5, looks back at this period through the eyes of three Israelis in 1961: David (Noam Ovadia), the precocious 13-year old son of a newly-arrived Libyan immigrant, Haim (Yoav Levi), a Moroccan-born Border Police captain who guards Eichmann in prison, and Micha (Tom Hagy), a Polish Holocaust survivor, policeman and Eichmann’s interrogator.

All three actors turn in fine performances.

David is probably the most intriguing character in this emotionally intense movie. Although he has lived in Israel for only about a year, he already speaks fluent Hebrew, unlike his father Yaki (Yaakov Zada Daniel), and is comfortable with his new identity as an Israeli.

Intelligent and resourceful, David challenges his Ashkenazic history teacher’s jaundiced interpretation of the Holocaust. The teacher claims that Jews from Arab lands know little or nothing about it, but David begs to differ, retorting that Libyan Jews were persecuted and interned by the fascist Italian authorities during the war. This comes as a surprise to the teacher.

Thanks to Yaki, David lands a part-time job in Shlomo Zebeco’s factory. Under a government contract, Zebeco (Tzahi Grad), a fervent right-wing nationalist who fought in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948, is building a special oven to incinerate Eichmann following his execution by hanging. The design is based on a Topf & Sons blueprint of a crematorium that was found in the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in Poland.

A hard and bitter man, Zebeco recognizes David’s talents. “I’ll make a man out of you yet,” he promises. Zebeco, however, remains unaware that David is also a thief.

Haim, Zebeco’s friend, is obviously torn by his job. He is duty bound to ensure that Eichmann is properly cared for before his date with the hangman. But he despises the bland Nazi who dispatched hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths. At one point, he is tempted to order a barber giving Eichmann a haircut to kill him with his scissor.

Being true to his oath to be discreet, Haim refuses to cooperate with an enterprising reporter who seeks inside information about Eichmann.

Micha, visiting Poland for the first time since his immigration to Israel, is still affected by his horrific experiences during the Holocaust. Ada (Joy Rieger), a Jewish Agency official based in Poland, tries to convince him that the Polish government is exploiting the Holocaust for its own ulterior ends. Unconvinced by her argument, Micha contends that the Holocaust filled him with an abiding purpose – the creation of a state for the Jewish people in their ancestral homeland.

David, Haim and Micha achieve satisfaction after Eichmann’s execution on June 1, 1962. David assists in the construction of the oven. Haim, having deposited Eichmann’s corpse in a wheelbarrow, brushes his ashes into a dustpan. Micha drops his remains into the Mediterranean Sea outside of Israel’s territorial waters.

All three have participated in a singular event and have been touched by the hand of history.

“June Zero” skillfully distills the essence of this compelling and unforgettable story.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,