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Otto Adolf Eichmann (March 19, 1906 – May 31, 1962), sometimes referred to as "the architect of the Holocaust", was a Nazi and SSmarker-Obersturmbannführer (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel). Because of his organizational talents and ideological reliability, he was charged by Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich with the task of facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe.

After the war, he travelled to Argentinamarker using a fraudulently obtained laissez-passer issued by the International Red Cross and lived there under a false identity working for Mercedes-Benz until 1960. He was captured by Israelimarker Mossad operatives in Argentina and tried in an Israeli court on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was convicted and hanged in 1962, being the only person to have been executed in Israel to date.

Biography

Early life

Born in Solingenmarker, Germanymarker, Adolf Eichmann was the son of a businessman and industrialist, Adolf Karl Eichmann, and Maria née Schefferling. In 1914, his family moved to Linzmarker, Austriamarker, after his mother died. During the First World War, Eichmann's father served in the Austro-Hungarian Army. At the war's conclusion, Eichmann's father returned to the family and had a business in Linz. Eichmann left high school—Realschule—without having graduated and began training to become a mechanic, which he also discontinued. In 1923 he started working in the mining company of his father, from 1925 to 1927 he worked as a salesclerk for the Oberösterreichische Elektrobau AG and then until spring 1933 Eichmann worked as district agent for the Vacuum Oil Company AG, a subsidiary of Standard Oil. In July 1933 he moved back to Germany.

Eichmann married Veronica Liebl (1909–1997) on March 21, 1935. The couple had four sons: Klaus Eichmann (b. 1936 in Berlinmarker), Horst Adolf Eichmann (b. 1940 in Viennamarker), Dieter Helmut Eichmann (b. 1942 in Praguemarker), and Ricardo Francisco Eichmann (b. 1955 in Buenos Airesmarker).

Work with the Nazi Party and the SS

On the advice of family friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Eichmann joined the Austrian branch of the NSDAP—member number 889 895—and of the Schutzstaffelmarker (SS). He enlisted on April 1, 1932, as an SS-Anwärter (Candidate). He was accepted as a full SS member that November, appointed an SS-Mann (Man), and assigned the SS number 45326.

For the next year, Eichmann was a member of the Allgemeine SSmarker and served in a mustering formation operating from Salzburgmarker. In 1933 when the Nazis came to power, Eichmann returned to Germany and submitted an application to join the active duty SS regiments. He was accepted, and in November 1933, was promoted to Scharführer (Squad Leader) and assigned to the administrative staff of the Dachau concentration campmarker.

By 1934, Eichmann requested transfer into the Sicherheitspolizeimarker (Security Police) which had, by that time, become a very powerful and feared organization. Eichmann's transfer was granted in November 1934, and he was assigned to the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienstmarker (SD) in Berlin. In 1935, Eichmann was promoted to Hauptscharführer (Head Squad Leader) and later commissioned as an SS-Untersturmführer in 1937.

In 1937, Eichmann was sent to the British Mandate of Palestine with his superior Herbert Hagen to assess the possibilities of massive Jewish emigration from Germany to Palestine. They landed in Haifamarker but could obtain only a transit visa so they went on to Cairomarker. There, they met Feival Polkes, an agent of the Haganah, who discussed with them the plans of the Zionists and tried to enlist their assistance in facilitating Jewish emigration from Europe. According to an answer Eichmann gave at his trial, he had also planned to meet Arab leaders in Palestine, but this never happened because entry to Palestine was refused by the Britishmarker authorities. The British objected against a Jewish state in Palestine, so the idea of deporting all the European Jews to Palestine was abandoned.

In 1938, Eichmann was assigned to Austria to help organize SS Security Forces in Viennamarker after the Anschluss of Austria moved into Germany. Through this effort, Eichmann was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer (1st Lieutenant) and, by the end of 1938, Eichmann had been selected by the SS leadership to form the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, charged with forcibly deporting and expelling Jews from Austria.

World War II
At the start of World War II, Eichmann had been promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and had made a name for himself with his Office for Jewish Emigration. Through this work Eichmann made several contacts in the Zionist movement, which he worked with to speed up Jewish emigration from the Third Reich.

Eichmann returned to Berlin in 1939 after the formation of the Reichssicherheitshauptamtmarker (Reich Main Security Office). In December 1939, he was assigned to head RSHA Referat IV B4, the RSHA department which dealt with Jewish affairs and evacuation. He was Heinrich "Gestapo" Müller's subordinate. In August 1940, he released his Reichssicherheitshauptamt: Madagaskar Projekt (Reich Main Security Office: Madagascar Project), a plan for forced Jewish deportation that never materialized. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer (Major) in late 1940, and less than a year later to Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel).

Reinhard Heydrich disclosed to Eichmann in autumn 1941 that all the Jews in German-controlled Europe were to be exterminated. In 1942, Heydrich ordered Eichmann to attend the Wannsee Conferencemarker as recording secretary, where Germany's anti-Semitic measures were set down into an official policy of genocide. Eichmann was given the position of Transportation Administrator of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question", which put him in charge of all the trains which would carry Jews to the death camps in the territory of occupied Polandmarker.

In 1944, he was sent to Hungarymarker after Germany had occupied that country in fear of a Sovietmarker invasion. Eichmann at first made an offer through Joel Brand (who was to act as an intermediary) to trade captive European Jews to the Western Allies in exchange for trucks and other goods (see Blood for goods). When there was no positive response to this offer, Eichmann started deporting Jews, sending 430,000 Hungarians to their deaths in the gas chambers.

By 1945, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had ordered Jewish extermination to be halted and evidence of the Final Solution to be destroyed. Eichmann was appalled by Himmler's turnabout, and continued his work in Hungary against official orders. Eichmann was also working to avoid being called up in the last ditch German military effort, since a year before he had been commissioned as a Reserve Untersturmführer in the Waffen-SS and was now being ordered to active combat duty.

Eichmann fled Hungary in 1945 as the Soviets entered, and he returned to Austria, where he met up with his old friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Kaltenbrunner, however, refused to associate with Eichmann since Eichmann's duties as an extermination administrator had left him a marked man by the Allies.

After World War II
Adolf Eichmann's Argentine passport
At the end of World War II, Eichmann was captured by the U.S. Army, who did not know that this man who presented himself as Otto Eckmann was in fact a much bigger catch. Early in 1946, he escaped from U.S. custody and hid in various parts of Germany for a few years. In 1948 he obtained a landing permit for Argentina, but did not use it immediately.

At the beginning of 1950, Eichmann went to Italymarker, where he posed as a refugee named Riccardo Klement. With the help of a Franciscan friar who had connections with Bishop Alois Hudal, who organized one of the first postwar escape routes for Axis personnel, Eichmann obtained an International Committee of the Red Cross humanitarian passport in Genevamarker and an Argentine visa. Both of these issued to "Riccardo Klement, technician." In early May 2007, this fake passport was discovered in court archives in Argentina by a student doing research on Eichmann's abduction. The passport has been handed to the Argentina Holocaust Museum in Buenos Airesmarker. He boarded a ship heading for Argentina on July 14, 1950. For the next 10 years, he worked in several odd jobs in the Buenos Aires area—from factory foreman, to junior water engineer and professional rabbit farmer. Eichmann also brought his family to Argentinamarker.

CIA inaction

In June 2006, old CIA documents about Nazis and stay-behind networks dedicated to anti-communism were released. Among the 27,000 documents was a March 1958 memo from the German BNDmarker agency to the CIA, which stated that Eichmann was reported to have lived in Argentina since 1952 using the alias "Clemens". However, the CIA took no action on this information, because Eichmann's arrest could embarrass the US and Germany by turning public attention to the former Nazis they had recruited after World War II. For example, the West Germanmarker government, headed by Konrad Adenauer, was worried about what Eichmann might say, especially about the past of Hans Globke, Adenauer's national security adviser, who had worked with Eichmann in the Jewish Affairs department and helped draft the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.

At the request of Bonnmarker (the capital of West Germany from 1949 to 1990) the CIA persuaded Life magazine to delete any reference to Globke from Eichmann's memoirs, which it had bought from his family. By the time the CIA and the BND had this information, Israel had temporarily given up looking for Eichmann in Argentina because they could not discover his alias. Neither the CIA nor the US government as a whole at that time had a policy of pursuing Nazi war criminals. In addition to protecting Eichmann and Globke, the CIA also protected Reinhard Gehlen, who recruited hundreds of former German spies for the CIA. The low key attitude toward Nazi war criminals, and more concentration on the Soviet Unionmarker even possibly allowed Eichmann to be a member of a private American golf club and travel freely without being discovered.

Capture

Throughout the 1950s, many Jews and other victims of the Holocaust dedicated themselves to finding Eichmann and other notorious Nazis. Among them was the Jewish Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. In 1954, Wiesenthal received a postcard from an associate living in Buenos Aires, saying Eichmann was in Argentina. The message read in part:

Ich sah jenes schmutzige Schwein Eichmann. ("I saw that dirty pig Eichmann.") Er wohnt in der Nähe von Buenos Aires und arbeitet für ein Wassergeschäft. ("He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company.")


With this and other information collected by Wiesenthal, Israel had solid leads about Eichmann's whereabouts. However, Isser Harel, the head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, later claimed in an unpublished manuscript that Wiesenthal "'had no role whatsoever' in Eichmann's apprehension but in fact had endangered the entire Eichmann operation and aborted the planned capture of Auschwitzmarker doctor Josef Mengele."

Also instrumental in exposing Eichmann's identity was Lothar Hermann. He was a worker of Jewish descent who fled from Germany to Argentina following his incarceration in the Dachau concentration campmarker, where Eichmann had served as an administrator. By the 1950s, Hermann had settled into life in Buenos Aires with his family. His daughter Sylvia became acquainted with Eichmann's family and romantically involved with Klaus, the eldest Eichmann's son. Klaus made boastful remarks about his father's life as a Nazi and direct responsibility for the Holocaust. Hermann knew he had struck gold in 1957 after reading a newspaper report about German war criminals—of whom Eichmann was one.

Soon after, he sent Sylvia to the Eichmanns' home on a fact-finding mission. She was met at the door by Eichmann himself. She asked for Klaus, and, after learning that he was not home, asked whether she was speaking to his father. Eichmann confirmed this fact. Hermann soon began a correspondence with Fritz Bauer, chief prosecutor for the West German state of Hessemarker, and provided details about Eichmann's person and life. He contacted Israeli officials, who worked closely with Hermann over the next several years to learn about Eichmann and to formulate a plan to capture him.

In 1959, Mossad was informed that Eichmann was in Buenos Aires under the name Ricardo Klement (Clement) and began an effort to locate his exact whereabouts. Through relentless surveillance, it was concluded that Ricardo Klement was, in fact, Adolf Eichmann. The Israeli government then approved an operation to capture Eichmann and bring him to Jerusalemmarker for trial as a war criminal. The Mossad agents continued their surveillance of Eichmann through the first months of 1960 until it was judged safe to take him down, even watching as he delivered flowers to his wife on their 25th wedding anniversary on March 21.

Eichmann was captured by a team of Mossad and Shabak agents in a suburb of Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960, as part of a covert operation. The Mossad agents had arrived in Buenos Aires in April 1960 after Eichmann's identity was confirmed. After observing Eichmann for an extensive period of time, a team of Mossad agents waited for him as he arrived home from his work as foreman at a Mercedes Benz factory. One kept lookout waiting for his bus to arrive, while two agents pretended to be fixing a broken down car. An unconfirmed fourth would ride on the bus to make sure he would leave. Once Eichmann alighted and began walking the short distance to his home, he was asked by the agent at the car, Zvi Aharoni, for a cigarette. When Eichmann reached in his pocket he was set upon by the two by the car. Eichmann fought but team member Peter Malkin, a Polish Jew and a black belt in karate, knocked Eichmann unconscious with a strike to the back of his neck and bundled him into the car and took him to the safe house.

There a preliminary interrogation was conducted and it was proved that Klement (Clement) was undoubtedly the Nazi Eichmann. The agents kept him in a safe house until they judged that he could be taken to Israel without being detected by Argentine authorities; then smuggled him out of Argentina on board an El Al Bristol Britannia flight from Argentina to Dakarmarker and then to Israel on May 21, 1960, heavily sedated and disguised, like the agents, in the uniform of the El Al crew.

There was a backup plan in case the apprehension did not go as planned. If the police happened to intervene, one of the agents was to handcuff himself to Eichmann and make full explanations and disclosure. For some time the Israeli government denied involvement in Eichmann's capture, claiming that he had been taken by Jewish volunteers who eagerly turned him over to Israeli government authorities. Negotiations followed between Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Argentine president Arturo Frondizi, while the abduction was met from radical right sectors with a violent wave of anti-Semitism, carried on the streets by the Tacuara Nationalist Movement—including assaults, torture and bombings.

Ben-Gurion then announced Eichmann's capture to the Knessetmarker—Israel's parliament—on May 23, receiving a standing ovation in return. Isser Harel, head of the Mossad at the time of the operation, wrote a book about Eichmann's capture entitled The House on Garibaldi Street. The book has since been made into a movie of the same name. Some years later, Peter Malkin, a member of the kidnapping team, wrote Eichmann in My Hands, which explores Eichmann's character and motivations, but its veracity has been attacked.

Josef Mengele

Isser Harel, Chief Executive of the Secret Services of Israel (1952–1963), who headed the successful capture of Eichmann in Buenos Airesmarker in 1960 feels they almost apprehended Josef Mengele, too. As he claims to have told the co-pilot that transported Eichmann at the time: "had it been possible to start the operation several weeks earlier Mengele might also have been on the plane." When they checked on the last known location for the "murderous doctor" in Argentina, he had apparently moved on just two weeks earlier.

International dispute over capture

In June 1960, after unsuccessful secret negotiations with Israel, Argentina requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, to protest what Argentina regarded as the "violation of the sovereign rights of the Argentine Republic". In the ensuing debate, the Israeli representative Golda Meir argued that the incident was only an "isolated violation of Argentine law" since the abductors were not Israeli agents but private individuals. Eventually the Council passed a resolution which requested Israel "to make appropriate reparation", while stating that "Eichmann should be brought to appropriate justice for the crimes of which he is accused" and that "this resolution should in no way be interpreted as condoning the odious crimes of which Eichmann is accused."

After further negotiations, on August 3, Israel and Argentina agreed to end their dispute with a joint statement that "the Governments of Israel and the Republic of the Argentine, imbued with the wish to give effect to the resolution of the Security Council of June 23, 1960, in which the hope was expressed that the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries will be advanced, have decided to regard as closed the incident that arose out of the action taken by Israel nationals which infringed fundamental rights of the State of Argentina."

In the subsequent trial and appeal, the Israeli courts avoided the issue of the legality of Eichmann's capture, relying instead on legal precedents that the circumstances of his capture had no bearing on the legality of his trial. The Israeli Court also determined that because "Argentina has condoned the violation of her sovereignty and has waived her claims, including that for the return of the Appellant, any violation of international law that may have been involved in this incident has thus been remedied."

Trial



Eichmann's trial before an Israeli court in Jerusalem began on April 11, 1961. He was indicted on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and membership in an outlawed organization. In accordance with Israeli criminal procedure, the trial was presided over by three judges: Moshe Landau, Benjamin Halevi and Yitzhak Raveh. The chief prosecutor was Gideon Hausner, the Israeli attorney general. The three judges sat high atop a plain dais. The trial was held at the Beit Ha'am—nowadays known as the Gerard Behar Center—a new auditorium in downtown Jerusalemmarker. Eichmann sat inside a bulletproof glass booth to protect him from victims' families. This image inspired the novel, stage play and film, The Man in the Glass Booth, although the plot of the drama has nothing to do with the actual events of the Eichmann trial.

The legal basis of the charges against Eichmann was the 1950 "Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law".

The trial caused huge international controversy as well as an international sensation. The Israeli government allowed news programs all over the world to broadcast the trial live with few restrictions. The trial began with various witnesses, including many Holocaust survivors, who testified against Eichmann and his role in transporting victims to the extermination camps. One key witness for the prosecution was an American judge named Michael A. Musmanno, who was a U.S. naval officer in 1945 who questioned the Nuremberg defendants and would go on to become a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Courtmarker. He testified that the late Hermann Göring "made it very clear that Eichmann was the man to determine, in what order, in what countries, the Jews were to die."

When the prosecution rested, Eichmann's defense lawyers, Robert Servatius and Dieter Wechtenbruch, opened up the defense by explaining why they did not cross-examine any of the prosecution witnesses. Eichmann, speaking in his own defense, said that he did not dispute the facts of what happened during the Holocaust. During the whole trial, Eichmann insisted that he was only "following orders"—the same Nuremberg Defense used by some of the Nazi war criminals during the 1945–1946 Nuremberg Trialsmarker. He explicitly declared that he had abdicated his conscience in order to follow the Führerprinzip. Eichmann claimed that he was merely a "transmitter" with very little power. He testified that: "I never did anything, great or small, without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf Hitler or any of my superiors."

During cross-examination, prosecutor Hausner asked Eichmann if he considered himself guilty of the murder of millions of Jews. Eichmann replied: "Legally not, but in the human sense ... yes, for I am guilty of having deported them". When Hausner produced as evidence a quote by Eichmann in 1945 who stated: "I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction." Eichmann countered the claim saying that he was referring only to "enemies of the Reich".

Witnesses for the defense, all of them former high-ranking Nazis, were promised immunity and safe conduct from their German and Austrian homes to testify in Jerusalem on Eichmann's behalf. All of them refused to travel to Israel, but they sent court depositions. None of the depositions supported Eichmann's "following orders" defense. One deposition was from Otto Winkelmann, a former senior SS police leader in Budapestmarker in 1944. His memo stated that "(Eichmann) had the nature of a subaltern, which means a fellow who uses his power recklessly, without moral restraints. He would certainly overstep his authority if he thought he was acting in the spirit of his commander [Adolf Hitler]". Franz Six, a former SS brigadier general in the German secret servicemarker, who was assigned the supervision of the occupation of the United Kingdom had Operation Sea Lion been successful, said in his deposition that Eichmann was an absolute believer in National Socialism and would act to the most extreme of the party doctrine, and that Eichmann had greater power than other department chiefs.

After 14 weeks of testimony with more than 1,500 documents, 100 prosecution witnesses (90 of whom were Nazi concentration camp survivors) and dozens of defense depositions delivered by diplomatic couriers from 16 different countries, the Eichmann trial ended on August 14. At that point, the judges began deliberations in seclusion. On December 11, the three judges announced their verdict: Eichmann was convicted on all counts. Eichmann had said to the court that he expected the death penalty. On December 15, the court imposed a death sentence. Eichmann appealed the verdict, mostly relying on legal arguments about Israel's jurisdiction and the legality of the laws under which he was charged. He also claimed that he was protected by the principle of "Acts of State" and repeated his "following orders" defense.

On May 29, 1962 Israel's Supreme Court, sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeal, rejected the appeal and upheld the District Court's judgment on all counts. In rejecting his appeal again claiming that he was only "following orders", the court stated that, "Eichmann received no superior orders at all. He was his own superior and he gave all orders in matters that concerned Jewish affairs ... the so-called Final Solution would never have assumed the infernal forms of the flayed skin and tortured flesh of millions of Jews without the fanatical zeal and the unquenchable blood thirst of the appellant and his associates." On May 31, Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi turned down Eichmann's petition for mercy. A large number of prominent persons sent requests for clemency.

Execution

Eichmann was hanged a few minutes before midnight on May 31, 1962, at a prison in Ramlamarker, Israel. This remains the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel, which has a general policy of not using the death penalty. Eichmann allegedly refused a last meal, preferring instead a bottle of Carmel, a dry red Israeli wine. He consumed about half of the bottle. He also refused to don the traditional black hood for his execution.

According to an official account, there were two people who would pull the lever simultaneously, so neither would know for sure by whose hand Eichmann died.

There is some dispute over Eichmann's last words. One account states that these were, "Long live Germany. Long live Austria. Long live Argentina. These are the countries with which I have been most closely associated and I shall not forget them. I had to obey the rules of war and my flag. I am ready." According to David Cesarani, a leading Holocaust historian and Research Professor in History of the Royal Holloway, University of London, the order of countries (Austria and Argentina) was inverted and he also spoke of his wife, friends and family, as well as his belief in God. Any mention of obedience to the rules of war or flag is omitted in Cesarani's account in which Eichmann is quoted thus:

Shortly after the execution, Eichmann's body was cremated in a specially designed furnace. The furnace was so hot that no one dared to go near it, but a stretcher on tracks was used to put the body in. The next morning, on June 1, his ashes were scattered at sea over the Mediterraneanmarker, in international waters. This was to ensure that there could be no future memorial and that no nation would serve as his final resting place.

Analysis

Political theorist Hannah Arendt, a Jew who fled Germany before Hitler's rise to power, reported on Eichmann's trial for The New Yorker. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, a book formed by this reporting, Arendt concluded that, aside from a desire for improving his career, Eichmann showed no trace of an antisemitic personality or of any psychological damage to his character. She called him the embodiment of the "Banality of Evil", as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality, displaying neither guilt nor hatred. She suggested that this most strikingly discredits the idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and different from ordinary people. Eichmann himself said he joined the SS not because he agreed or disagreed with its ethos, but because he needed to build a career.

Stanley Milgram interpreted Arendt's work as stating that even the most ordinary of people can commit horrendous crimes if placed in certain situations and given certain incentives. He wrote: "I must conclude that Arendt's conception of the banality of evil comes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine." However, Arendt did not suggest that Eichmann was normal or that any person placed in his situation would have done as he did. According to her account, Eichmann had abdicated his will to make moral choices, and thus his autonomy. Eichmann claimed he was just following orders, and that he was therefore respecting the duties of a "bureaucrat". Arendt thus argued that he had essentially forsaken the conditions of morality, autonomy and the ability to question orders (see Führerprinzip).

In Becoming Eichmann, David Cesarani claimed that Eichmann was in fact extremely anti-Semitic, and that these feelings were important motivators of his genocidal actions.

Eichmann's son, Ricardo, who was born after the War, has condemned his father's actions and says he harbours no resentment toward Israel for executing his father.

Awards and decorations



See also



References

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Notes

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