A paper I wrote on how the architect of the Holocaust was apprehended and tried.
How the Apprehension and Trial of Adolf Eichmann was unique in the Hunt for Fugitive Nazis
Imagine if you will one of the most sinister humans to have ever walked this earth and fleeing his country after all his evil deeds have been perpetrated to evade justice. Now it's 15 years later, and the people trying to find him and bring him to justice know his exactly whereabouts. The only problem is the country he resides in now refuses to extradite him. The traditional procedure of apprehending a fugitive via arrest and extradition is out of the question. The solution? Go into the country, kidnap, drug, and smuggle him out of said country back to the country which is ran by the people who this evil person targeted. Could only happen in a movie, right? Wrong. On May 11, 1960, that's exactly what happened in the case of Adolf Eichmann, who was one of men responsible for the mass murder of Jews in Europe during the Second World War. Nazi hunters and Israeli Mossad agents went to Argentina, kidnapped Eichmann, smuggled him back to Israel, and put him on trial.
To really understand Eichmann's demise, a background is necessary. He did not start out as a perpetrator of genocide. Eichmann was a native of Austria and joined the Austrian Nazi Party on April 1, 1932, as party member 889,895. Seven months later, his status as a member of the infamous SS was confirmed. His SS number was 45,326. At this time, he was an oil salesmen. Around the same time the Nazis took power in Germany in January, 1933. Eichmann lost his job around this time also. Simultaneously, the Nazi Party was banned in Austria. These two factors where the main reasons why Eichmann fled from Austria to Germany.
Throughout the early 1930s, he established himself in the SS as a skillful bureaucrat and bit by bit he gained recognition in "Jewish affairs" for the Reich. In 1936, he was commissioned as an Untersturmfrer (second lieutenant). He even taught himself some Hebrew and Yiddish. In 1938, Hitler annexed Eichmann's homeland, Austria. Eichmann was sent back to Austria and was appointed to the newly created Central Agency of Jewish Immigration in Vienna and promoted to Obersturmfrer (first lieutenant). At this time, the Nazis were trying to get all the Jews out of the Reich. This led to an effort of Jewish emigration. In an attempt to achieve this there were numerous state-sponsored pogroms and acts of violence against the Jewish population to force them to emigrate. The Nazis used this means of explanation to their fullest advantage. Immigrants had to obtain exit visas in addition to a visa for the country to which they were trying to emigrate. They also paid the taxes for the next year in advance before departing. For many people, this meant spending almost every penny to their name and giving up almost everything they had. Eichmann saw his job as getting as many Jews out of his jurisdiction (that being Austria) as he could. He was in charge of granting exit visas for Jews looking to get out of the Reich. In doing this, he engaged in mass extortion of wealth in exchange for an exit visa and insurance for safe travels. About 100,000 Jews left Austria while turning in almost all their possessions to Eichmann's office.
On September 1, 1939, World War II broke out with the Nazi invasion of Poland. The Polish government went into exile in London, and while the Polish army fought with phenomenal courage, the country was overrun within a month. Suddenly three million Jews fell under Nazi jurisdiction. When the war broke out, Eichmann was sent back to Berlin as head of the Reich Ministry Security Office. He was responsible for carrying out Nazi policies towards the Jews in the Reich and its occupied territories. The policies themselves were made by Hitler, head of the SS Reichsfrer Heinrich Himmler, his deputy Reinhard Heydrich, and Hitler's right hand man, Herman G/FONT>ring. By the end of the summer of 1940, the Nazis had also overrun Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. The Nazi policy toward Jews and other "undesirables" went from voluntary immigration to forced deportation. Eichmann oversaw the mass deportation of Jews throughout most of occupied Europe to ghettos in the east mostly cities within the General Government or Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. In fact, he drew up plans to deport all the Jews to Madagascar, a large island off the coast of East Africa. However, with the British blockade and there being no sign of the war ending anytime soon, the plan was eventually shelved.
In the summer of 1941, the war escalated immensely with the German invasion of the Soviet Union. It was there where the SS deployed the Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads that followed the advancing Wehrmacht and shot Jews and other people who were considered undesirable. Eichmann thought that shooting was a brutal and ineffective way of dealing with the "Jewish problem." In the late summer of 1941, by now a Sturmbannfrer (major), he visited Auschwitz. Auschwitz was a major extermination camp they had tested a cyanide-based pesticide under the trade name Zyklon B on Soviet prisoners of war to try to find a more effective way of killing people. During Eichmann's stay, he witnessed the first gassings. The commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hs, thought Eichmann was very full of energy and enthusiastic about the first gassings and thought it was a good idea.
Eichmann, now an Obersturmbannfrer (lieutenant colonel), was one of the key people who attended the Wannsee Conference. The conference was held in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee on January 20, 1942, to discuss and decide on a "Final Solution" to the "Jewish Question" and to ensure cooperation of civil and administrative leaders of the Reich in successfully carrying it out. There were many solutions briefly brought up such as deporting all the Jews to Madagascar, as mentioned earlier, or having them live on reservations out in the wilderness. However, when the conference was held the war, was starting to look like it wasn't going to be won anytime soon like the Germans thought it would be. The Germans had been turned back just outside of Moscow by a massive counter attack by the Red Army a month prior and to add to that Germany was now at war with the United States. SS deputy Obergruppenfrer (Lieutenant General) Reinhard Heydrich called for the extermination of the Jews for the Final Solution. Eichmann provided Heydrich with the number of Jews in all the occupied countries. He was tasked with overseeing all the deportations to the death camps. The Conference lasted only 90 minutes and it was just like any other office meeting, only this one was about committing genocide.
Immediately, extermination camps were set up at Belzec, Sobibor, Majdanek, Chelmno, Treblinka, and Auschwitz in Poland to carry out the final solution. The deadliest. most morbidly effective phase of the Holocaust was known as "Operation Reinhard." This was the codename for the plan to kill all of the Polish Jews. It was named after Heydrich, who was assassinated by Czech partisans in June, 1942. They were sent mostly to Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, and Treblinka, and Majdanek these were known as the "Reinhard Camps". Unlike Auschwitz, which was both a concentration camp and an extermination camp where some people were spared the gas chambers for the time being for hard labor, these camps were built for one sole purpose: to kill every single person on arrival. The only ones who were put to work were those very few selected to work in the Sonderkommando units which were work crews made up entirely of Jews who took the dead bodies from the gas chambers to the crematoriums and even they were killed after a few months and replaced by new arrivals.
The Nazis took advantage of Europe's rail network, and trains were used to send Jews, gay people, Romani people, and anyone else the Nazis deemed undesirable to the death camps in Poland. To prevent mass panic, the people being deported were told they were going to be resettled in the East and were allowed to take one suitcase. They were crammed into cattle cars about 100 people per car and shipped to the death camps from all over Europe. Many died along the way from lack of oxygen, dehydration, or hunger. Those who made it to the camps were either killed or worked to death, and their suitcases were taken and their property in them was stolen. Since the victims thought they were only being resettled, they usually brought valuables which the Nazis then stole.
Eichmann was the one who wrote the timetables for the Holocaust trains and made sure the trains ran on time. He also kept track of how many people were deported in any given trip and kept statistics of the people deported and killed. He did this with morbid accuracy. He travelled throughout the Reich He was known to get extremely angry when people were killed without his knowledge -- not for humanitarian reasons, but because it messed up his statistics. It is important to note that Eichmann's henchmen and staff were the ones who carried out the deportations for most of the countries in Europe. He worked with the other administrations in the Reich and infamously played a major role in a deal the Slovak government to dispose of their Jews. He visited all parts of German occupied Europe to assess the train loads and Jewish populations in the areas to see how many people could be deported at one time and how effectively it could be done and wrote the timetables accordingly. However, Eichmann was directly involved in the deportations in Hungary in 1944. His direct involvement in the deportations of Hungarian Jews was perhaps the darkest of his evil deeds.
Until the spring of 1944, the Hungarian Jewish population remained untouched for the most part. There were antisemitic laws in Hungary similar to Germany's 1935 Nuremberg Laws, but there no deportations to death camps. While the Hungarian government was allied with Nazi Germany, it did not deport its Jewish population like Slovakia did. That all changed when Germany invaded Hungary after the pro-German government started peace negotiations with the Allies. With the Nazis now in complete control of the country, they began carrying out the final solution on the nation's 725,000 Jews, which up until this point had been relatively safe from deportations.
Eichmann arrived in Hungary the same day the Nazis invaded on March 19, 1944, and set up his office in Budapest. He spent the next few months touring Hungary and Auschwitz to assess the preparations. Unlike previous deportations that were overseen mostly by his subordinate officers and henchmen, the deportation in Hungary were directly overseen by Eichmann himself. Again he wrote the schedules and made sure the trains ran on time. He also personally went to Auschwitz to oversee the speeding up of the killing process as the camp was operating over its capacity as more and more Hungarian Jews arrived. In August of 1944, Eichmann reported to Himmler that four million Jews had been killed in the death camps and another two million had been killed by the Einsatzgruppen. By now the war was going very badly for Germany, and many people knew the war was lost. Even Eichmann himself knew the war was lost but he was still hell-bent on keeping his trains running to Auschwitz to kill as many human beings as possible. The generals in the army even begged him to use his trains for the war effort. In response, Eichmann resorted to tricks and loopholes to keep his Holocaust trains running, even when he knew the war was lost. As the Soviet Army closed in on Budapest, Himmler ordered Eichmann to stop the deportations. Eichmann ignored the order and ordered the rounding up or 50,000 Hungarian Jews on a death march to Austria to prevent them from being liberated by the Red Army. Not surprisingly, he regularly told his friends, "The war is lost, but I'll win my war!". On Christmas Eve in 1944, Eichmann finally fled Budapest just as the Soviets were about to enter the city but not before destroying as much incriminating evidence of his crimes as possible.
He and other members of the SS fled to Austria where he and his family lived in relative safety until the end of the war on May 8, 1945. He wanted to fight on to the bitter end as a partisan, but he was arrested by American GIs shortly after Germany's surrender. Due to the vast number of German soldiers captured at the end of the war and the fact that his name wasn't well known yet, he was able to escape from work detail. As he anticipated, it didn't take long Eichmann's guilt to be discovered. His name was mentioned at the Nuremberg trials. Documents and statements at the trial proved his guilt in the Holocaust. With the help of Catholic bishop and Nazi sympathizer Alois Hudal Eichmann obtained a landing permit, a Red Cross humanitarian passport under the alias Ricardo Klement. Now a fugitive, he travelled across Europe using several monasteries as safe houses -- finally escaping to Argentina by boat from the port of Genoa, Italy, in the summer of 1950. While on the run he had is SS tattoo removed that every SS man had under their left armpit to prevent his true identity from being recognized. He settled in the Buenos-Aires area and sent for his family in 1952. Throughout the '50s Eichmann had a variety of low-paying jobs until finally landing a job at Mercedes-Benz and eventually became a department head.
Now the story of how Eichmann was actually captured is truly an amazing and unique one. Unlike most Nazi war criminals who went to trial, Eichmann wasn't technically arrested or legally apprehended for that matter. Argentina was known for turning down extradition requests so the Israeli government. The Israelis decided to go into Argentina and capture him instead. Mossad agents, under the direction of Issar Harel, were the masterminds behind the bold and daring operation to kidnap and bring one of the most evil Nazis to justice.
The preparations for the operation were very thorough and extensive. Harel wanted to make sure they caught the right man, and since Eichmann changed his name and since there were no documents or fingerprints available to lead them to him, they had to do extensive research, have a lot of leads, and finally follow the suspect until they were positive the man was Eichmann. The first major lead the Mossad got was was in 1956 from from a German Jewish immigrant named Lothar Hermann in Argentina, whose daughter Sylvia had taken up with a young man by the name of Klaus Eichmann who had been bragging about his father's exploits during the Third Reich. While Adolf Eichmann had changed his name, his children kept his last name. Hermann sent this information to the authorities in West Germany. When Sylvia once went to Klaus' house, she was greeted by Adolf Eichmann himself who claimed he was Klaus' uncle. However, when Klaus soon returned, he addressed Adolf Eichmann as "father." This information was sent directly to Issar Harel. The Mossad now had a strong lead on the man suspected to be Adolf Eichmann.
On March 1, 1960, Harel sent head interrogator Zvi Aharoni to Buenos Aires to investigate and confirm Eichmann's identity. Over the course of a few weeks, he was able to confirm that the suspect was indeed Adolf Eichmann. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion gave Harel the go-ahead for the operation. As mentioned before, Argentina was well-known for turning down extraditions, so Gurion decided he should be captured rather than attempt to extradite him, which could have taken years and then only if the Argentinian government chose to extradite him in the first place, which was unlikely. Mossad agents tracked and shadowed Eichmann's every move for a few weeks. In May, Harrel himself personally went to Buenos Aires to oversee the capture, although he wasn't apart of the actual team who physically captured him he was the face of the operation.
On May 11, the eight-man team was ready to apprehend Eichmann. After observing him for weeks, the agents knew Eichmann arrived home from work by bus at around 7:40 p.m. The team was there about five minutes prior to that time. Two of the agents acted as if they were having trouble with their car while another car was parked about 30 yards away. The operation was almost called off due to Eichmann not arriving on the bus he usually came home on. The team decided to wait until 8:30. Around 8:05, another bus pulled up and a man walked out. Immediately the team knew it was Eichmann. One of them men "working" on the car approached him in Spanish and asked if he had a moment. Frightened, Eichmann tried to get away, but at that moment one of the agents pounced on him, and two more came to assist him, Eichmann was wrestled to the ground, shoved into one of the cars, hidden under a blanket so no passerby could see him.Then the team drove off with Eichmann in custody. En route to the safe house, he showed no resistance. The agents gaged him, tied his hand and feet together, and put goggles over his eyes so he couldn't see anything. The only words the Mossad team uttered to him was "If you don't keep still you will be shot." Ricardo Klement finally confessed that he was indeed Adolf Eichmann at the safe house after intense interrogation. Immediately, plans were made to smuggle him out of Argentina and back to Israel to stand trial.
For the next week, Eichmann was taken to various safe houses to avoid Argentine authorities. On May 20, 1960, Eichmann was smuggled out of Argentina aboard an Israeli diplomatic plane, which had arrived days prior for the celebration of Argentina's 150th anniversary of it's independence from Spain. Eichmann was drugged by an Israeli physician and disguised as an airplane steward to avoid his detection by Argentine authorities when they cleared the plane for takeoff. The plane took off and immediately flew across the Atlantic instead of refueling in Brazil, which was the normal routine at the time. The Mossad team wanted to leave South American air space as soon as possible. The plane arrived in Tel-Aviv, Israel, on May 22 via Dakar, Senegal for refueling.
Prime Minister Ben-Gurion announced that Eichmann had been captured to the Israeli parliament the following day. Argentina appealed to the United Nations that their sovereignty had been violated. However, the dispute ended shortly after Israel officials admitted to Argentina that they indeed violated its sovereignty and both countries agreed to end the dispute. Eichmann spent nearly in jail before his trial. The Israelis didn't want to take him to trial based solely on documented evidence and witness testimony, so he was subjected to intense interrogation by the Israeli police. Eichmann's trial began in Jerusalem on April 11, 1961. The trial had extensive media coverage all of it was filmed. People in the U.S got newsreels of the trial the day after Israel sent the tape. The major indictments against him were crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and belonging to a criminal organization. The prosecution rested after 56 days with over a hundred witnesses most of them Holocaust survivors and testimony from Eichmann himself from his interrogations. Eichmann's defence was drawn out and predictable. He said that he was only following orders like most of his colleagues who were made to answer for their crimes also said. He further went on to state that he wasn't a fanatical Nazi he was assigned his job and he just wanted to do a good job at it. Of course, the massive amount of evidence against him proved otherwise. He also feebly attempted to say the charges against him were not legitimate and that he his trial should be continued in either Argentina or West Germany for his crimes. However both the Argentinian and West German governments recognized the charges against him in Israel were legitimate. The trial adjourned August 14, 1961 and the verdict was read on December 12. Not surprisingly Eichmann was found guilty on all charges and on December 15 Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was carried out shortly after midnight on June 1, 1962. He was cremated and his ashes were dumped into the Mediterranean Sea in international waters by an Israeli Navy patrol boat.
His trial had an important impact on the world. It sparked a revival in public awareness of the Holocaust which up until that point had been forgotten due to the politics of the Cold War. It also reminded young people who never experienced the oppression or didn't live during that time that the Holocaust did happen and it must never be forgotten.
To sum up Eichmann's trial and his abduction was unique because his capture was carried out in what many would call unorthodox and a violation of international law and/or sovereignty. However it was completely justified. Eichmann was a horrible man and the way he was brought to justice was perfect. His trial was important because it sparked a massive resurgence in wartime events and Holocaust awareness. It is important we never forget this horrible chapter in human history and make sure we never repeat for as long as we live.
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