A Brief History
On May 31, 1962, the nation of Israel hanged Nazi Holocaust organizer Adolf Eichmann, one of history’s most evil people, for war crimes. Eichmann had been living in Buenos Aires, Argentina and living the good life as a Mercedes-Benz supervisor until he was kidnapped by Israeli secret agents.
During World War II Eichmann had joined the SD (Security Service) and worked as the head of “Jewish Affairs” coercing Jews into leaving Germany or facing relocation to Jewish “ghettos.” In 1941, the German “solution” to the “Jewish problem” was to move Jews to extermination camps and work camps where they would be executed en masse or worked to death. Eichmann became a key figure in the bureaucracy that made this system work. This program extended to other countries occupied by Germany and resulted in perhaps 6 million (the number is disputed) Jews murdered by the Nazi’s.
As the SD was absorbed into the SS, all SS officers were wanted by allied authorities for possible war crimes trials. Eichmann was among those rounded up by Americans, although he was using an alias at the time. When it became apparent that his cover was blown, Eichmann escaped to Austria with a new false identity. With the help of a Catholic bishop Eichmann got yet another new identity and used the International Red Cross to move him to Argentina.
In 1952, Eichmann moved his family to Argentina to live with him where he became a supervisor for Mercedes-Benz. He made the blunder of giving an interview to a journalist and provided many personal documents with the idea that the information would be used for a biography about Eichmann. Instead, the articles that appeared in Life magazine and Der Stern caught the attention of Israeli Nazi hunters.
Eichmann was staked out and observed until the Israelis were sure of his identity, then he was kidnapped and taken back to Israel. The kidnapping was conducted by the Shin Bet branch of the Israeli Mossad, their secret service. Eichmann was drugged, dressed as a flight attendant, and flown to Israel on an El Al flight.
Argentina was furious when news of the kidnapping went public, and anti-Semitic demonstrations were held. Argentina even appealed to the United Nations as they claimed their sovereignty had been violated. Many people around the world agreed, as did some nations, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Israel put Eichmann on trial, convicted him, and hanged him on May 31, 1962, unrepentant to the end.
The same team that kidnapped Eichmann also attempted to locate Dr. Mengele, believed to be living in Buenos Aires at that time, but Mengele had previously relocated and was not found until after he had died. Fugitive Nazi’s are all elderly or dead now, and soon there will be none for the Nazi hunters to chase. Until they are indeed all gone, rest assured there are people looking for them.
Question for students (and subscribers): Was hanging a just punishment for Eichmann? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Arendt, Hannah and Amos Elon. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (Penguin Classics). Penguin Classics, 2006.