Eichmann asked for okay to return in ’56, says ‘Bild’

“The time has come for me to step out of the cloak of anonymity and present myself," wrote Eichmann to Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

April 13, 2011 02:53
2 minute read.
From the exhibition: ‘Adolf Eichmann on trial'

eichmann trial_311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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BERLIN – Four years before Israeli intelligence agents captured Adolf Eichmann in 1960, the main architect of the murder of Europe’s Jews sought to return to post-Nazi Germany.

“The time has come for me to step out of the cloak of anonymity and present myself. Name – Adolf Eichmann. Occupation – SS Obersturmbannfuehrer,” wrote Eichmann in a letter to Germany’s first post-Holocaust Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1956, according to a report in Monday’s mass circulation Bild newspaper.

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Though the Adenauer government knew that Eichmann was hiding in Argentina, the West German government did not notify the Israeli government.

Hamburg historian Dr. Bettina Stangneth discovered the previous unpublished Eichmann letter to Adenauer in a German archive. She published her findings in a new book on Eichmann to be released next Monday.

Other material obtained and published by Bild earlier this year showed that West Germany knew Eichmann’s whereabouts as early as 1952.

In the letter, written while he worked as rabbit farmer in the Argentine village of Joaquín Gorina, Eichmann wrote, “I do not know how long fate will allow me to live. I do know, however, that someone must be allowed to explain to the coming generation about what happened. There should be an explanation. I had to steer and lead large parts of this complex in those years.”

The word “complex” in his letter was Eichmann’s euphemism for the annihilation of 6 million Jews, the extermination of Roma and Sinti, developmentally disabled persons, political prisoners and gays.

Declassified intelligence reports in Germany and the United States showed that Adenauer and the West German government feared that if Eichmann returned to Germany, he would jeopardize the status of many ex-Nazis who were working in all walks of life in German society and the government.

While Adenauer was not a member of the Nazi party, he recruited top-level Nazis to work in his West German administration. According to critics, Adenauer used anti- Semitic language in post-War Germany to describe Jews and justify his country’s payments of compensation to Holocaust survivors as well as gain an entry card back into Western democratic civilization.

Adenauer said, “[the crimes] had to be expiated... if we wished once more to gain respect and standing among the world’s nations. However the power held by the Jews, even today, especially in America, should not be underestimated.”

The Bild newspaper quoted Dr. Tobias Herrmann, the director of the Federal Archives in Ludwigsburg, saying “Sadly in the 50s there was not a great deal of interest in particularly pursuing Nazi war criminals in Germany. Many judges and lawyers of the Nazi period worked in the post-war Federal Republic too, and weren’t interested in pursuing their old comrades in the police and SS.”

The leniency and indifference toward Nazi war criminals during the post-War period in Germany helped to explain Eichmann’s belief, expressed in the letter, that he would not serve a long prison sentence in the Federal Republic.

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