Saturday, December 16, 2006
Adolf Eichmann Sentenced, December 15, 1961 - Part Two
After escaping from US custody in Germany, Adolf Eichmann made his way to Argentina. A decade went by, during which time he worked several different jobs in the Buenos Aires area using a series of assumed names. Meanwhile, Nazi hunters and the Israeli intelligence agency (the Mossad) searched the world over for Eichmann and other escaped war criminals. Simon Wiesenthal, the most famous Nazi hunter of them all, received a letter from a close friend who lived in Buenos Aires. The friend said that he had seen a local water company employee who was, he was certain, Adolf Eichmann. Whether this piece of information helped in his capture has been the source of some speculation. However, a chance relationship would ultimately reveal Eichmann's whereabouts beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Lothar Hermann, a survivor of the Dachau concentration camp, had moved to Argentina after the war with his family. His daughter Sylvia became involved with a young man named Klaus who, as fate would have it, was Eichmann's eldest son. Klaus was proud of his father's past and did little to hide his true identity. Sylvia told her father about Klaus's boasts, at which point he sent his daughter back to Klaus's house on a fact-finding mission. She eventually met the senior Eichmann, which told Lothar Hermann everything he needed to know. He contacted the Chief Prosecutor for the West German state of Hesse and Israeli officials. The Israelis wasted no time in formulating a plan to bring Eichmann to justice.
A team of Mossad agents captured the former Nazi on May 11, 1960. He was kept at a safe house for the next 11 days, after which time he was spirited out of the country and flown to Israel. The Israeli government initially denied that it had any involvement in the capture and stated that a group of civilians had acted on their own.
Eichmann's trial began in Jerusalem on April 11, 1961. He was charged with 15 crimes, including crimes against humanity. A three-judge panel presided over the trial with the Israeli Attorney General acting as the lead prosecutor. Eichmann's main defense was that he was only following orders, the same claim made by Nazi war criminals during the Nuremburg Trials 15 years earlier. 100 eyewitnesses to his crimes took the stand for the prosecution, 90 of whom were concentration camp survivors. The testimony took 14 weeks.
On December 15, 1961, Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death. He appealed his verdict using the argument that his capture was illegal under international law and that Israeli criminal statutes had no jurisdiction in his case. His appeal was rejected as was his petition for mercy to the President of Israel. The President responded to his petition by quoting the book of Samuel: "As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women."
Eichmann was hanged on June 1, 1962. To this day, this remains the only civilian execution ever conducted in Israel. His body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea so that no single nation would serve as his resting place.