Eichmann, Adolf

(1906–62)
   Nazi official in charge of Jewish extermination. Adolf Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany, grew up in Austria, and joined the Nazi party there in 1932. He returned to Germany a year later, and rose to become head of the Jewish Affairs Division of the Gestapo. He was given direct charge of carrying out the Nazi plan for the destruction of Jewry, euphemistically termed ‘The Final Solution (Endlocsung) of the Jewish Problem’, which resulted in the murder of six million Jews in Germany and Nazi- occupied and satellite territories in Europe during World War II. (Experts today put the figure of Jewish dead nearer to seven million.) In the final days of the war, he was captured by an American patrol, but he tricked his interrogators with a false name and a fabricated war record, and was placed in an ordinary prisoner-of-war camp. He was in this camp when the trial of the major Nazi war criminals opened in November 1945 before the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg. Eichmann and his fellow prisoners of war received daily news of the proceedings. He soon learned that his efforts to destroy all traces of his actions had failed. The Nuremberg Court listed the Nazi crimes. They included ‘murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against civilian populations before and during the war, and persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds’. The court itemized some of the methods used: ‘The murders and ill-treatment were carried out by divers means, including shooting, hanging, gassing, starvation, gross overcrowding, systematic under-nutrition, systematic imposition of labour tasks beyond the strength of those ordered to carry them out…kickings, beatings, brutality and torture of all kinds, including the use of hot irons and pulling out of fingernails and the performance of experiments, by means of operations and otherwise, on living human subjects… They conducted deliberate and systematic genocide… The methods used for the work of extermination in concentration camps were… gas chambers, gas wagons, and crematory ovens… The many charnel pits gave proof of anonymous massacres…’
   During the sessions of the Nuremberg hearings, Eichmann’s name was frequently on the lips of counsel and witnesses as they unfolded a tale of slaughter unprecedented in its magnitude and cruelty. Though tens of thousands had taken part in the killings, Eichmann had been the man in charge, and he now realized that his POW camp was no longer safe. There would be desperate attempts to trace him. It was easy to escape - his guards had become lax - and he had trusted Nazi friends to help him. On 5 January 1946, he fled the camp and made his way to a ‘safe’ address in Celle, some fifty miles south of Hamburg, where he spent the next four years. Press reports, however, showed that he was still being hunted, and he considered Europe unsafe. In May 1950, aided by an underground Nazi organization, he escaped to Argentina, where he lived under the name of Ricardo Klement. His wife and sons joined him in 1952. Eight years later, ‘Ricardo Klement’ was kidnapped in a Buenos Aires suburb by Israel agents - to whom he confessed immediately that he was indeed Adolf Eichmann. He was flown secretly to Israel to stand trial.
   The trial opened on 11 April 1961 at the Jerusalem District Court before three distinguished judges, Moshe Landau, Dr Benjamin Halevi and Dr Yitzhak Raveh. Heading the prosecution team was Attorney General Gideon Hausner, and heading the defence was Dr Robert Servatius, a German lawyer. (Israel’s Knesset had to pass a special law to enable this foreign barrister to appear, as Israel had allowed Eichmann to choose his own counsel from any country he wished - and had also agreed to pay his fee of thirty thousand dollars.) Much had gone on record at Nuremberg fifteen years earlier; but the full details of the Nazi horrors, and of Eichmann’s key role, emerged only at his trial, backed by a great mass of documentary evidence and the harrowing stories of witnesses, who had miraculously escaped death.
   The testimony showed that in June 1933, after losing his job in Austria, Eichmann returned to Germany, where Hitler had come to power, and entered the active ranks of the S S (Schutzstaffel), the black-uniformed elite of the SA (Sturmabteilung - the brown-shirted Nazi storm troops). The S S was the most potent arm of the party and of the state. Its members received military training, were organized in para-military units and given ranks with special S S titles. Eichmann was sent for training to the S S Work-Help Centre in Dachau, the notorious concentration camp which served as a school for promising S S men. There he learned the doctrine of hate and its practical expression - the maltreatment, often murder even in those early days, of Jewish prisoners. Armed with this experience, Eichmann was posted to the Jewish Department of the SD in Berlin on 1 October 1934. The SD (Sicherheitsdienst) was the secret Security Service, created as a branch of the S S to provide ‘the brain of the party and the State’. He soon became the practical expert who furnished the data on which the SD carried out their actions against the Jews. Three years later, he was made head of this SD unit, and acquired even greater influence in the following year, September 1939, when the SD was merged with the SP (Secret Police) to become the all-powerful Reich Security Head Office (Reichssicherheitsdiensthauptamt), known as the RSHA. The most powerful of the RSHA’s seven branches was Amt IV (Bureau 4), which was known throughout the world by its dread name - the Gestapo, short for Geheime Staatspolizei (Secret State Police). The Gestapo had a Jewish Affairs Section, known as Amt IV B4 - i.e. Section B4 of Bureau 4. Head of this section was Adolf Eichmann. His powers were now virtually unrestricted, because of the unlimited powers of the Gestapo, which exercised direct control over all the police systems and security services of Germany and German-occupied territory. He could use this immense power apparatus for the execution of his orders, and it was this which made possible the extermination of so many Jews in all the regions dominated by the Nazis. A single order issued by Eichmann’s Amt IV B4 of the Gestapo could be communicated to every German authority. At his trial numerous documents were produced showing the grim nature of such orders, many of them bearing his signature.
   Compared to what happened later, the first phase of Nazi repression of Jews was mild. It was inaugurated in 1933 with the accession of Hitler. Jews were deprived of their citizenship and subjected to economic boycott, communal fines, confiscation of property, expulsion, violent injury, random killings and arbitrary imprisonment. On the night of 9 November 1938 alone (Kristallnacht), 191 synagogues were set on fire and another 76 utterly destroyed, 7,500 Jewish places of business were ransacked, and thousands of Jews roughly rounded up and flung into concentration camps. Earlier that year, four days after Germany annexed Austria, Eichmann appeared in Vienna to organize the anti-Jewish programme and he introduced a new system to get rid of the Jews - ‘assembly- line emigration’ through the simple expedient of confiscation of property and expulsion. This system would be copied for a time (until replaced by murder) in other centres of Germany and German-occupied territories.
   This phase lasted until the outbreak of war in September 1939, when the Nazi hierarchy decided upon the ‘Final Solution’, the total destruction of European Jewry. High-ranking SS officers, including Eichmann, were told of this at a secret RSHA meeting on 21 September. The ‘Final Solution’ would be launched at the appropriate time, but meanwhile they were instructed to take immediate preparatory measures. Top-secret orders went out at once to S S units outlining such measures. Jews were to be expelled from the countryside and concentrated in cities near railway junctions for speedier despatch to extermination camps, and all Jewish enterprises to be seized.
   Early in October came an order from Hitler to speed up the expulsion and concentration of the Jews. The RSHA was given over-all responsibility for the programme. Eichmann was put in charge. Poland had by now been overrun by the Germans in their lightning invasion, and many of the 3,300,000 Jews of that country had already suffered pogroms, plunder, destruction of homes and synagogues. Now they were expelled from their villages and provincial towns, uprooted, thrust aboard transports and despatched in that ice-hard winter to concentration areas. Thousands froze to death on the way. In their hundreds of thousands they were taken to concentration camps (which were soon to become camps of death) or pushed into specially established ghettoes in the main cities. (In Warsaw, half a million were pressed into a ghetto area large enough to offer decent living space for only a fraction of that number.)
   But even this was mild compared to what happened after 31 July 1941. On that day, five weeks after the German invasion of Russia, the go-ahead signal was given in an instruction from Goering to the RSHA to launch ‘the total solution of the Jewish question in the German sphere of influence in Europe’. Again, Eichmann was put in charge - in charge now of the programme of extermination.
   The huge deportations to the death camps began, the arrangements, including logistics, being made by Eichmann’s office. Armed S S units rounded up the Jews in all the countries under German occupation or influence and told them they were being resettled or taken for forced labour. They were marched or trucked to the nearest rail junction, thrust aboard freight trains, packed tight, standing up, with no room to move and almost none to breathe. The doors were sealed. The trains started on their long journey to the camps. When they arrived, days later, many of the victims were already dead.
   Of the millions of European Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis, no less than 4,500,000 were murdered in the six major death camps established in Poland - Auschwitz, Maidanek, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor and Belsec. Jews were transported to these centres from Poland, western Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, France, Holland, Belgium, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Denmark, Norway, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece and Bulgaria. Eichmann had offices or special representatives in each of these countries. In Hungary, which was over-run by the Germans in 1944, Eichmann appeared in Budapest and took charge himself. Within three months, he personally directed the despatch to death of 437,402 Hungarian Jews - all transported to Auschwitz.
   Some of the few survivors of the death camps entered the witness box at the Jerusalem trial and described the extermination process. At Auschwitz, the Jews were taken from the trains to huge halls which looked like disinfection chambers and told to undress as they were to be given showers. They were then led to chambers camouflaged to look like large washrooms, complete with overhead sprays, pipes and faucets. The doors were sealed, and from a special opening in the ceiling, potassium cyanide (Zyklon B) crystals were introduced. They became instantly gaseous and killed the inmates in three to fifteen minutes. But the doors remained locked for half an hour. The chambers were then opened, the corpses removed, gold teeth extracted, and the hair shorn from the dead women. The bodies were taken to be burned in special crematoria. Ash and bone were ground to dust and thrown into the nearby River Vistula.
   Through Eichmann’s endeavours to increase its extermination capacity, Auschwitz was eventually equipped to gas and burn 10,000 victims a day, and no less than 2,500,000 Jews were murdered in this camp alone before war ended. Maidanek, where 200,000 Jews died, had fewer and smaller gas chambers, and when their capacity fell short of the number of new arrivals, many of the newcomers were shot - so as not to slow up the process of murder. (On one day alone, 18,000 Jews were shot near open pits at Maidanek’s Field 5.) At Chelmno 300,000 Jews were killed by carbon-monoxide poisoning. Evidence at his trial showed that Eichmann had visited Chelmno, had seen the Jews crammed into gas vans, the engines started up and the gas piped in. He had watched the corpses being removed and their gold teeth extracted. He had also visited Treblinka, where 700,000 Jews were murdered, and at his pre-trial interrogation, he confessed that he had been there and added that he saw there ‘the most terrible sight I have ever witnessed in my whole life’. The total figure of Jews killed at Sobibor was 250,000, and at Belsec 600,000.
   There were numerous other camps, and many cities and villages where Jews were killed by the Nazis. Many were wiped out in ferocious, helpless ghetto risings, as in Warsaw. Many were killed as resistance partisans in battle in the forests. In some regions, particularly in the early days, Eichmann’s office arranged to have mobile gas vans brought to the victims. Of those Jews killed in places other than camps, by far the largest number (one million) were Jews from western Russia and the Baltic states, who were butchered by special formations established by RSHA called Einsatzgruppen, Special Action Groups. They followed in the wake of the German troops who invaded Russia in June 1941, with the task of killing on the spot all the Jews in the conquered areas. The orders went out from Eichmann’s office, and an Eichmann instruction dated 17 July 1941 demanded detailed reports from the Einsatzgruppen commanders. One, from Franz Stahlecker, commander of Einsatzgruppe A, recorded in January 1942 that it had ‘executed’ 229,052 Jews in the Baltic region and White Russia. ‘Estonia …is Jew-free.’ He apologized that he was having difficulty in White Russia because ‘the heavy frost set in, which made mass executions much more difficult. Nevertheless, 41,000 (in that region) have been shot up to now’.
   The commander of Einsatzgruppe D. Otto Ohlendorf, whose death squads killed 90,000 Jews, reported how the killings were carried out: ‘The men, women and children were led to a place of execution which in most cases was located next to an anti-tank ditch which had been deepened. Then they were shot, kneeling or standing, and the corpses thrown into the ditch.’ Eichmann admitted that he had witnessed such mass killings by these SS Special Action Groups. He could never have imagined that one of the witnesses at his trial would be Mrs Rebecca Yosilevska, who had survived. Brought to the edge of a pit and forced to strip, she saw her entire family shot before her eyes, and was then shot herself in the head, but it only grazed her scalp. She fell into the pit of dead bodies, was soon covered by freshly murdered companions, lost consciousness, awoke hours later, slithered through the blood to the top and found the Germans gone. She was picked up by a passing farmer who tended her wounds and kept her hidden until she was well enough to join a Jewish partisan group with whom she fought until the area was liberated by the Russian army. At war’s end, she went to Israel.
   This was the monumental, irreparable loss suffered by the Jewish nation. This was the holocaust which Eichmann had helped to bring about. At his trial, his main defence was that he had simply ‘carried out orders’, and was but an ‘unimportant link’, a ‘puppet’, a ‘small screw in a complex machine’. The court found that ‘he was not a puppet in the hands of others. His place was among those who pulled the strings’. Tried on fifteen counts - seven of crimes against humanity, four of crimes against the Jewish people, one of war crimes, and three of membership of a hostile organization - he was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death on the first twelve counts. The trial ended on 14 August 1961 and judgement was delivered on 15 December.
   He was given leave to appeal, and the hearings took place on 22 March 1962. before five members of the Supreme Court sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeals - Justices Yitzhak Olshan (president), Shimon Agranat (deputy president), Moshe Silberg, Yoel Susman and Alfred Vitkon. They upheld the verdict and sentence of the lower court.
   Eichmann petitioned the president of Israel for clemency. The petition was denied on 31 May 1962. Two minutes before midnight, the sentence was carried out by hanging. This was the only death sentence executed in the State of Israel. Since the idea was abhorrent to public opinion that his remains should be buried in Israel, his body was cremated and the ashes scattered out to sea.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Eichmann, Adolf — ▪ German military official in full  Karl Adolf Eichmann  born March 19, 1906, Solingen, Germany died May 31, 1962, Tel Aviv, Israel       German high official who was hanged by the state of Israel for his part in the Holocaust, the Nazi (Nazi… …   Universalium

  • Eichmann, Adolf — (1906–1962)    Because of his trial in Israel in 1961, Eichmann has become, perhaps, the most widely known Nazi perpetrator of the Holocaust. Eichmann moved to Germany after the Austrian Nazi Party was banned in 1933. In Germany, he enlisted in… …   Historical dictionary of the Holocaust

  • Eichmann, Adolf — (1906 62)    Born in Solingen, Germany, Eich mann was a German SS officer who presided over the implementation of Adolf Hitler s final solution, the extermination of European Jews in the Holocaust. Captured by the Americans at the end of the war …   Historical Dictionary of Israel

  • Eichmann, Adolf — 1906–1962    Eichmann was a German SS officer who was Head of the Gestapo’s Section IV BG, the Department of Jewish Affairs. After the Wannsee Conference (January 1942) it was decided to put into effect the final solution to exterminate all Jews …   Who’s Who in World War Two

  • Eichmann,Adolf — Eich·mann (īkʹmən, īKHʹ , īKH mänʹ), Adolf. 1906 1962. German Nazi official who as head of the Gestapo s Jewish section (1939 1945) was chiefly responsible for the murder of millions of Jews during World War II. After the war he fled to South… …   Universalium

  • Eichmann, Adolf —  (1906–1962) Notorious Nazi war criminal, head of Gestapo; captured in Argentina by Israeli agents in 1960 and tried and executed in Israel …   Bryson’s dictionary for writers and editors

  • EICHMANN, ADOLF OTTO° — (1906–1962), SS officer and head of the Jewish Department of the Gestapo. He became one of the people most identified with the Final Solution of the Jewish Problem during his trial, which took place in Jerusalem in 1961, and a synonym in all… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Adolf Eichmann — (1961) Unterschrift von Adolf Eichmann …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Adolf Eichmann — en uniforme SS en 1942 Naissance 19 mars 1906 Solingen …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Eichmann — Adolf Eichmann Adolf Eichmann Naissance 19 mars 1906 Solingen, Allemagne Décès 31 mai 1962 (à 56 ans) Jérusalem …   Wikipédia en Français

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.