|What to Do with Adolf
Baruch C. Cohen, Esq.
What to Do with Adolf Eichmann's Memoirs?
Nazi SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer (Lieutenant-Colonel) Karl Adolf Eichmann was originally a gasoline salesman before he signed up for the Nazi party. In the Nazi party, Eichman rose quickly to become Adolf Hitler's right hand man and was appointed to manage all Jewish affairs . In Austria and Czechoslovakia, Eichmann was the one primarily responsible for Jewish destruction. He was head of the Department for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo from 1941 to 1945 and was chief of operations in the deportation of three million Jews to extermination camps. It was Eichmann who organized the Wannsee Conference of January 1942, which focused on issues related to the "final solution of the Jewish question." From this point Eichmann assumed the leading role in the deportation of European Jews to the death camps, as well as in the plunder of their property.
Hitler's troops rounded up millions of Jewish people and sent them to the dreaded concentration camps at Auschwitz, Chelmno, Treblinka, Sobibor, and probably one of the most famous, Belsec, where Anne Frank was sent. Adolf Eichmann embraced his leader's vitriolic hatred of Jews and other "undesirables" with a passion-and turned his mind to creating the most efficient and horrifying machine of death the world has ever seen.
At the end of the war, Eichmann was arrested and confined to an American internment camp, but he was able to escape unrecognized. He lived in Germany for five years and then moved to Argentina where he lived for ten years. He fled to Argentina and lived under the assumed name of Ricardo Klement for ten years until Israeli Mossad agents abducted him in 1960 (marking the end of an exhaustive 15 year world-wide manhunt), and brought to Israel, where he stood trial in Jerusalem for crimes against humanity and the Jewish people. In the case of the Attorney-General of the Government of Israel v. Adolf, son of Addfkarl Eichmann, he was found guilty in December 1961 and, after his appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected, was hanged in a Ramle prison in May 31, 1962. It was the only time that the death penalty has been carried out under Israeli law. His last words were, "I was just following orders." The Israeli Mossad decided that no grave or marker should remain to become a shrine for Nazi sympathizers and scattered Eichmann's ashes in the ocean off Jaffa.
While sitting in the bowels of Israel's penal system, Adolf Eichmann - arch-perpetrator of the Final Solution - put pen to paper in 1961-1962 and wrote memoirs spanning some 1,200 pages. Thirty-seven years later, these memoirs, which then Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion ordered buried in the national archives, are at the center of a debate: who should publish them, in what manner, and why.
The Eichmann memoirs, was merely a written justification of the Nazi henchman's defense: that he was just a small cog in a giant killing machine, a mid-level bureaucrat merely following orders. In many instances, the memoir is full of lies and is a grossly sanitized version of history that Eichmann wrote to make himself look good.
Gideon Hausner, the former attorney-general who prosecuted Eichmann, convinced Ben-Gurion in 1962 to bury the document in the state archives for 15 years. In the Hebrew edition of his book on the trial, Justice in Jerusalem, Hausner wrote that he spoke to Ben-Gurion about the document. "I said that his [Eichmann's] desire to publish it at the same time that the verdict was due to be released was an attempt to compete with the verdict and would raise doubts in the world about the justice of the verdict." "Eichmann was given an opportunity to express his opinion when he was on the witness stand for 30 sessions. We are not obligated to publicize his work and circulate his false version - the law does not obligate this, and there is no justification for it. Ben-Gurion ruled that it be filed away for 15 years." And so it was. Ben-Gurion's biographer, Shabbtai Teveth, said Ben-Gurion's decision was born of a feeling that by his actions, Eichmann had forfeited his right to express himself outside of the court. "Ben-Gurion did not make a final determination [on the matter]," Teveth said. "He said, 'I am here in 1960, and as long as I am here, it will not be published. But I do not know what will be in 15 years. Maybe in that time the whole world will view Nazism as I see it. Someone else will come in my place, discuss the matter, and decide again.'" Teveth disputed claims that Ben-Gurion made his decision lest the document be used by Holocaust deniers, saying the issue was not something that greatly concerned the prime minister.
The issue of what to do with the document was raised again during Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's tenure, and at one time was scheduled to be brought to the prime minister for a decision. This was around the time that Hausner published his book in Hebrew and added material on the little-known memoirs. The issue, however, never made it to Begin's desk. The memoirs remained on the shelf until two years ago, when a German journalist asked to see the document, and discussions about what to do with it started anew.
The discussions intensified earlier this year after the screening of a movie about Eichmann called The Specialist. Following that film, historians and journalists requested to see the memoirs. News of the existence of the memoirs was reported in Germany, and one of Eichmann's four sons, Dieter, decided to petition Israel for the manuscript. This raised the fear that he would then want to publish it himself, thereby making money out of the atrocities his father perpetuated, something Hausner said would be obscene.
This week, Israeli Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein released a statement saying that the "inclination is to bring the material to the public for its consideration as soon as possible, by publishing it in its entirety by German researchers, with comments and appropriate accompanying material."
Holocaust historians have applauded the decision to publish the document claiming that as a society are under a moral obligation not to hold back the publication or accessibility of any document relating to the Holocaust. They expressed doubt whether there was anything new in the manuscript. They concluded that it may indeed be important from the point of view of a psychological investigation of a murderer's mind.
I am morally outraged by the very notion that this Nazi monster's writings might see the light of day and I fear that it may be conferred with post-mortem legitimacy. I would have preferred that the Israeli Mossad burned Eichmann's papers together with his body. This debate is typical of a society that has lost its way.
Notwithstanding my personal feelings against its dissemination, the reality is that the Memoirs exist, and will probably be published. The question remains what limitations, if any, will be in place to prevent a perversion of history and justice.
I propose the following:
1. Eichmann's Memoirs must be a scientific publication and not a sensationalist or commercial one. It must be stated quite clearly that this is not at all done for profit.
2. It must be published in its entirety, with explanatory footnotes. Publish the document not as something that stands alone, but rather along with the Sasser document and the verdict which will put the memoir in its proper context. The Sassen document is some 600 pages of interviews Eichmann gave a Dutch Nazi journalist named Willem Sassen in 1957, before his capture by Mossad agents, in which he owned up to his role in the extermination of Jews and expressed regret that he was not more effective at his job. That document, written while he was still free, is more honest than the one written in jail, when Eichmann thought he could influence the verdict. Holocaust deniers would have little use for this document, since Eichmann admitted that the extermination of Jews took place and only denied that he had a key role in it.