On this day in 1962, the fugitive Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann
was executed in Israel. During the Nazi rule of Germany, Eichmann was one
of Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s top men in the paramilitary organisation
the SS, charged with overseeing the deportation of Jews to extermination
camps. For this role, and his prominent participation in the 1942
Wannsee Conference that planned the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish
Problem’, he is considered one of the chief architects of the Holocaust.
After the fall of the Third Reich with Germany’s defeat in the Second
World War and Adolf Hitler’s suicide in 1945, top Nazi officials
faced charges of war crimes. Many were captured, and either committed
suicide rather than face trial (like SS leader Heinrich Himmler), were
executed after the Nuremberg Trials (like Foreign Minister Joachim von
Ribbentrop), or were sent to prison (like Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess).
Eichmann, however, fled first to Austria and then to Argentina in 1950,
where he lived until he was captured by Israeli intelligence services.
Eichmann was subsequently put on trial in Jerusalem for war crimes,
found guilty, and was executed by hanging in 1962.
Fifty years after Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann was convicted in an epic trial that helped shape Israel’s national psyche, the Israeli parliament on Monday put on display for the first time dozens of artifacts from the daring 1960 operation in Argentina that captured the Nazi criminal.
The gripping public testimony during the trial by more than 100 Jews who survived torture and deprivation captured world attention and vividly brought to life the horrors of the Holocaust. It also brought to light stories of Jewish bravery and resistance that shattered the myth of Jews meekly walking to their deaths. As a result, more survivors went public with their experiences, which greatly helped research and commemoration efforts.
After escaping U.S. custody at the end of World War II, this SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) fled to the “Nazi haven” of Argentina, where he lived in relative obscurity for ten years. His passport gave his name as “Riccardo Klement”. Although it had been suspected that Eichmann had been hiding out in South America prior to 1960, it was only that year that Mossad agents abducted and smuggled the notorious ex-Nazi to Israel for trial.
David Ben-Gurion described Adolf Eichmann (who was in charge of the deportation and transportation of Jews in occupied Poland) as “one of the greatest of Nazi war criminals”. Eichmann’s case was hopeless; over a decade earlier at the Nuremberg Trials, his own former associates had more or less cemented his guilt as a principal organizer of the Holocaust. And his own quotes - for example:
I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.
were equally damning. Over a hundred people testified against Eichmann, including former SS officers. He was convicted in 1962 on fifteen counts, including murder, sterilization, enslavement, starvation, deportation, persecution, and war crimes in general (plus the three additional charges of belonging to criminal organizations, those being the SA, SD, and Gestapo). For these, Adolf Eichmann was hanged shortly before midnight on May 31, 1962, fifty years ago today.
Witness Zivia Lubetkin Zuckerman testifies during the trial of Adolf Eichmann, 1961 Following his kidnapping from Argentina by Israeli agents, former SS-Obersturmbannfuehrer Adolf Eichmann was put on trial in Jerusalem in April 1961. Eichmann was charged on fifteen different counts in connection with his activities as the head of RSHA department IVB4, responsible for carrying out the “final solution” of the so-called Jewish Question. The most significant of the charges focused on Eichmann’s crimes against the Jewish people, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Also, as a former member of the SS and SD, Eichmann was charged with being a member of an organization declared criminal by the IMT at Nuremberg in October 1946. The trial lasted until December 15, 1961, when the court declared Eichmann guilty on all counts and sentenced him to death. Eichmann’s defense subsequently lodged an appeal, but after it was rejected by the Israeli Supreme Court on May 29, 1962, Eichmann was executed by hanging on the night of May 31, 1962.
Adolf Eichmann stands in his glass cage, flanked by guards, in the Jerusalem courtroom where he was tried in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II. After his kidnapping by Israeli Mossad agents in Argentina, Eichmann was tried and convicted of all 15 charges against him including crimes against humanity, and was executed on May 31, 1962. (AP Photo)