In this article, I will try to tell the story of Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann , who was one of the implementers of the policy of extermination and genocide, known as the Final Solution , applied by the Nazis against all European Jews, Germany, during the reign of Adolf Hitler.
Millions of European Jews, would be killed and burned in the gas chambers in notorious concentration camps such as Auschwitz and Birkenau. He had organized the transfer of people by train convoys from Nazi-occupied countries to these killing factories.
As soon as the victims got off the train, a team of concentration camp doctors and SS officers would decide who would be immediately sent to the gas chambers and who would be left to work like slaves to their death. This tragic moment of decision was a hell scene where mothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, siblings and children parted never to see each other again.
Separation of Victims in Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Why did Adolf Eichmann come to the fore in recent world history, despite the fact that he did not personally order any massacres and was only related to the bureaucratic and logistical aspects of these massacres? We will discuss this in detail in the concluding section of the article by referring to the book written by the political scientist Hannah Arendt on the subject.
When we take a look at the early life of Adolf Eichmann before he became such an important figure in the Nazi destruction machine, we see that he led a rather mediocre, ordinary life:
Otto Adolf Eichmann was born on March 19, 1906, as a German of Austrian descent. After a not so bright education life after his childhood years, he worked for a while in the mining company owned by his father. After this first job, he started working as a traveling sales representative in 1927. After joining the National Socialist Party and the SS Organization in 1932, he was appointed as the head of a department dealing with the Jewish question when he returned to Germany in 1933. This department was in charge of organizing the immigration of Jews, who were intimidated by oppression and violence under Hitler regime, to other countries by confiscating almost all their assets. However, with the onset of Second World War, which started as a result of Germany's attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, the first task of this department was to organize the ghettos where, in addition to the Jews of Germany, Austria, the Jewish population of the occupied countries would gather before they were deported to a place to be determined. The most well-known of these ghettos was the Warsaw ghetto, which condemned people to live in an open-air prison in their own city under extremely unhealthy conditions, packed like sardines. In this period, the main policy of the Nazis on this issue was to send all European Jews en masse to another continent and create a Europe free of Jews (Judenfrei)under the absolute rule of Germany. One of the places the Nazis considered sending Jews en masse was the island of Madagascar, located in the southeast of the African continent. However, these plans could not be implemented due to various difficulties.
As the number of occupied countries increased, the Jewish Question, as defined by the Nazis, was becoming more and more difficult for them to solve. The Germans' attack on Soviet Russia with an invasion plan called Operation Barbarossa on 22 June 1941 and the new territory they captured in a short time would make the Jewish Question completely insoluble from the point of view of the Nazis. In fact, long before this date, the Nazis used the method of exterminating the Jews in the countries they occupied by killing them and burying them in mass graves, especially with the help of local anti-semitic people and organizations in these countries.
Adolf Eichmann in his SS Uniform at a Parade
However, since it would not be possible to exterminate all European Jews in this way, their basic policy was to isolate the Jews from the society and expel them collectively to a place outside of Europe.
The murders they committed during this period were a method that would help the final solution with the aim of intimidation rather than a strategy of mass extermination. The fact that Nazi Germany occupied many areas with a high Jewish population in Soviet Russia within a year, would bring about a radical change in the Nazis' policies on this issue.
Some officials of Nazi Germany in charge of solving the Jewish Question, came together in an organization known as Wansse Conference in history in 20th January 1942, chaired by SS General Reinhard Heydrich, with the participitation of some other high-ranking SS Generals such as Otto Hoffman, Heinrich Müller, officers, party bureaucrats and Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann. A new stragety,resolution would be adopted in Wansee Conference that would be named as Final Solution to solve Jewish Problem on Hitlers verbal instructions
Last Look at the World Before He Was Killed
Eichmann's role in this meeting was more of a technocrat, a bureaucrat, compared to other high-ranking participants in terms of his position and rank. General Reinhard commissioned Eichmann, who was in his entourage, to record the agenda of this meeting and the issues discussed. The outcome of the meeting was the decision to collectively and systematically exterminate the Jews of Europe within a plan, which would be referred to as the Final Solution. Even before this radical decision, units called Death Troops (Einsatzgruppen), that served alongside the units attacking Soviet Russia, were specially assigned to exterminate the Jews in the occupied regions.
Now, this process of massacre and mass extermination would evolve into an industrial genocide by equipping the concentration camps with gas chambers and literally turning them into death factories. The most notorious of these killing factories were the Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka concentration camps within the borders of occupied Poland.
Adolf Eichmann was tasked by General Heydrich with coordinating the units working on the solution of the Jewish Question. His role was at the level of the enforcer rather than the decision maker. The office he headed was taking inventory of the Jewish population in the occupied countries, organizing their transfer by train to the aforementioned concentration camps, which were converted into death factories after confiscating their possessions and money. Eichmann's job was mainly to organize train convoys that would transport the Jews to the concentration camps, and until the last moment he carried out this task with supreme success and with an illogical devotion.
In 1944, when the Germans were losing the war by retreating on all fronts , even the notorious SS leader Heinrich Himmler was no longer keen on continuing these massacres, hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were sent to their horrific deaths in concentration camps, thanks to Eichmann's meddlesomeness and his unquestioning love of duty .
Germany occupied Hungary in the last period of the war on March 19, 1944. Until this date, Hungary was a relatively safe country for the Jewish population. .But with the directives of the SS leader Himmler and the cooperation of the puppet government appointed by the Nazis, the Jews were soon gathered and sent to the killing factories with the transportation network organized by Eichmann. However, as time passed, as the Soviet Army forced the Germans to withdraw, some leading Nazis, especially Himmler, realized that the war would be lost, and became reluctant to continue the massacres and focused on destroying the evidence of genocide. Contrary to the instructions given to him in this direction, Lieutenant Colonel Eichmann continued to organize the death wagons with his own initiative and effort until the last moment. Because of his meddling, until the Germans withdrew from Hungary, 437,000 of the 725,000 Jewish people in this country would have perished in the gas chambers of the death factories.
When the war ended, Eichmann was arrested by the US Army and held in a private prison for SS officers. However, his true identity has not yet been revealed. Fearing that his identity would be exposed, Eichmann somehow escaped from prison and worked under a false identity in secluded jobs such as forestry worker in Germany until 1950. However, thinking that his identity would eventually be revealed, he obtained a false passport with the help of a Nazi sympathizer Austrian priest living in Italy. His fake name on the passport was Ricardo Klement, who appeared to be an officer in the Committee of the Red Cross, and in this way, in June 1950, he set out for Argentina on a cruise ship from the port of Genoa. From that time on ,Eichmann's life was spent in Argentina until he was captured by Mossad agents in 1960 and kidnapped into Israel for trial. After Eichmann had started living in Argentina, he brought his wife and children in 1952.
Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Fake Passport Prepared for Eichmann in the Name of Ricardo Klement
After working in some temporary jobs where he could not earn much money at first, he found a job in the Mercedes-Benz factory in Buenos Aires and worked as a foreman in this factory until 1960 when he was caught.
One of the most interesting espionage stories in history is Eichmann's capture by the Israeli intelligence organization Mossad after it was determined that he was in Argentina .Following his capture he was taken to Israel to stand trial.
One of Eichmann's sons, Klaus Eichmann, flirts with a girl named Sylvia Lothar, citing his father's achievements in Nazi Germany to brag about. However, he states that his father is not with them in Argentina, they are staying with his uncle. Because Eichmann instructed his children to introduce himself to strangers as their uncle in order not to be deciphered.
Sylvia tells her own father, Hermann Lother, that her boyfriend had told her about what her father had done during the war. While living in Germany, Hermann was held in Dachau concentration camp for a while as a socialist Jew, but immigrated to Argentina with his family in 1938, predicting that Germany would become a hell for Jews in the near future. After a while, he would lose his sight as a result of the beatings and torture he had suffered in the concentration camp. Hermann was suspicious of this information and wanted his daughter to continue this relationship for a while. In one of her later interviews, Sylvia witnessed her boyfriend addressing Eichmann, whom he introduced as his uncle, as father several times. Later, the people whom the girl's father had informed about this suspicious situation broke the news to Simon Wiesenthal, who was a dedicated Nazi hunter chasing the fugitive Nazis all over the world.
Sylvia Lother, Initiating Adolf Eichmann and His Capture
The State of Israel had also become aware of this situation. Mossad officials, on instructions from then Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, devised a top secret plan to capture and kidnap Eichmann in Argentina and bring him to Israel. Because at that time, the Argentinian Government housed many Nazi criminals there, including SS Officer Joseph Mengele - who was known as the Angel of Death ,one of the leading doctors of the Auschwitz concentration camp - and was reluctant to extradite any of them abroad even against the existence of arrest warrants ,due to its deep ties with them.
To kick off the top secret plan, a Mossad agent named Zvi Ahorani was sent to Argentina in March 1960 to find out if the person who was reported was really Eichmann. Ahorani monitored the house where Eichmann was living with his family ,literally a slum on Garibaldi street, 20 kilometers north of Buenos Aires. Israeli agent hired a local agent to his service, and at a convenient time, when Eichmann was spending time in the garden ,he sent him to take some pictures of him with a camera hidden in his briefcase while asking him questions like a buyer who was interested in a nearby plot.
Eichmann's House in the Suburbs of Buenos Aires with his Family
After his identity had almost been confirmed with these photos , eight specially selected Mossad agents were sent to Buenos Aires at different times in May 1960, each on separate planes, under the leadership of Rafi Eitan (1926-2019), who would later be appointed to some very important government positions, and on their arrival to Buenos Aires, they rented a safe house and started living there.
They got detailed information about his daily routines by observing Eichmann's house on Garibaldi Street, which they kept under control by using the cars they have rented. On the day of the implementation of the plan, on May 11, 1960, when Eichmann returned home by bus from the factory where he worked, they managed to capture Eichmann by force on the path between the bus stop and his house, taking advantage of the night, and abducted him by putting him in the car.
Rafi Eitan, Leader of the Team That Kidnapped Eichmann from Argentina
Eichmann was interrogated for a week in the safe house where the agents were stationed. After the examination and questions of a doctor in the team and an expert interrogation agent, Eichmann confessed in a rather short period of time and confirmed his identity. Contrary to what Mossad agents had expected, Eichmann made some stupid mistakes in his interrogation. He first denied that he was Eichmann and claimed that he was Ricardo Klement, putting forward his fake ID in Argentina. All SS Officers had the tattoo on their armpit, indicating their blood groups, but Eichmann had it scraped off to avoid disclosure long ago. However, as the interrogation progressed, he confessed to serving as an SS Officer, using his post-war fake name in Germany. When asked what his SS number was, he said very stupidly, Eichmann's actual SS number. Mossad agents were shocked that a notorious man who organized the train convoys that sent millions of people to their deaths was such a simple, ordinary man with average intelligence.
According to the plan that was prepared in detail beforehand, an Israeli delegation would be sent to Buenos Aires on the pretext of Argentina's 150th founding anniversary, since Israel Airways did not normally fly to Argentina then, and Eichmann would be secretly boarded on this plane and taken to Israel for trial .
Mossad agents waited for a week at the safe house where they held Eichmann hostage for the plane to arrive in Argentina. Eichmann was drugged by the doctor, who was among the Mossad agents, just before the flight, and dressed in a flight attendant's uniform and sprinkled with alcoholic drink on his shirt, and the whole crew boarded the plane. To cover up the situation ,Argentinian police and customs officers, who were checking passports on the plane were told that Eichmann, who was shown as a cabin attendant with a fake passport, had a little too much to drink at the last evening's entertainment. As soon as the plane took off, the whole team celebrated with great joy. An excellent operation, in which no firearms were used or even taken into the inventory, was successfully completed, and the first step was taken to atone for the sins of a murderer who played a major role in the brutal murder of six million people, young, old, children and infants. In order to get out of the South American airspace as soon as possible, the plane refueled in Dakar, Senegal, by crossing the Atlantic Ocean at once, not in Recife, Brazil, as usual, and arrived in Israel on May 22, 1960. After months of interrogation and trial preparations, Eichmann was brought before the court on April 11, 1961.
Adolf Eichmann on trial Before Israeli Justice
In fact, while there were many army commanders and high-ranking SS officers directly responsible for the massacres, who were brought to justice in Nuremberg trials after the war, why did these names not come to the fore as Adolf Eichmann in the context of recent history and did not enter the field of popular history? I think we owe this to Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906 -December 4, 1975), a German-American Jewish political scientist and thinker.
Hannah Arendt refused to be described as a philosopher, saying that philosophy deals with "the individual " problems, and stated that she preferred to be defined as a political scientist because her studies focused on " humanity living in this world and covering the world ".
Arendt's works deal with power, subjects of politics, authority and totalitarianism. Much of her work has focused on affirming the concept of freedom, which is synonymous with collective political action between equals.
One of her most important works is The Human Condition (1958), in which she provocatively reveals the differences between labor, work and action and the important consequences of these differences. She elaborates the theory of political action in this work.
In her greatest work, The Origins of Totalitarianism, she examined the origins of Communism and Nazism and the links between them and antisemitism.
This book has caused quite a bit of controversy because it attempts to compare two, for some, irreconcilable issues.
Thinker and Political Scientist Hannah Arendt (1906 1975 )
Hannah Arendt carefully followed the Eichmann case from beginning to end and took detailed notes. Eichmann's lawyer based his defense on the basis that his client was a bureaucrat who simply did his job by following the orders. Likewise, in the later stages of the case, Eichman repeatedly emphasized this thesis in his own court statements. It was not proven that he himself had blood on his hands or ordered some massacres, as some Jewish victims involved in the case had claimed.
Her notes of Eichmann Case turned into a book named " Eichmann in Jerusalem - Banality of Evil ". which would later became one of the most important books of the 20th century, Arendt asked the question whether evil is something fundamental , or simply the banality of humans ,the result of ordinary people obeying the orders of others and obeying majority opinion without considering the consequences of their actions or inaction.
Both the accounts of the Mossad agents who caught him and brought him to Israel, and the impressions Hannah Arendt had during the trial, indicate that Adolf Eichmann was an extremely ordinary bureaucrat who lacked personal charisma, lacked a bright mind, but pursued a career in his job, which he clinged to with an unshakable sense of duty. .
Despite the fact that he was not too stupid to understand that his job was to send millions of people to their deaths, his demonic passion that he had hidden behind his responsibility to carry out orders and fulfill his duty had completely disabled his sense of conscience and empathy, which can be assumed to be weak from the very beginning.
.So Eichmann's opportunities for feeling like Pontius Pilate were many, and as the months and the years went by, he lost the need to feel anything at all. This was the way things were, this was the new law of the land, based on the Führer's order; whatever he did he did, as far as he could see, as a law-abiding citizen. He did his duty, as he told the police and the court over and over again; he not only obeyed orders, he also obeyed the law. Eichmann had a muddled inkling that this could be an important distinction, but neither the defense nor the judges ever took him up on it. The well-worn coins of "superior orders" versus "acts of state" were handed back and forth; they had governed the whole discussion of these matters during the Nuremberg Trials, for no other reason than that they gave the illusion that the altogether unprecedented could be judged according to precedents and the standards that went with them. Eichmann, with his rather modest mental gifts, was certainly the last man in the courtroom to be expected to challenge these notions and to strike out on his own. Since, in addition to performing what he conceived to be the duties of a law-abiding citizen, he had also acted upon orders - always so careful to be "covered" - he became completely muddled, and ended by stressing alternately the virtues and the vices of blind obedience, or the "obedience of corpses," Kadavergehorsam, as he himself called it.. ( Page 65 )
....The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were and still are, terribly an terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together for it implied - as had been said at Nuremberg over and over again by the defendants and their counsels - that this new type of criminal, who is in actual act hostis generis humani, commits his crime - under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong. ( Page 129 )
... I also can well imagine that an authentic controversy might have arisen over the subtitle of the book; for when I speak of the banality of evil, I do so only on the strictly factual level, pointing to a phenomenon which stared one in the face at the trial. Eichmann was not lago and not Macbeth, and nothing would have been farther from his mind than to determine with Richard III "to prove a villain." Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all. And this diligence in itself was in no way criminal; he certainly would never have murdered his superior in order to inherit his post. He merely, to put the matter colloquially, never realized what he was doing. It was precisely this lack of imagination which enabled him to sit for months on end facing a German Jew who was conducting the police interrogation, pouring out his heart to the man and explaining again and again how it was that he reached only the rank of lieutenant colonel in the S.S. and that it had not been his fault that he was not promoted.. ( Page 134 )
What Arendt essentially revealed was how, in the person of Eichmann, the mechanisms of oppression and obedience of an authoritarian state can multiply oppression through ordinary people, and how this situation can become the indisputable norm among the brainwashed and enchanted masses.
If the defendant excuses himself on the ground that he acted not as a man but as amere functionary whose functions could just as easily have been carried out by an one else, it is as if a criminal pointed to the statistics on crime - which set forth that so-and-so many crimes per day are committed in such- and-such a place - and declared that he only did what was statistically expected, that it was mere accident that he did it and not somebody else, since after all somebody had to do it. Of course it is important to the political and social sciences that the essence of totalitarian government, and perhaps the nature of every bureaucracy, is to make functionaries and mere cogs in the administrative machinery out of men, and thus to dehumanize them. And one can debate long and profitably on the rule of Nobody, which is what the political form known as bureau-cracy truly is. Only one must realize clearly that the administration of justice can consider these factors only to the extent that they are circumstances of the crime - just as, in a case of theft, the economic plight of the thief is taken into account without excusing the theft, let alone wiping it off the slate. True, we have become very much accustomed by modern psychology and sociology, not to speak of modern bureaucracy, to explaining away the responsibility of the doer for his deed in terms of this or that kind of determinism. Whether such seemingly deeper explanations of human actions are right or wrong is debatable. But what is not debatable is that no judicial procedure would be possible on the basis of them, and that the administration of justice, measured by such theories, is an extremely unmodern, not to say outmoded, institution. When Hitler said that a day would come in Germany when it would be considered a "disgrace" to be a jurist, he was speaking with utter consistency of his dream of a perfect bureaucracy ( Page 135 )
Evil was multiplied by bureaucrats and ordinary servants with mediocre intelligence who did not question the conscientiousness of their work, orders or duties, rather than the bad ones themselves.
With the perspective she put forward in this book, Arendt not only examined the mechanisms of authoritarian governments to dominate people and how ordinary people became loyal followers of such perverted orders, but also revealed some principles that should be observed in legal cases involving crimes against humanity.
There remains, however, one fundamental problem, which was implicitly present in all these postwar trials and which must be mentioned here because it touches upon one of the central moral questions of all time, namely upon the nature and function of human judgment. What we have demanded in these trials, where the defendants had committed "legal" crimes, is that human beings be capable of telling right from wrong even when all they have to guide them is their own judgment, which, moreover, happens to be completely at odds with what they must regard as the unanimous opinion of all those around them. And this question is all the more serious as we know that the few who were "arrogant" enough to trust only their own judgment were by no means identical with those persons who continued to abide by old values, or who were guided by a religious belief. Since the whole of respectable society had in one way or another succumbed to Hitler, the moral maxims which determine social behavior and the religious commandments - "Thou shalt not kill!" - which guide conscience had virtually vanished.
.Thus we can read in the postwar statement of the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, the Protestant church, as follows: "We aver that before the God of Mercy we share in the guilt for the outrage committed against the Jews by our own people through omission and silence.." ( Page 137-138 )
At the end of a very long court process, Eichmann was sentenced to death on 15 December 1961 for his crimes against humanity due to his important role in the realization of the Jewish Holocaust, although he did not personally participate in the killing or give such an an order .
Then came Eichmann's last statement: His hopes for justice were disappointed; the court had not believed him, though he had always done his best to tell the truth. The court did not understand him: he had never been a Jew-hater, and he had never willed the murder of human beings. His guilt came from his obedience, and obedience is praised as a virtue. His virtue had been abused by the Nazi leaders. ( Page 116 )
After the verdict, his lawyer takes the necessary steps to appeal .
After his sentence was upheld, Adolf Eichmann was executed early in the morning on 1 June 1962. His body was cremated and his ashes were dumped into the sea by an Israeli warship at a location outside Israeli territorial waters. The state of Israel would not even allow his remains to pollute its territorial waters.
Adolf Eichmann's Last Moments Before His Execution
Since the world has existed, there has been injustice. Not only Jews, but also people belonging to different ethnic, religious backgrounds or having different opinions ,ideas etc. were marginalised and targeted as scapegoats in order for the authoritarian regimes to cover up their own mistakes. They were massacred and subjected to a lot of pain. All these experiences are actually crimes against humanity that can occur anywhere , anytime. Lets not forget to keep in mind that little Adolfs, which can be easily used by every anti-democratic, oppressive and authoritarian regime, can be found everywhere at all times, and it is necessary to be vigilant without ever forgetting the past.
I would like to end this article with a note that a High School Principal from Germany, who also survived a concentration camp, had a habit of sending to all teachers at the opening of the each school year in Germany:
"I am one of the camp survivors. My eyes have seen things that no human should see. Gas chambers built by well-trained engineers, children poisoned by well-trained doctors, babies killed by needles shot by well-trained nurses, people shot and burned by high school and university graduates
My request from you is this: Strive for your students to be human.
Don't let your efforts produce knowledgeable monsters and resourceful psychopaths.
Literacy and math only matter if they help your kids become more human. "
Maritime Pilot ,Izmit Bay / Turkey