1960s |

The Man Behind The Holocaust Sentenced To Death - 12/15/1961

On this date in 1961, the Nazi Secret Service officer Adolf Eichmann who organized Adolf Hitler's "final resolution to ending Jews in Europe" is finally sentenced to death in Israel.

Adolf Eichmann was born in 1906, in Solingen, Germany. In November 1932, he joined the Nazi's elite SS called "Schutzstaffel" whose members later became key players in Nazi Germany and were responsible for policing, intelligence, and the authorization of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic policies. Within few years, Eichmann rose in the SS chain of command, and with the German invasion of Austria in 1938, he was sent to Vienna with the sole purpose of clearing the city of Jews. He did an effective job in the city and even set up a Jewish deportment center before he was moved to Prague in 1939 for a similar mission. That same year, Eichmann was assigned to the Jewish section of the SS headquarters in Berlin.

In January 1942, according to Hermann Goering (one of Nazi's leader), Eichmann met with top Nazi authorities at the Wannsee Conference close to Berlin in order to discuss the "final resolution to ending Jews in Europe". The Nazis chose to eliminate Europe's Jewish populace. Eichmann was assigned the responsibility to facilitate the identification, gathering, and transportation of millions of Jews in Europe to the Nazi concentration camps, where they were either gassed or worked to death. Eichmann was efficient at his work, and about four million Jews died in the concentration camp by the end of the Second World War, while another two million were killed in other death camps.

After World War II, Eichmann was caught by U.S. troops. Unfortunately, he managed to escape prison in 1946, before he could face Nuremberg International War Crimes Tribunal. Eichmann travelled between Europe and the Middle East under a false identity, and in 1950, he permanently settled in Argentina, which is known to be a refuge for Nazi war criminals because of his slack immigration policies. In 1957, a German prosecutor secretly leaked the information that Eichmann was living in Argentina to Israel's intelligence service. Israel's Mossad agents were sent to Argentina, where they found Eichmann living in the San Fernando area of Buenos Aires under the name of Ricardo Klement.

During Argentina's 150th anniversary of its revolution against Spain in 1960 and many tourists were trooping in to Argentina to join in the celebration. The Mossad utilized the chance to sneak-in more agents. Israel, realizing that Argentina may never agree to hand over Eichmann for trial, had chosen to abduct him and take him to Israel illegally. On May 11, Mossad agents stormed Garibaldi Street in San Fernando and grabbed Eichmann away as he was strolling from the bus to his home. In addition, his family called nearby hospitals but not the police, and Argentina remained unaware of the operation. On May 20, a sedated Eichmann was flown out of Argentina masked as an Israeli airline worker who had suffered head injury in an accident. After three days, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared that Eichmann was in Israeli custody.

Argentina requested Eichmann's return, while Israel maintained that given his status as an international war criminal, they have the right to continue with the trial. On April 11, 1961, Eichmann's trial started in Jerusalem, making it the first broadcast trial ever. Eichmann faced 15 count charges ranging from crimes against humankind, persecution of the Jewish race, and war crimes. However, Eichmann claimed the he was simply following orders, which the judges disagreed, and on December 15, he was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to death. On May 31, 1962, he was hanged near Tel Aviv. His body cremated and the ashes tossed into the ocean.

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.