A Triumph of Justice On the Trail of Holocaust Organizer Adolf Eichmann


Part 2: From Austria to Northern Germany

But there are still some witnesses left -- men like Globke aide Manfred Baden; Gabriel Bach, Eichmann's deputy prosecutor in Jerusalem; Friedrich Kroneck, who observed the trial in Jerusalem as a member of the Bonn delegation; and Georg Negwer, a former diplomat at the German Embassy in Buenos Aires.

As a result, the minutiae of the Eichmann case can now be reconstructed, including his escape with the help of a secret network of former SS members, his open appearances in Buenos Aires, and the German intelligence agencies' detailed knowledge of his whereabouts.

But it was the judiciary and politicians, not the German intelligence agencies -- the BND and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) -- that stood in the way of Eichmann's arrest. If the world needed yet another reason for an international criminal court, the Eichmann case would serve as a case in point. For years, authorities did not even bother to search for the man.

The US kept out of the Eichmann case, leaving it up to the Germans to pursue. The German courts took their time before issuing an arrest warrant, and then the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) refused to launch a search for Eichmann through Interpol.

When the Mossad eventually captured the former SS leader, the German government and the BND were particularly anxious to protect one man: Hans Globke, the colorful head of the Chancellery and Adenauer's closest advisor. As an official in the Interior Ministry during the Third Reich, Globke helped the persecuted and apparently softened a few anti-Jewish measures. But he also wrote a commentary on the Nuremberg racial laws and co-authored various legal regulations, such as an ordinance that required Jews with non-Jewish names to take on the additional first names of Israel or Sara.

Countless Rumors

Because of his past, Globke was the most controversial state secretary in postwar German history. For Adenauer's critics, he was proof positive that West Germany was being run by an old boys' club. Not surprisingly, Adenauer used every tool at his disposal to keep Globke's name out of the Eichmann trial. Now the details of this operation have also come to light, which SPIEGEL will reveal in the second part of the Eichmann series.

The hunt for Eichmann began in the early summer of 1945. The Allies knew little about the angular man with his prominent nose and thin lips. But soon they began receiving reports from survivors who had encountered Eichmann. Some knew him because the SS leader had headed the Nazi emigration offices in Vienna, Prague and Berlin before the beginning of World War II. At the time, Hitler was not out to murder Jews but wanted to force them to emigrate instead.

Others had encountered Eichmann in the concentration camps, which he visited several times. Or they had run into him in Hungary where, as the head of a SS special unit in 1944, he deported more than 400,000 people in only eight weeks. After lengthy negotiations with Jewish representatives in Budapest, Eichmann had allowed 1,684 Jews to emigrate to Switzerland in return for payment. Those involved in the negotiations, of course, also remembered Eichmann.

But the search was complicated by countless rumors. According to one, he was hiding out in the Alps, waiting for a war to break out between the Soviets and the West. In another case, his wife spread a rumor that he planned to move to Prague. Holocaust survivors also had their stories, including one in which Eichmann was under the protection of the Palestinian grand mufti of Jerusalem.

Four Million in the Camps, Two Million Elsewhere

To make matters worse, there were two Eichmanns at the Reichssicherheitshauptamt, Adolf and Ingo. On several occasions in the 1950s, the Eichmann hunters got the two cases mixed up.

In reality, at the end of the war Eichmann was hiding with a few fellow SS members in the mountainous landscape of Austria's Altaussee lake, where his family lived. But his presence made the others nervous, prompting him to leave the group and head north. A US patrol arrested him near Ulm in southern Germany, and he was eventually interned in a prisoner-of-war camp in the Franconia region of northern Bavaria. He used a false name and said that he had served as an officer with the Waffen-SS.

His situation only became precarious when investigators working with the Nuremberg war crimes trials interrogated Wilhelm Höttl, a close friend of Eichmann. US investigators had learned that Höttl, in the POW camp, had talked about a 1944 meeting with Eichmann in Budapest. Together, the two men had downed a bottle of Hungarian schnapps. "Tell me Adolf, how many Jews were really murdered?" Höttl asked Eichmann, according to his testimony. Four million in the extermination camps and two million by other means, Eichmann replied. This response was later read out loud in court. It was the first reliable assessment of the scope of the Holocaust, and it made headlines in the New York Times.

When Eichmann learned that the Americans were looking for him in the POW camps, he turned to the highest-ranking former SS member in the camp, identified himself and asked for his help, as described by Eichmann biographer David Cesarani. On Feb. 5, 1946, Eichmann escaped from American captivity and promptly obtained papers that identified him as one Otto Henninger. According to BND documents, Eichmann's false papers were obtained through a network of southern German and Austrian Nazis that included Josef Urban, a former expert on Hungary at the Reichssicherheitshauptamt who probably knew Eichmann from Budapest.

Hoping to Disappear

After Hitler's downfall, Urban joined the United States Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) and later worked for the Gehlen Organization, the postwar German intelligence agency that preceded the BND. The affable native of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia boasted of having helped Eichmann escape -- a perfectly plausible claim given Urban's reputation as an expert in supplying false documents to Nazis hoping to disappear.

Like Eichmann, many war criminals went into hiding. They blended in with the large numbers of Germans on the move through a devastated country; the expellees from Eastern Europe, decommissioned soldiers and people who had lost their homes in Allied bombing campaigns. The murderers could also depend on the discretion of their former comrades, and on the support of relatives and friends, who provided them with places to stay or transportation, no questions asked.

The sister of an SS leader who knew Eichmann from the POW camp took him to northern Germany. Another former SS member, also an acquaintance from the camp, had told Eichmann to contact his brother, a forester in the town of Altensalzkoth near Celle.

In the spring of 1946, Eichmann's escape came to a temporary end in the Lüneburg Heath. He found a job as a forestry worker and then built a small chicken farming business.


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BTraven 04/01/2011
I have always wondered when it was mentioned again that his family had been quite poor in Argentina why he did not take any bribes in order to prepare his family for the time after the war. Nazi leaders were very corrupt, one SS concentration camp commander was even sentenced to death among other things because of embezzling property which was “confiscated“ from prisoners by the SS. I think only a few high ranking officers were detected therefore the chances getting through were quite good. Since he had never regretted his crimes I believe that he was quite happy about being caught by the Mossad because he knew an arrest and a trial would make sure that history would evaluate his contribution to the Holocaust adequately. Perhaps he was feeding up playing always the second fiddle.
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