On March 21, 1960, at approximately 2 PM, Ricardo Klement got off the bus in the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires, Argentina. In his hands was a bouquet of flowers. He was greeted at the door of 16 Garibaldi Street by his wife and children who appeared dressed for a special occasion. Little did Klement know that this action / event would uncover him as Otto Adolph Eichmann, one of the prime principals of what the Germans of the Third Reich called the Endlösung [or ‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish Problem which it is said ended in the deaths of millions of Jews during World war II.]
Long tested elite members of the Israeli Mossad ( Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks ) or Intelligence Agency, had been keeping that house and its occupants under intense surveillance. They knew that March 21 was Eichmann’s Silver Wedding anniversary. All residual doubt now dissipated. They had their man in their scopes. (1)
It was only a year or so earlier that the Mossad had learned that Eichmann had changed his name to Klement, the man who lived a relatively humble, careful, and punctual life, who worked for a water company, and who nervously lived a life looking over his shoulder, knowing he was hunted by Israeli Intelligence. Earlier one of his sons, Nicholas, who was reported to sometimes use the family name, Eichmann, had made the fatal error of dating an Argentine woman whom he did not know was Jewish. He apparently boasted to her that his father was involved in the killing of the Jews of Europe during the War. This boasting was an Eichmann trait. It was reported back through channels to the Israeli authorities who dispatched their crème de la crème spy agents who had each been tested by risking their lives in pressure cooker contexts and situations in Arab countries on previous assignments. This was another high intensity dangerous mission since it clearly broke Argentine law by attempting the kidnapping of an Argentine resident and removing him under cover to another country. It was also sure to rattle the nerves of those Argentine officials who had helped make Argentina a safe haven for such Nazi criminals.
Less than two months later, on May 11, the Israeli agents were ready to pounce. They had arrived in different locations at different times under the pretext of celebrating Argentina’s 150th year of independence. Many Jews lived in Argentina, so this, in itself, would not necessarily arouse suspicion.
As Eichmann got off his bus about a half hour later than usual on May 11, tense Mossad agents in various cars, some who were pretending to be trying to fix the engine of a “broken down” vehicle, were waiting on Garibaldi Street near the Eichmann residence. When Klement-Eichmann approached the “broken” car the Israeli agents jumped him and, it is said, Eichmann let out a blood curdling scream. He was shoved into one of the cars.
Eichmann then was gagged, tied, and pressed to the floor. From that point on Adolf Eichmann bizarrely cooperated fully, completely, both before and after he was taken to a predetermined safe house, a man apparently resigned to his fate, possibly relieved, even to the point of helping remind the agents of little neglects that could jeopardize their mission.
Eichmann’s family did not announce his sudden disappearance, probably to avoid attracting attention to themselves. Israeli agents and government officials had been divided over what the family response would be. Now they knew.
An El Al plane had been booked for Israel on May 20. Eichmann, on the day of departure, was drugged and dressed in an El Al uniform to keep him from talking and arousing suspicion. At a final checkpoint the agents pretended to be laughing and hungover from a (faked) previous nights partying—which also, it was hoped, would explain Eichmann’s intoxicated countenance.
The very tense boarding and take off was a success. Adolph Eichmann was on his way to Jerusalem.
On May 24, 1960, David Ben-Gurion, prime minister and founder of Israel, stood and made a startling announcement before the Knesset:
“I have to inform the Knesset that, some time ago, Israeli security forces found one of the greatest Nazi criminals, Adolf Eichmann… Adolf Eichmann is already in this country under arrest and will shortly be brought to trial.”
The nation of Israel, indeed the world, was stunned. Adolph Eichmann walked off a bus after a regular day’s work and a short time later found himself behind a glass booth on trial in —of all places— Jerusalem, the disputed capitol of the state which is home to the Jewish people—the people he cooperated in trying to exterminate by his own admission, even if he denied liking the idea, much less conceiving it.
In 1961 Eichmann stood on trial for his life for such cooperation, even if the Jewish prosecutors believed that Eichmann’s actual role never rose to the level of “architect”. Such an indictment proved to be controversial. Not a few objective scholars, biographers and lawyers thought Eichmann was what he claimed to be: a cowardly cog in a vast lethal, paranoid, killing machine headed by madmen. Eichmann never made it in rank beyond Lieutenant-Colonel. But his genocidal efficacious cooperation is undisputed. The prosecutors called him a “man who was born human but who lived like a beast in the jungle who no longer deserves to be called human,” on account of his “unspeakable atrocities”. They indicted him as “an enemy of mankind” whose shocking deeds were executed with “enthusiasm”. Some spectators in the courtroom lost control at the very sight of him crying “butcher!”
His official role was that of “expert,” or “specialist” in transportation / deportation / emigration matters, which meant ‘Jewish matters’ more and more as the war went on. His has been called the first “administrative crime against humanity”. A distinctly modern kind of infamy.
By his own testimony he was, curiously, an “idealist” to the extent that he favored the non-lethal Zionist solution of deporting Jews from the “Fatherland” to “Palestine” (or maybe Madagascar) until that idea was considered unfeasible to Nazi hierarchs. Eichmann said that when he attended by unexpected invitation the infamous Wannsee Conference in January 1942 (to write the minutes, he claimed) he was shocked to hear in the most brutal terms that the deportation of the Jews—what today we would call ‘ethnic cleansing’, horrible enough to be sure—- had by then evolved, “crystallized” in Hitler’s mind to the “extermination” of the Jews, and “methods of killing” were decided; and concentration camps, originally considered by Eichmann primarily as deportation points and work centers, were redesignated as death camps.
Eichmann was by many accounts of the Jews themselves who had to deal with him during the War, a man they could do business with, a man who, strange to say, seemed to see some dignity in them as human beings and who even extended courteous comforts and consolations to them, who never shouted like other Gestapo or the Wassen SS, and who, he said, tried to help and even save some when he could do so. He later came to blame all of Germany’s crimes on exaggerated nationalism which he said at the time of the trial he could “now” see was extremely dangerous, since it has an inherent tendency to egoism and from there finally to “radicalism”.
As previously suggested, Adolf Eichmann was, it was said, also a braggart—-something at times like the Colonel Klink character in certain respects on the old TV show Hogans Heroes, only with lethal efficacy by virtue of his real office—– and it was that strange trait that helped get him captured. Before his capture he had begun work in Argentina on his memoirs, as if these remembrances would become the memoirs of a great man who was already famous. Describing himself therein as an “idealist,” he claimed that his great virtue lay in obeying orders, even though such orders vexed him and, when the Final Solution was announced, “sapped all of the joy” out of him. This seems a vicious postulation. Likewise his distinguishing a “human” guilt from a soldiers guilt, a man who was “guilty before God but not before the law”. In his own mind he was merely a soldier who was “at war” fighting for his homeland. And all war, every soldier knows, is hell.
Would Hang Himself
More than once Eichmann told the court and prosecutors that he accepted responsibility for that human failure / guilt, even to the point of saying he would, at a moments notice, voluntarily hang himself in public as a “warning to future anti-Semites”! He never denied the crime but said he believed the physical extermination plans of the Jews which developed was a shocking development and insane.
Yet Eichmann the bureacrat made those trains run on time, knowing full well eventually that these trains were destined for the camps (note: Eichmann as far as I know, and tellingly, did not object to the official numbers of Jews who were said to be murdered or let to die by the Nazis, though it has been the subject of at least some historical controversy and is not a concern here since I am not a historian and have never questioned officials numbers of any groups or peoples who died unjustly in the war by whatever means. With the Church I condemn all unjust war and all persecutions whatever the source or numbers. Eichmann as a ‘banal’ bureaucratic mass-murderer is the focus here. And he never denied it to my knowledge). He also admitted during his initial police interrogation that if ordered he “would send his own father to his death” even if it meant quashing his own feelings. This was the darkest side of his “idealism” he said. We would call it idolatry, nihilism.
“Not a Monster”?
Hannah Arendt, herself Jewish and no friend of the Nazis, who later taught at the University of Chicago, and who was, ironically and bizarrely, at a tender age the lover of the German existentialist philosopher—and, later, Nazi— Martin Heiddegger, and whose reports on the Eichmann trial for The New Yorker eventually became a best selling book (Eichmann in Jerusalem, Viking Press, 1965) wrote:
“Despite the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man was not a “monster,” but it was difficult indeed to suspect that he was not a clown.” [ibid]
He looked so “ordinary”. Rather pathetic. Frail. Nervous facial tics made one almost feel bad for him, it was said. Polite to a fault. Snapping to his feet when the court asked him questions. Apologizing and promising to improve his recollection even when it was not in his own self interest. He did not appear to be lying like so many other of the cocky infamous Nazis. He spoke of a “split” in consciousness which reflected the split between duty and human feelings. And yet this “clown” knew and saw so much, which makes the prosecutor’s damning point. Arendt was praised by many and criticized by many for referring to the “banality” of evil in the case of Eichmann. She answered that in real life, and once they are out of office, “monsters” almost always appear much smaller and more pathetic than in imagination or while the evils perpetrated or facilitated are happening. Which is why she spoke of banality while not for a minute denying the other aspect, the “Evil”.
In the film archives of his trial it is eery in the extreme to see Eichmann describe a trip to a death camp and watching human beings by the thousands waiting in spread to be shot into their burial grave, en masse, which the Jews themselves and others dug.
Even more horrific is when one watches Eichmann, as I saw, describe something that made the color drain from his face: he describes a huge “fountain of blood” gushing up from the ground like a geyser apparently by some underground “gasses” or “pressure” as he rode by. This was the blood of those, he told the prosecution, who had been shot by the tens of thousands in the areas he had just visited.
“Only Obeying Orders”
Eichmann said he knew and felt his dilemma (whether or not he felt it to be a dillemma at the time I would wager against). He compared himself to Pontius Pilate: carrying out orders but not approving them morally. He had no choice but to obey, he said. He was a soldier. Orders were orders. Soldiers obey orders. He used to quote (out of context) the German philosopher Immanuel Kant on Practical Reason, the Kantian precept, in “the little man’s version,” that “a law is a law, there could be no exceptions” (Arendt, ibid P. 137).
When during the war, he told the court, it was all beginning to get to him, at one point he asked to be relieved of his duties but was reminded that a soldier at the front could not ask for a change but must remain at his post. It would have to be the same for him, he said he was told.
Why didn’t he shoot himself if there was no way out? Or accept his fate as a political enemy of the Third Reich? He said that he was indeed in a situation where many a man would “reach for the pistol,” but he rationalized that he was “only carrying out orders,” orders that he protested within.
Within. There was nothing he could do, he said.
Meanwhile the trains ran on time. Full of ‘human cattle’ headed for the camps. He was a disciplined soldier. He conceived his plight as a tragedy: “guilty before God, but not before the law”. Born in a bad time. “Not guilty in the sense of the indictment”. The indictment meant murder, unspeakable genocide.
With respect to the deaths “of millions of Jews,” he said:
“With the killing of the Jews I had nothing to do. I never killed any human being. I never gave an order to kill either a Jew or a non-Jew; I just did not do it…” Hence he could only be accused of aiding and abetting the annihilation of the Jews which he declared in Jerusalem to have been “one of the greatest crimes in the history of humanity. ” (Eichmann in Jerusalem, Viking Press, 1964, NY, p. 22)
Meanwhile, there was another man who was also born in that bad time.
Franz Jäggerstätter, an isolated Austrian farmer and sacristan of his local Catholic church. After Austria was incorporated into the Third Reich and Franz was called up, he refused to fight on grounds of religious conscience. Only when he was in prison did he discover that there were other objectors like him; he was hugely encouraged. He knew (he wrote) that he wouldn’t change world affairs, but was ‘glad to be another sign that not everyone let themselves be carried with the tide… “And if I must write this with my hands in chains, that’s better than having my will in chains.’ He was sentenced to death by a military court for refusing ‘to fulfil his patriotic duty in Germany’s hard struggle for survival’, and executed on August 9, 1943, aged 36. (Nonviolence in World War Two; What happened in Germany)
Other testimony given to the court in Jersusalem related that those Christians who were trying to hide hunted Jews were hanged.
It takes courage to die. Grace to resist being “carried with the tide,” especially when the tide is a one gigantic insane killing machine. Most of us will likely not be called to die like the saintly Jäggerstätter. But all human beings are called to resist evil by non-cooperation with evils, whatever or whomever the source. We are, like Franz Jäggerstätter, called to be “another sign”.
Yesterday it was Nazism, Leninism-Stalinsim, and other lethal political ideologies and philosophies. How many other “administrative crimes” are being conducted in our time? How many others think to themselves, “I never killed anybody. I have a desk job and work for my country?”
Or for science, religion, democracy…
Today it is other forms of imperialism, dominance over others, materialism, hedonism, abortion, pornography, gender perversions and false ideologies in schools, euthanasia, eugenics, contempt for the health and welfare for the world’s poor, and other ideologies inimical to the dignity of the human person. Resisting often means persecution, from the community frequently enough, from family and friends and employers all too often.
We need what Adolf Eichmann certainly lacked: convictions regarding the dignity of every human being as the image of God, courage, and a fearless attachment to traditional Truth. The conviction also that human laws are only good and holy when they are in harmony with the Good and the Holy, that is with God Himself who is above mere human laws. In dry (non-bloody) martyrdom, and in wet martyrdom we need courage and love. The old bumper sticker remains ever true which says: Question Authority. Resist Injustice! We cannot cooperate with evil.
N.B. Criticism today
No peoples on earth are above criticism and the need at times for serious changes, whether Jews or Gentiles. And none should be afraid to let criticism fly when necessary, and without any undue fear of harrassment.
Many Jewish media moguls in recent decades have appeared to be deliberately out to destroy children (including their own) by assaulting / mocking the Commandments, the Moral and Natural laws via their ubiquitous forms of media programming, publishing houses, etc. But how many gentile moguls and lackeys do the same? Very, very, many. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23). We had all better repent before we all reap the whirlwind. — Stephen Hand
(1) Sources: The Capture of Adolf Eichmann by Doron Geller, The Jewish Virtual Library; Operation Eichmann: The Truth about the Pursuit, Capture and Trial, Zvi Aharoni, Wilhelm Dietl, 1997.
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Viking Press, NY, 1964. Also various film archive segments of the Eichmann trial and newspaper accounts.
According to a New York Times review of a book on Arendt’s analysis of Eichmann and his trial, referring to Arendt the reviewer writes, “the passages of “Eichmann in Jerusalem” that have drawn the most criticism [involved] the attack on the Jewish leaders who cooperated with the Nazis. For Arendt, the leaders embodied the general “moral collapse” of those years. She refused to grant Jews any special status, even as victims, rejecting what she called the “absurd assertion of a kind of collective innocence of the Jewish people.” The Holocaust, she insisted, was ‘a crime against humanity, perpetrated upon the body of the Jewish people.’” —The Everyman of Genocide, NYT May 14, 2006.
And let us never forget the other tens of millions who died during WWII.
— Hitler’s World by Dr. Timothy Snyder
— Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin
— Feb. 10, 2023: — FBI Retracts Anti-Catholic Document Leaked by Whistleblower