Hunting Eichmann, by Neal Bascomb

Hat der alte Hexenmeister
Sich doch einmal wegbegeben!
Und nun sollen seine Geister
Auch nach meinem Willen leben.
–Goethe, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

A short book on the mission to capture the bureaucrat at the top of the Nazi killing operations.

Eichmann was organized. He took on the collection and transfer of Eastern Europe’s Jewish populations as a task to be managed. He set quotas and met his numbers.

When the war ended, he was able to slip away into the countryside under an assumed identity. He worked as a lumberjack in northern Germany for over a year and might never have been detected there, but boredom set in and he was able to get to Italy and from there to Argentina. A network of Germans there looked out for their own and found him work. By 1960, he had his wife and sons with him in a small brick block of a house that he built himself in the empty exurb of San Fernando. They called him “Uncle Ricardo,” and he used an alias; but his sons still went by “Eichmann,” which shone a beacon into the sky for those who could see.

He avoided Nuremberg, where his name came up again and again–his was the empty chair. The Allies lost interest in trying to find him; only the Israelis and other Jews kept up the pursuit. A lucky break from the dedicated attorney general of Hesse put them on his trail. Once he was found, the plan to get him to Israel went forward. A special El Al flight had to be scheduled (there was not yet regular service between the two countries), and the crew didn’t know who their passenger was until the plane was in the air.

The very public trial made the Holocaust an historical concept. He was hanged, his body burned, and his ashes dumped five miles out into the Mediterranean in the middle of the night. His sons flew back to Germany and never disavowed his actions.

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