Otto Adolf Eichmann (19 March 1906 – 1 June 1962) was a high-ranking Nazi and SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel). Due to his organizational talents and ideological reliability, he was tasked by Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich to facilitate and manage the logistics of mass deportation to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe and worked under Ernst Kaltenbrunner until the end of the war. He was captured by Israeli Mossad agents in Argentina and indicted by Israeli court on fifteen criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was convicted and hanged.
- To sum it all up, I must say that I regret nothing.
- While awaiting trial in Israel, as quoted in LIFE magazine (5 December 1960)
- Adolf Hitler may have been wrong all down the line, but one thing is beyond dispute: the man was able to work his way up from lance corporal in the German Army to Führer of a people of almost eighty million. ... His success alone proved that I should subordinate myself to this man.
- As quoted in "The Eichmann Memoir" in The Personalist Volume XLII (1961)
- Whether they were bank directors or mental cases, the people who were loaded on those trains meant nothing to me.
It was really none of my business.
- As quoted in Religion and Public Education (1967) by Nicholas Wolterstorf
- I was never an anti-Semite. ... My sensitive nature revolted at the sight of corpses and blood... I personally had nothing to do with this. My job was to observe and report on it.
- As quoted in Consensus and Controversy: Defending Pope Pius XII (2002) by Sister Margherita Marchione, p. 71
- In einem kurzen Weilchen, meine Herren, sehen wir uns ohnehin alle wieder. Das ist das Los aller Menschen. Es lebe Deutschland. Es lebe Argentinien. Es lebe Österreich. … Ich werde sie nicht vergessen.
- In a short while, gentlemen, we'll meet each other, anyway. That's every human's fortune. Long live Germany! Long live Argentinia! Long live Austria! … I won't forget you.
- Before his execution in Jerusalem (1 June 1962); as quoted in Eichmann in Jerusalem (2004), S. 300
- Hätten wir 10,3 Millionen Juden getötet, dann wäre ich befriedigt und würde sagen, gut, wir haben einen Feind vernichtet. ... Ich war kein normaler Befehlsempfänger, dann wäre ich ein Trottel gewesen, sondern ich habe mitgedacht, ich war ein Idealist gewesen.
- If we would have killed 10.3 million Jews, then I would be satisfied and would say, good, we annihilated an enemy. ... I wasn't only issued orders, in this case I'd have been a moron, but I rather anticipated, I was an idealist.
- Post-war correspondence with Willem Sassen om Eichmanns Memoiren. Ein kritischer Essay (Zuerst 2001) Frankfurt/M.: Fischer TB, 2004 ISBN 3-5961-5726-9
Eichmann Interrogated (1983)
- Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police (1983) translated by Avner W. Less
- The war with the Soviet Union began in June 1941, I think. And I believe it was two months later, or maybe three, that Heydrich sent for me. I reported. He said to me: "The Führer has ordered physical extermination." These were his words. And as though wanting to test their effect on me, he made a long pause, which was not at all his way. I can still remember that. In the first moment, I didn't grasp the implications, because he chose his words so carefully. But then I understood. I didn't say anything, what could I say? Because I'd never thought of a ... of such a thing, of that sort of violent solution. ... Anyway, Heydrich said: "Go and see Globocnik, the Führer has already given him instructions. Take a look and see how he's getting on with his program. I believe he's using Russian anti-tank trenches for exterminating the Jews." As ordered, I went to Lublin, located the headquarters of SS and Police Commander Globocnik, and reported to the Gruppenführer. I told him Heydrich had sent me, because the Führer had ordered the physical extermination of the Jews. ... Globocnik sent for a certain SturmbannFührer Höfle, who must have been a member of his staff. We went from Lublin to, I don't remember what the place was called, I get them mixed up, I couldn't say if it was Treblinka or some other place. There were patches of woods, sort of, and the road passed through — a Polish highway. On the right side of the road there was an ordinary house, that's where the men who worked there lived. A captain of the (Ordnungspolizei) welcomed us. A few workmen were still there. The captain, which surprised me, had taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves, somehow he seemed to have joined in the work. They were building little wooden shacks, two, maybe three of them; they looked like two- or three-room cottages. Höfle told the police captain to explain the installation to me. And then he started in. He had a, well, let's say, a vulgar, uncultivated voice. Maybe he drank. He spoke some dialect from the southwestern corner of Germany, and he told me how he had made everything airtight. It seems they were going to hook up a Russian submarine engine and pipe the exhaust into the houses and the Jews inside would be poisoned.
I was horrified. My nerves aren't strong enough ... I can't listen to such things... such things, without their affecting me. Even today, if I see someone with a deep cut, I have to look away. I could never have been a doctor. I still remember how I visualized the scene and began to tremble, as if I'd been through something, some terrible experience. The kind of thing that happens sometimes and afterwards you start to shake. Then I went to Berlin and reported to the head of the Security Police.
- p. 75 - 76
- I'd like to say something about this last, about this last point of this terrible, terrible business. I mean Treblinka. I was given orders. I went to see Globocnik in Treblinka. That was the second time. The installations were now in operation, and I had to report to Müller. I expected to see a wooden house on the right side of the road and a few more wooden houses on the left; that's what I remembered. Instead, again with the same SturmbannFührer Höfle, I came to a railroad station with a sign saying Treblinka, looking exactly like a German railroad station — anywhere in Germany — a replica, with signboards, etc. There I hung back as far as I could. I didn't push closer to see it all. I saw a footbridge enclosed in barbed wire and over that footbridge a file of naked Jews was being driven into a house, a big... no, not a house, a big, one-room structure, to be gassed. As I was told, they were gassed with ...what's it called? ... Potassium cyanide... or cyanic acid. In acid form it's called cyanic acid. I didn't look to see what happened. I reported to Müller and as usual he listened in silence, without a word of comment. Just his facial expression said: "There's nothing I can do about it." I am convinced, Herr Hauptmann, I know it sounds odd coming from me, but I'm convinced that if it had been up to Müller it wouldn't have happened.
- p. 84
Die Welt memoirs (1999)
- Quotes from Eichmann notes for a memoir to be titled The False Gods published in Die Welt (12 August 1999) as translated in "Why? New Eichmann Notes Try to Explain" by Roger Cohen in The New York Times (13 August 1999)
- Obeying an order was the most important thing to me. It could be that is in the nature of the German.
- From my childhood, obedience was something I could not get out of my system. When I entered the armed services at the age of 27, I found being obedient not a bit more difficult than it had been during my life to that point. It was unthinkable that I would not follow orders.
- Now that I look back, I realize that a life predicated on being obedient and taking orders is a very comfortable life indeed. Living in such a way reduces to a minimum one's own need to think.
- I was sent to Treblinka, Minsk, Lemberg and Auschwitz. When I see the images before my eyes, it all comes back to me ... Corpses, corpses, corpses. Shot, gassed, decaying corpses. They seemed to pop out of the ground when a grave was opened. It was a delirium of blood. It was an inferno, a hell, and I felt I was going insane.
- I am certain, however, that those responsible for the murder of millions of Germans will never be brought to justice.
CBC report (2000)
- I witnessed the gruesome workings of the machinery of death; gear meshed with gear, like clockwork. It was the biggest and most enormous dance of death of all times.
- When I arrived at the place of the execution, the gunmen fired into a pit the size of several rooms. They fired from small submachine guns. As I arrived, I saw a Jewish woman and a small child in her arms in the pit. I wanted to pull out the child, but then a bullet smashed the skull of the child. My driver wiped brain particles from my leather coat.
- Because I have seen hell, death and the devil, because I had to watch the madness of destruction, because I was one of the many horses pulling the wagon and couldn't escape left or right because of the will of the driver, I now feel called upon and have the desire, to tell what happened.
- We shall meet again. I have believed in God. I obeyed the laws of war and was loyal to my flag.
- About this occurrence, I will jump to my death laughing, because the knowledge of having five million Jews on my conscience gives me a sense of great satisfaction.
- The fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.
- Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) Ch. 15
- Adolf Eichmann, the sinister figure who had charge of the extermination program, has estimated that the anti-Jewish activities resulted in the killing of 6 million Jews. Of these, 4 million were killed in extermination institutions, and 2 million were killed by Einsatzgruppen, mobile units of the Security Police and SD which pursued Jews in the ghettos and in their homes and slaughtered them by gas wagons, by mass shooting in antitank ditches, and by every device which Nazi ingenuity could conceive. So thorough and uncompromising was this program that the Jews of Europe as a race no longer exist, thus fulfilling the diabolic "prophecy" of Adolf Hitler at the beginning of the war. . . .
- Robert H. Jackson
- This is a sane man, and a sane man is capable of unrepentant, unlimited, planned evil. He was the genius bureaucrat, he was the powerful frozen mind which directed a gigantic organization; he is the perfect model of inhumanness; but he was not alone. Eager thousands obeyed him. Everyone could not have his special talents; many people were needed to smash a baby's head against the pavement before the mother's eyes, to urge a sick old man to rest and shoot him in the back of the head; there was endless work for willing hands. How many more like these exist everywhere?
- Martha Gellhorn in Eichmann and the Private Conscience, Atlantic Monthly, 1962
- 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 and 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 fact hostis generis humani, commits his crimes under circumstances that make it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he is doing wrong.
- Hannah Arendt in Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) Epilogue
- He complained regularly about death-camp quotas not being fulfilled, about the problems of getting all French Jews to the death camps, and about the intermittent failure of the Italians to cooperate.
As late as 1944, he played a leading, and open, role in the killing of Hungarian Jews, and in August of that year he reported that four million Jews had died in the death camps and another two million at the hands of the Nazis' mobile extermination units in Eastern Europe. At no point did he show the least compunction over the planning, organization and execution of what became known as the Holocaust.
- Roger Cohen in "Why? New Eichmann Notes Try to Explain" in The New York Times (13 August 1999)
- He is responsible because of the conspiracy and the plots for all that happened to the Jewish people — from the shores of the Arctic Ocean to the Aegean Sea, from the Pyrenees to the Urals.
- Gideon Hausner as quoted in The New York Times (27 June 1961)
- Mister death who signs papers
telegraphs simply: Shoot them
- Denise Levertov in "During the Eichmann Trial"
- Eichmann is thirty-four or thirty-five years old, a very active, adventurous man. He felt that this act against Jews was necessary and was fully convinced of its necessity and correctness, as I was.
- Rudolf Höss
- [to Leon Goldensohn, April 9, 1946]
- Nearly four decades after being buried in Israel's state archives, a rambling manuscript by Adolf Eichmann, the chief transport technician behind the Nazi death machine, was finally released to the public yesterday, reeking of mendacity, self-interest, and delusion.
Penned in jail as he awaited his execution, the man who dispatched hundreds of thousands of Jews to their deaths in the gas chambers ended his days trying to convince the world he was a mere Nazi underling, a lickspittle who was only obeying orders and who went to the gallows tortured by regret at having been dazzled and led astray by the Third Reich's leaders. ... time and again, he absolves himself of responsibility for the Nazi regime's horrendous crimes, painting a picture of himself as a nature-loving, simple, practical figure, who was brought up (in Austria, though he was German-born) to believe in discipline. He casts himself as a man who could not understand why his superiors kept embroiling him in death, instead of giving him the desk job he so coveted and clamoured for. A man who was horrified to witness the gassing of Jews in a mobile execution van. A man who loved his family, who made friends before the war with Jews and dissidents. ... Almost every chapter contains an explanation of how little authority that he — the head of the Gestapo section in Berlin whose job it was to locate, deport, and exterminate Jews — actually held.