Some might decide, on reading Eichmann's rationale for his actions--his persistent attempts at cover-up--that the very...

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EICHMANN INTERROGATED: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police

Some might decide, on reading Eichmann's rationale for his actions--his persistent attempts at cover-up--that the very horror of evil is its banality. When he joined the National Socialists, and the SS, in Austria in 1932, he was ""a relatively young man and used to being led"" (as he says in another, related connection). When he volunteered for the SD, or Security Service, he thought he'd be guarding Hitler. When he jumped at the chance to get into the ""Jews department,"" he just wanted to get out of the fusty Freemasonry Museum. Then, in the Jews department circa 1935, his whole career focused, Eichmann says, on ""a political solution""--first emigration, then evacuation; the phrase ""final solution,"" in fact, was a commonplace, predating annihilation. (""The whole process was automatic, printed forms, you didn't have to read them."") And when Eichmann heard, from his superior Reinhard Heydrich, that ""The Fuhrer has ordered physical extermination. . . what could I say?"" He was sent to see how the program was progressing--at Treblinka (""the naked Jews"" getting into a truck, the corpses thrown into a trench), at Auschwitz and elsewhere. ""I never claimed not to know. . . I only said that Bureau IV B4 had nothing to do with it."" Again and again and again: ""Commands were given, and because they were commands, we obeyed."" Of course he never hated the Jews. Of course he was sickened. But as Israeli police captain Avner Liss leads Eichmann through his story--seldom, under the rules, challenging him--the subterfuges, and the denials of responsibility, are as damning as any admission of guilt. (Was Speer's remorse more sincere?) One reads on, then, through the record of pretrial interrogation (actually, one-tenth of the 275 hours) as it becomes a record of the Holocaust--an especially convincing one because of Eichmann's efforts to distance himself from each ugly truth. (Still, he prides himself, to the last, in being a good soldier.) And this coherently assembled and edited document--whatever dismaying conclusions it suggests--is a grim, significant addition to Holocaust literature.

Pub Date: June 13, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983