Step-by-step account of the 15-year pursuit of the Holocaust’s leading bureaucrat.
When Hitler ordered Gestapo chief Heinrich Himmler to kill all European Jews, Himmler assigned the details to Obsturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann. More civil servant than warrior, Eichmann managed train schedules, kept records and dealt with foreign governments responsible for identifying and rounding up Jews. He ended the war an obscure figure absent from Allied lists of Nazi war criminals. Soon, however, survivors, including Simon Wiesenthal, organized to track down those responsible for the genocide who were still free, and Eichmann became a prime target. Bascomb (Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin, 2007, etc.) plumbed the archives and interviewed survivors to produce a surprisingly detailed history of Eichmann’s movements during his years of freedom, as well as the work by many individuals that led to his capture. At the end of war, Eichmann spent seven months in Allied prison camps under an alias. Fearing detection after his name became prominent during the Nuremberg trials, he escaped and spent several dreary years as a lumberjack and chicken farmer. He moved to Argentina with the help of an efficient organization created by former SS officers to smuggle ex-Nazis out of Europe. When his wife and children disappeared from Austria in 1952, it was obvious Eichmann must still be alive, but by then the U.S. and West German governments had lost interest in hunting Nazis, and even Israel gave it a low priority. Several individuals turned up clues to his location, but not until 1959 did an Israeli secret service agent visit Argentina and confirm his presence there. Bascomb devotes the book’s second half to the complex mission that enabled Israeli agents to kidnap Eichmann and spirit him back for trial.
Absorbing and appalling, with some grim satisfaction provided by a stark depiction of the unrepentant Eichmann’s execution.