Adolf Eichmann was an SS officer and one of the foremost architects of the Holocaust, which earnt him the name 'Chief Executioner of the Third Reich'. He helped to engineer the deportation of millions of Jews to concentration camps - otherwise known as death camps - across Poland.
Born on 19 March 1906 in Solingen, Eichmann’s father was a successful businessman who moved the family to Linz in Austria in 1914. After serving in the Austrian army in World War One, Eichmann's father moved the family back to Germany in 1920.
He dropped of college in 1925 and then began plying his trade for the Vacuum Oil Company, for which he was a travelling car salesman. This work brought him back to Germany in 1930. While in Germany he joined the 'Wandervogel' group - a youth movement which contained strands of anti semitism. By 1932, at the age of 26, Eichmann had returned to Austria and it was at this point that he decided to join the Austrian Nazi Party, joining the SS Division in the April of that year.
When Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933, Eichmann decided to return to Germany. His application to become part of the SS was accepted and in November that year and he was given role of administrative staff at the concentration camp at Dachau.
One year later and Eichmann applied for a transfer to the Sicherheitspolizei - the Nazi Security Police. This transfer was granted and he moved to the police’s headquarters, which were based in Berlin. Eichmann’s work stood out and by 1937 he been commissioned as an SS-Untersturmführer.
It was from 1938 that Eichmann’s work in eliminating Jews began to come to the fore. He was handpicked by senior SS officers to head up the Central Office for Jewish Administration in Austria. This was an organisation whose responsibility was to get Jews out of Austria while also taking as much of their wealth as possible, which would then be delivered back to the Third Reich. His organisational skills shone through once again. While in this role he also conducted further research into Judaism which led to him strengthening his anti-semitic beliefs.
In 1940, following the German’s rapid advances through Europe at the start of the war, Eichmann was transferred to the Gestapo.
With a year he had been promoted to the position of Obersturmbannführer and was placed in charge of the Gestapo's Jewish Division of the Religions Department. Eichmann attended and took minutes at the infamous Wannsee Conference, which took place in the January of 1942. This meeting resulted in the formulation of the ‘Final Solution’. Eichmann was named ‘Transport Administrator’ and the responsibility to work out the logistics of deporting the Jews.
Following the Nazi occupation of Hungary in 1944, the decision was taken to send Eichmann to the country to plan the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz. Around 400,000 Hungarian Jewish prisoners were sent to Auschwitz under his watch.
As the Nazi war effort looked destined to end in defeat, Eichmann decided to flee Hungary in 1945 and went into hiding in Austria. When Americans found him Eichmann gave them a false name - the Americans released him thinking he was nothing more than German soldier. Then, in 1947, he was able to escape Germany and emigrate to Argentina.
You can read about this here: The Escape of Adolf Eichmann.
It was not until 1960 that the Mossad - the Israeli Secret Service - learned of Eichmann’s location and true identity. They kidnapped him, flew him back to Israel and made him stand on trial for crimes against humanity.
The trial of Adolf Eichmann, which was broadcast around the world, began on 11 February 1961. He was not just charged with crimes against humanity, he also faced charges for crimes against the Jewish people. The defence he put forward was that he had been merely following order, but the three judges did not accept these claims: he was found guilty on all charges.
On 15 December 1961, Eichmann was sentenced to death. Just after midnight on 1 June 1962 he was hanged - his body was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea.
See also: The Escape of Adolf Eichmann
"Adolf Eichmann". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.
|Birth Date:||19 March 1906, Germany|
|Death:||1 June 1962, Israel|
|Known for:||Major organiser of Holocaust|