Wife of the Nazi war criminal who was executed in Israel was allowed to visit him for 90 minutes before his death; released document is first concrete proof of that visit.
Adolf Eichmann standing in his glass cage, flanked by guards, in the Jerusalem courtroom where he was tried in 1961 for war crimes committed during World War II.
Vera Eichmann, the wife of notorious Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, was allowed to visit her husband in jail about a month before her husband’s execution in 1962, according to documents released on Monday by the Israel State Archives.
In a press release, the archives noted that while some accounts of the visit existed, there had never been concrete proof that it indeed took place.
But the newly released prison visitors' log shows that she visited her husband for about 80 minutes on April 30, 1962. It states that she entered at 12:20 A.M. and left at 1:43 A.M. It also lists the names of the jailers who escorted her.
Another document contains minutes of the cabinet meeting on whether to let her come. Two months before Eichmann’s execution, his attorney, acting on Vera Eichmann’s behalf, asked Justice Minister Dov Yosef to let her visit. On March 18, 1962, the minister urged the cabinet to accede to this request.
“I discussed it with the prime minister, and he thinks we’ll have trouble withstanding the international criticism if we don’t permit her to do this,” Yosef told the cabinet. “But we must ensure that she can’t stay in Israel.”
After the cabinet approved the visit, the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee discussed it. The released documents include minutes of its meeting as well.
“I have no feelings for his wife, but there’s no reason for us to make things difficult for ourselves over something that causes us no harm,” Foreign Minister Golda Meir told the committee. She also promised that “While she’s in Israel, nobody will know.”
But not all MKs were happy with the decision. Yaakov Chazan of the left-wing Mapam party, for instance, urged “that she not help him [Eichmann] pass into the next world in too humane a fashion.”
Contemporary accounts of Vera Eichmann’s visit include one from JTA in 1962. "Mrs. Eichmann arrived at Lydda Airport under her maiden name, Vera Loebel and she was accompanied by Else Gruder, secretary to Dr. Robert Servatius, Eichmann’s defense attorney,” it said. “Both had remained unrecognized in the Swissair airliner in which they had flown from Zurich."
But despite the newly released documents, Prof. Hanna Yablonka of Ben-Gurion University said there were questions as to whether the visit actually occurred. For instance, she said, Servatius wrote in his diary that Vera Eichmann wasn’t allowed to visit.
The released documents also include minutes of another cabinet meeting on May 29, 1962, on the question of whether the cabinet should advise the president to pardon Eichmann or commute his sentence to life in prison. Inter alia, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the ministers that philosopher Martin Buber had urged a commutation, saying he feared execution would turn Eichmann into a martyr.
Some ministers spoke in favor of this proposal. For instance, Welfare Minister Yosef Burg quoted his rabbi as saying it was better “to let the murderer die every day anew.” Finance Minister Levi Eshkol said that “if it were possible that after the trial, he would walk through the world with a mark of Cain on his forehead and be treated like Cain, that would be much better than a five-minute [execution].”
Ultimately, however, the cabinet voted unanimously not to recommend a commutation.
Eichmann was executed just after midnight on May 31, 1962. Israel had tried and convicted him after Mossad agents abducted him from Buenos Aires two years earlier.