The last page of a handwritten letter from May, 29, 1962, by Adolf Eichmann to the president of Israel
Handwritten in blue ink on lined paper, the 1962 letter from Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal who oversaw the lethal logistics of the Holocaust, to the president of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, repeats part of Eichmann’s defense from his four-month trial: He was a lower-level official following orders, and he should not be held accountable for the crimes of his superiors. The letter was written in German on the day that Eichmann’s appeal was denied by Israel’s Supreme Court. Here is an English translation:
To Mister President!
I join the appeal of my defense lawyer and allow myself to point out the following:
The judges made a fundamental mistake in their judgment of me, because they are not able to empathize with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years. The mistake was caused by the fact that at the time of my trial, only individual documents were presented, which, without being seen in connection with the general documents of the orders, gave an incorrect picture.
It is not true that I was personally of such a high rank as to be able to persecute, or that I myself was a persecutor in the pursuit of the Jews, in the face of such an abundant rule it is clear the judges in their ruling ignored the fact that I never served in such a high position as required to be involved independently in such decisive responsibilities. Nor did I give any order in my own name, but only ever acted “by order of.”
Even had I been as the judges assessed the driving, zealous force in the persecution of the Jews, such a thing would have been evident in my promotion and other awards. Yet I received no such advantages.
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declined to say where Eichmann, a former Nazi SS officer, had been seized.
It is also incorrect that I never let myself be influenced by human emotions. Specifically after having witnessed the outrageous human atrocities, I immediately asked to be transferred. Also, during the police investigation I voluntarily revealed horrors that had been unknown until then, in order to help establish the indisputable truth.
I declare once again, as I did in the presence of the court: I detest as the greatest of crimes the horrors which were perpetrated against the Jews and think it right that the initiators of these terrible deeds will stand trial before the law now and in the future.
In Oswiecim, Poland, and Berlin, survivors of the Holocaust commemorated the 71st anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz camp, while a minute of silence was held in the United Nations. By REUTERS on Publish Date January 27, 2016
Notwithstanding, there is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.
I am not able to recognize the court’s ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honor Mr. President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out.