Hunting Eichmann — The Moral Burden of History

The arrest and trial of Adolf Eichmann took place almost a half-century ago now, and though his name lives in infamy, the story of his capture and its significance is largely lost to the current generation.  Now arrives Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb, and the story comes alive again.

Bascomb has written the only full account of Eichmann’s capture and its aftermath. He tells the story with great skill, and he sets the record straight on a number of questions.  The most interesting fact about the search for Adolf Eichmann in the years after World War II is the fact that he was not even on the top list of wanted Nazi criminals at the war’s end.  Eichmann’s central role in administering the “Final Solution” and the murder of millions of Jews in Germany and central Europe became evident only in the years after the war.

Eichmann’s eventual capture and arrest owed much to a German prosecutor, who sent Israeli officials word that Eichmann was living in Argentina with his wife and sons.  From there, the Israelis took over the investigation and search.  Bascomb writes the story like a spy thriller — which it certainly is.  But this story is much more than a thriller, it is a much needed reminder of the necessity of moral judgment, legal justice, and personal accountability.  Bascomb’s account of Eichmann’s capture is an adrenalin-laced read.  His account of Eichmann’s trial in Israel is shorter, but very important.

Eichmann was executed in Israel on May 31, 1962.  He was the first and, so far, the last person executed after trial in Israel. Hunting Eichmann serves as a reminder of why the capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann remains one of the most important events of the twentieth century.

An excerpt:

Nobody moved.  The members were rooted to their seats, either unsure whether they had heard the prime minister correctly or that what he had said was true.  Slowly, people realized the enormity of the statement, and it was as if the air had been knocked from their chests.  “When they had recovered from the staggering blow,” an Israeli journalist reported that night, “a wave of agitation engulfed the hearers, agitation so deep that its likes had never been known before in the Knesset.”  Many went pale.  One woman sobbed.  Others lept from their seats, needing to repeat aloud that Eichmann was in Israel in order to come to terms with the news.  The parliamentary reporters ran to their booths to transmit the sixty-two-word speech, which had been delivered in Hebrew. . . .

Eichmann. Captured.  That was all anyone in the chamber heard.  Eichmann.  Captured.  Within hours, all of Israel and the rest of the world would be as captivated by the dramatic announcement.  The stage was set for one of the century’s most important trials.