Israel makes public letter by Adolf Eichmann pleading for clemency

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Israel on Jan. 27 released a letter written by Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in which he pleaded for clemency.

The letter was written on May 29, 1962, two days before Eichmann was hanged. He remains the only person in the history of Israel to be sentenced to death by a civilian court and then executed.

Adolf Eichmann stands in a glass encased bulletproof defendant’s box as he pleads not guilty to war crimes, April 17, 1961. /AP
Adolf Eichmann stands in a glass encased bulletproof defendant’s box as he pleads not guilty to war crimes, April 17, 1961. /AP

The letter was released by Israel to coincide with International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In it, Eichmann claims he was merely following orders when he implemented the “Final Solution.”

Text of Eichmann’s letter:

“[The judges] made a fundamental mistake in that they are not able to empathize with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years.

“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.

“Had I been, as the judges assume, the fanatical driving force in the persecution of the Jews, this should have been reflected in a promotion and other rewards, but I was never granted any benefit.

“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.”

According to a Times of Israel report, “Eichmann fled a POW camp after the war, made his way to Argentina, and was kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents in 1960. He was cremated hours after his May 31 hanging; his ashes were spread in the Mediterranean Sea.”

Along with Eichmann’s plea for clemency, Israel on Jan. 27 released other related documents, including President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi’s rejection of the request; the letter Eichmann’s wife, Vera, wrote to Ben-Zvi; and chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner’s handwritten opening statement that referenced Eichmann’s “six million accusers” who “are now only ashes.”

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