This Day In History: Adolf Eichmann Is Sentenced To Death (1961)

On this day in 1961 Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi responsible for the organization of the Holocaust was found guilty of crimes against humanity. An Israeli tribunal found him guilty and they sentenced him to death.

Eichmann was born in Solingen, Germany, in 1906.  He joined the Nazi Party as a young man and later became a member of the elite SS (Schutzstaffel) organization. The SS carried out Hitler’s policies and they acted like a state within a state. They were particularly associated with enforcing Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies. Eichmann was a capable administrator and a fanatical anti-Semite. He rapidly rose in the SS hierarchy and in 1938 he was sent to Vienna after the Anschluss. His task was to remove the Jews from that city. He set up a center for the deportation of Jews and he forced many of them out of Vienna and into exile. Two years later he was sent to Prague to rid that city of its Jewish population.    In 1938 he was appointed the head of the Jewish section of the SS. Here he helped to oversee the persecution and murder of Jews in the occupied territories after 1939. This included the mass killing by SS squads of Jews civilians in Poland and the Soviet Union

However, the Nazis wanted a ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish ‘problem’. Hitler wanted to destroy the Jews of Europe, once and for all. Eichmann was appointed to lead the efforts to exterminate the Jews in Europe. He was to coordinate and plan for the creation of a system of concentration camps where Jews would be systematically killed.  Eichmann established camps where Jews and others were work to death or died from their brutal treatment.  The majority of Jews died as a result of being gassed in specially designed gas chambers. Eichmann facilitated the killing of up to six million Jews. Some four million in the camps and two million executed elsewhere especially in Eastern Europe.

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Eichmann on trial 1961

Eichmann was captured in 1945 but he managed to escape and made it to Argentina after traveling under an assumed name throughout Europe.  He was possibly helped by the Odessa organization that helped many Nazis to escape justice in Europe. Argentina had become a safe haven for war criminals. In 1957 a German lawyer heard that Eichmann was in Argentina and he informed the Israeli authorities.  The Israeli government sent a team of secret agents to being back Eichmann for trial. At the time, Argentina was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its independence and this allowed the agents to operate freely.  Eichmann was living under an assumed name and on May the 11th, the agents seized him as he was going to work. They drugged him and flew him secretly out of Argentina. Eichmann was put on trial and charged with many crimes. The evidence against him was overwhelming and his only defense was that he was ‘following orders’. He was later hanged and his ashes were thrown into the sea.

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