Friday January 29, 2016
Had it not been for an unguarded conversation between Adolf Eichmann’s son and the Argentinian girl he was dating, the chances are that the shabby “Ricardo Klement” would have lived out his days in obscurity a few miles north of Buenos Aires. Unlike Josef Mengele, the sadistic camp doctor at Auschwitz, who was feted in the more glamorous circles of Argentinian society, Klement was a failure in his adopted country. He ran a laundry business for a while but it went bankrupt. He lurched from job to job. And when he was captured by Mossad agents on 11 May 1960, shuffling home from the bus stop, they couldn’t quite believe that this was the high-ranking Nazi officer who was responsible for the deportation of millions of Jews to the death camps.
Since his trial in Jerusalem in 1961, Eichmann has become the subject of continued controversy – much of it not so much about the man himself, but often more about the very nature of evil. Yesterday’s release of a hand-written letter from Eichmann to the then Israeli president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, requesting clemency, will only continue the debate. “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,” Eichmann’s letter pleaded. “I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.”