Adolf Eichmann, a major organizer of the Nazi Holocaust, longed to leave hiding and return to Germany to get recognition for sending millions of Jews to their deaths, according to a new German book.
Tired of farming rabbits in anonymity in Argentina after World War II, Eichmann came forward in 1956 in a recently discovered letter, asking West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer if he could return so he could claim his place in history.
The letter, along with hundreds of other uncovered documents in German archives, forms the basis of author Bettina Stangneth's book "Eichmann vor Jerusalem" (Eichmann before Jerusalem), which will be released here on April 18.
Stangneth told Reuters she was stunned when she found the typed letter from Eichmann in a mis-identified state file.
"It's a tactical letter from Eichmann," Stangneth said. "He wanted his place in history. He always thought he could be the redeemer of the German people. He wanted to relieve them of their (post-war) guilt."
Eichmann was captured by Israeli agents near Buenos Aires in 1960. The book's release coincides with the 50th anniversary of his trial,
which began in Jerusalem in April 1961. He was later convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged in 1962.
"It is time for me to step out of my anonymity and introduce myself," wrote a 50-year-old Eichmann, who lived in Argentina from 1950 to 1960 under the pseudonym Ricardo Klement. "Name: Adolf Otto Eichmann. Profession: former SS Lieutenant Colonel."
"How much longer fate will allow me to live, I don't know," Eichmann wrote in the remarkable letter addressed to Adenauer.
It is not known if Adenauer ever saw the letter or if it even reached his desk, Stangneth said. She added Eichmann and former Nazis in hiding abroad first wanted to have it published in a German-language newspaper in Argentina and in Germany.
But because of the content of the letter in which Eichmann acknowledged the Holocaust, the former Nazis decided not to publish the letter for fear of implicating themselves as war criminals.
"Eichmann lied about many things, but he never lied about the Holocaust," Stangneth said. "It surprised me that he was never content to start over with a new identity. He always wrote (in his letters) that being anonymous was awful."
German media reported in January – after Bild newspaper sued for access to classified documents – that West German intelligence was aware of Eichmann's whereabouts as early as 1952 but did nothing to apprehend him.
Stangneth said Eichmann was eager to get recognition for his role in the Nazi regime.
"He was so unspeakably proud of his name," she said. "He wanted his famous name back."