Will classified Eichmann files be released?
Journalists, researchers and former intelligence agents tell Der Spiegel of Germany's reluctance to expose documents unraveling Nazi war criminal's flight from Europe after World War II. Former German agent says Frankfurt prosecutor gave information to Israel because he 'didn't trust the Germans to want to find Eichmann'
For 50 years the German government has been refusing to reveal to the public documents containing information on Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann's 15 years as a fugitive – from the end of the World War II up until the time he was captured by Mossad agents in Argentina and brought to justice in Israel. Despite Germany's claims that the information remains classified for security reasons, many believe the information may uncover the extent to which the German government assisted Nazis fleeing Europe after the war, and the identities of the people who were not interested in seeing Eichmann captured.
The secret files, which are kept by the German foreign intelligence agency (BND), have recently made headlines once again after a German journalist filed a lawsuit demanding the files be made public. Journalist Gabriele Weber filed a claim with the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig requesting the 4,500 pages of secret documents on Eichmann be released, and a panel of three judges who received exceptional authorization to view the files are to determine whether the BND's justifications for concealing the information is in line with the country's freedom of information laws.
In its response to the petition, the BND argued that it is necessary to keep the documents concealed since most of the information they contain was transferred to Germany by an unnamed "Foreign intelligence service". It is believed that the information may have come from the Israeli Mossad. The BND argued that if the information is released, it would deter other nations from sharing intelligence with Germany in the future.
But Uki Goni, an Argentinean journalist and expert on fugitive Nazi war criminals, believes the BND's reason for not exposing the material is just an excuse. "They could easily redact the name of the intelligence service and the name of the informants," he told Spiegel Online. "The files would not be embarrassing to any other secret service but to Germany itself." Goni believes the files would reveal hitherto unknown levels of collusion between the German government and Nazis who fled overseas to escape prosecution.
One of the problems was West Germany's well-documented reluctance to hunt Nazi war criminals. "Why do you think the Auschwitz prosecutor, and Frankfurt public prosecutor, Fritz Bauer, traveled to Israel to the tell them about Eichmann's whereabouts instead of telling his own government?" asks Wilhelm Dietl, a former BND agent and author of a book about Eichmann's abduction from Argentina. "He didn't trust the Germans to want to find Eichmann."
'Germany was reluctant to find Eichmann'
Wilhelm Dietl, a former BND agent, was also quoted by Der Spiegel as saying, " Why do you think the Auschwitz prosecutor, and Frankfurt public prosecutor, Fritz Bauer, traveled to Israel to the tell them about Eichmann's whereabouts instead of telling his own government? He didn't trust the Germans to want to find Eichmann." Bauer played a significant role in finding Eichmann and conducting the Nazis' trials.
Bauer's biographer, Irmtrud Wojak, said she believes Bauer was reluctant to report Eichmann's whereabouts to his own government because of the number of former Nazis in office. "Last but not least, Werner Junkers, an ex-Nazi was the ambassador to Argentina," she wrote. Wojak explained that Bauer was concerned someone in the government might tip Eichmann off and help him escape yet again.
Attorney Reiner Geulen, one of Weber's lawyers, said he believes that the most explosive information found in the secret documents pertains to how Eichmann escaped Germany. "He was very chatty in Jerusalem - he knew he was going to die anyway," Geulen told Der Spiegel. According to Geulen, Eichmann explained in great detail who helped him flee Germany and then Europe - information the Israelis were very interested in. "There is good reason to believe that he received help from German, Italian and Vatican officials," he said.
Adolf Eichmann's son Ricardo Eichmann, an archaeologist who lives in Berlin and has repeatedly expressed his disgust for his father, also supports the exposure of the documents. He told Der Spiegel, "The time has come to open them up for academic evaluation, whatever it says in those files." According to Attorney Geulen, there is a good chance this will happen. "We presume that many of the files will be released, though they may be heavily redacted," he said.
For his part, journalist Goni said he believes releasing the information will do more to boost Germany's reputation than besmirch it. "Whatever the German secret service did in the 1950s should not embarrass anyone today," he says. "The only thing that should be an embarrassment today is that they are trying to hide that information."