Germany Tried to Influence Eichmann Trial

Article from The Telegraph, April 20, 2011:

The German government tried to influence the Adolf Eichmann trial, fearful that his testimony would implicate former Nazis who held high office in post war Germany, new research has disclosed.

Konrad Adenauer, Germany’s chancellor at the time of the 1961 trial, personally dispatched one secret agent to Israel as part of a sensitive and classified operation to influence Eichmann’s Jerusalem trial and suppress any embarrassment for the West German state.

The agent, working undercover as a journalist, was tasked with monitoring the trial and establishing ties with the prosecution in order to keep the names of other former Nazis, who now had important posts in the German establishment, out of court.

Of particular concern to the German government was the status of Hans Globke, director of the federal chancellery and one of the Mr Adenauer’s closest aides, who, in Hitler’s Reich, had contributed to the infamous and racist Nuremberg Laws that targeted Germany’s Jews.

In documents declassified by the German intelligence services and researched by the news magazine Der Spiegel, a German foreign ministry official wanted to prevent “leading public figures in the Federal Republic” from being incriminated in the trial of the bureaucratic mastermind behind the Holocaust.

He added that Germany had to demonstrate that only a “small group of individuals” had implemented the Holocaust and that those who “were not directly involved could not have had any knowledge of it.”

The documents also disclosed that in July 1961 an aide to a “co-ordination meeting at the Federal Chancellery” noted the government wanted to make it clear “that Eichmann had worked as a henchman of the Himmler-SS machine and not as an agent of the then German Reich.” This, the aide argued, would make it impossible to link West German officials with Nazi pasts “to Eichmann’s misdeeds.”

Such was the German desire to limit the influence of the trial the defence minister also threatened to end arms deals with the young and vulnerable state of Israel if the trial reflected badly on Germany.

To the Bonn government the Eichmann trial also had a pressing Cold War dimension with fears that stories of former Nazis holding high-ranking posts in West Germany could provide communist East Germany with a propaganda coup, and damage the credibility of the West German state in the eyes of its Western allies.

Evidence of the geopolitical dimension the trial assumed was an offer from an unnamed American general to use his CIA connections to “soften the impact of the trial”.


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