The United States was aware that West Germany held information on the whereabouts of Adolf Eichmann in the 1950s, but chose to keep the matter secret, fearing that the arrest of the Nazi fugitive might lead toembarrassing revelations about links between senior German officials and other Nazis.
This information, as well as the pressure that West Germany applied on the Central Intelligence Agency in order to prevent the leak of this sensitive information, is detailed in hundreds of newly declassified documents released by the U.S. government Tuesday.
The government released a total of 27,000 CIA documents related to Nazi war crimes during World War II on Tuesday morning. The documents include information on the employment of Nazi war criminals by the American intelligence agency.
The documents were declassified as part of an interagency effort to release material related to Japanese and German war criminals during World War II. Since the work commenced in 1999, more than eight million documents have been released.
The material released Tuesday documents many cases in which former SS members were employed in Germany and other countries for espionage purposes. In one case, a team of agents, manned by a number of war criminals, was deployed in Germany under the code name "Pastime." Its mission was to provide the U.S. with intelligence from Germany in case of a Soviet invasion.
Timothy Naftali, a historian from Virginia University and author of a paper summarizing the material in the released documents, wrote that they contribute significant details to information previously known.
The new material, he said, provides information suggesting that West German intelligence could have arrested fugitive war criminal Adolf Eichmann during the 1950s, but was wary of the effect that such an action could have on then minister Dr. Hans Globke, director of the Federal Chancellery.
Eichmann was ultimately captured by Mossad agents in Buenos Aires in 1960. He was tried by an Israeli court and hanged in 1962.
Globke, a former senior Nazi and close associate of then chancellor Konrad Adenauer, was one of the authors of the Nuremberg Laws in the 1930s. But in the 1950s, according to Naftali, he was the chancellor's main contact person with American intelligence.
According to the declassified documents, a German intelligence officer reported to the CIA in March 1958 that Germany had known since 1952 that Eichmann lived in Argentina under the pseudonym "Clemens." The information was not entirely accurate, as the name Eichmann used at the time was "Clement."
However, the CIA chose not to make use of the information.
Israeli intelligence officers who have published their memoirs have written that Israel knew that Eichmann lived in Argentina by 1957, but lacked any information regarding his pseudonym.
According to Naftali, the Israeli agents gave up their search for a while, because without a name, it was difficult to locate him in Argentina.
The documents also reveal that the CIA, in response to a West German request, asked Life Magazine, which planned to publish Eichmann's memoirs in 1960, to delete any mention of Globke from them.
Eichmann had been arrested by Mossad agents earlier that year, and his family sold his memoirs to the magazine to pay for his legal defense.
Allen Dulles, then head of the CIA, wrote in September 1960 to his counterpart in West Germany assuring him that a "minor" mention of Globke in the memoirs would be deleted, pursuant to the CIA's request.