Exhibition on Adolf Eichmann’s trial - AP
An exhibition in Jerusalem marking the 50th anniversary of Adolf Eichmann’s trial. Photo by AP
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"The time has come for me to step out of the cloak of anonymity and present myself... Name; Adolf Eichmann. Occupation; S.S. Obersturmbannfuehrer..." Thus, directly and unabashedly, the architect of the final solution, Adolf Eichmann, wrote to the German chancellor from his hiding place, a decade after the Holocaust.

The letter was uncovered in a German archive by a historian from Hamburg, Dr. Bettina Stangneth, following six years of research on the Nazi war criminal. Yesterday the letter was published for the first time in the German daily Bild.

Eichmann sent the letter to the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, in 1956. Eichmann was then hiding in Argentina, where he had fled with his family. What did Eichmann want from West Germany's chancellor after the genocide in which he had taken part? To come home to Germany. The letter was sent from a suburb of Buenos Aires, where he was living under the name Ricardo Klement.

Four years later, he was captured by the Mossad and taken to Israel, where he was tried in Jerusalem and hanged in 1962.

Eichmann wrote Adenauer: "I do not know how long fate will allow me to live. I do know, however, that someone must be allowed to explain to the coming generation about what happened. There should be an explanation. I had to steer and lead large parts of this complex in those years."

The "complex" to which Eichmann refered was, of course, the Holocaust.

Eichmann also wrote that he foresaw he would be tried for his part in the war when he returned to Germany, but he did not believe he would be sent to prison for long. He was apparently right; Germany was not quick to bring Nazi war criminals to justice after the war; many received posts in government intelligence and security agencies.

Dr. Tobias Hermann, keeper of Nazi files at the Federal Archive in Ludwigsburg, said, "Sadly in the '50s there was not a great deal of interest in pursuing Nazi war criminals in Germany."

According to Stangneth, Eichmann's letter shows that he was "not happy in Argentina or with his status. The mass killer no longer wanted to be the anonymous Ricardo Klement but the important Adolf Eichmann."

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Eichmann trial. In recent weeks documents have come to light throughout the world about Eichmann's life in exile after the Holocaust, showing once again that Germany knew where Eichmann was years before he was captured by Israel, and even helped him avoid imprisonment.

Recently revealed documents show there was fear in Germany after the war from the outcome of the Eichmann trial in Israel. According to the CIA, Adenauer was on the brink of hysteria over the possibility that Eichmann would reveal at his trial that several ex-Nazis who were part of the extermination machine were serving in the German government.