Did Germany Help Eichmann Escape to Argentina?

German court may release papers detailing Adolf Eichmann's escape and subsequent capture by Israel.

BERLIN - Germany's Federal Court of Justice is set to decide whether to release 4,500 pages of classified documents relating to Adolf Eichmann's escape to Argentina and his subsequent capture by Israeli agents.

According to Der Spiegel, the German journalist Gabriele Weber has appealed for the German domestic intelligence service, the BND, to release the documents. However, the BND says the documents are still classified for reasons of state security and for fear that publication of some documents might deter foreign intelligence services from future cooperation with Germany.

Eichmann, one of the chief architects of the Nazis' "Final Solution" to annihilate European Jewry, escaped to Argentina in 1950 after managing to hide in Europe for several years. He lived in Argentina for 10 years before being abducted by the Mossad and brought to trial in Israel. He was executed by hanging in 1962.

Israeli researchers are most interested in documents in the file allegedly detailing cooperation between the Mossad and German intelligence prior to Eichmann's capture. The BND's lawyers stress that the documents must be kept secret because much of the information they contain were received from a "foreign intelligence service." German observers believe the organization in question is the Mossad. Revealing the foreign service's name, they argue, will seriously damage intelligence cooperation between Germany and other countries.

Another potential embarrassment for German authorities lies in the possibility the documents vindicate theories, voiced by historians over the years, that Eichmann was assisted by German officials as he was on the run.

It's well-established that German officials in Buenos Aires maintained communication with Eichmann and provided him with passports and other documents. They also provided passports and documents to his family members, all under their real names.

Weber's lawyer, Rainer Geulen, said there were good reasons to believe Germany helped Eichmann escape. He said he believes the most sensitive information in the files concerns Eichmann's escape from Germany and may include Eichmann's own testimony about officials who helped him get away.

Eichmann's son, Ricardo, an archaeologist who lives in Berlin, told the weekly Der Spiegel he supported the documents' release, adding it was time they were made available for academic research.