The Architect of Death’s Final Curtain: Adolf Eichmann, The First & Only Man Executed By Israel

June 1, 1962, marked the day when the world witnessed the only instance of Israel exercising capital punishment. As the noose tightened around Adolf Eichmann’s neck, the haunting words, “Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria… I had to obey the laws of war and my flag” came from his lips for the final time.

Adolf Eichmann, in Israel’s sole instance of capital punishment, was executed by hanging on June 1, 1962, at Ramla Prison.

Eichmann, infamous for coordinating the Holocaust — the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews in World War II — was put on trial in Israel in 1961. After being apprehended by Israeli operatives in Argentina, he was extradited to Israel to face charges for his crucial involvement in the systematic genocide of six million European Jews orchestrated by the Nazi regime.

Born in 1906 to an ordinary family in Solingen, Germany, young Eichmann’s path seemed unremarkable before the rise of the Nazis. His family moved from Germany to Linz, Austria during World War I. Eichmann’s early years were ordinary; he worked as a traveling salesman for an oil company in Oberösterreich (Upper Austria) until he lost his job during the Great Depression. It was around that time he joined the Nazi Party in Linz in April 1932, subsequently ascending the ranks within the party hierarchy.

In January 1942, a gathering of high-ranking Nazi officials took place at a lakefront villa in the Wannsee district of Berlin. Their objective was to meticulously plan what the Nazis termed the “final solution to the Jewish question”.

New documentary series on Eichmann includes 'never-before-seen interview' | The Times of Israel
From the trials of Adolf Eichmann, which will be examined in ‘Eichmann — The Devil Speaks,’ the first series produced by Tadmor Entertainment and MGM (Courtesy GPO)

Eichmann was tasked with overseeing the logistics, effectively assuming the role of chief executioner, although the full extent of the “final solution” was not widely known then.

With cold efficiency, Eichmann identified, rounded up, and transported Jews across Nazi-occupied Europe to the furnaces of hell: the extermination camps of Auschwitz and elsewhere in Poland.

After the war, Eichmann was apprehended by U.S. troops, but he managed to escape from a prison camp in 1946. He lived under a false identity in Germany for several years before traveling through Austria and Italy to settle in Argentina in 1958.

On May 11, 1960, Israeli secret service agents arrested him near Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nine days later, they clandestinely transported him out of the country and took him to Israel. After settling the controversy that arose over this Israeli violation of Argentine law, the Israeli government arranged his trial before a special three-judge court in Jerusalem.

Throughout the trial, Eichmann depicted himself as a dutiful bureaucrat who executed his assigned tasks. As for the accusations against him, he asserted that he had not contravened any laws and professed to be “the kind of man who cannot tell a lie”. Disavowing any involvement in the mass killings, he asserted, “I couldn’t help myself; I had orders, but I had nothing to do with that business.” When questioned about his role in the extermination unit, he evaded specifics and insisted that his responsibility was solely limited to transportation.

“I never claimed ignorance of the liquidation,” he testified. “I only maintained that Bureau IV B4 (Eichmann’s office) was not involved.”

Eichmann even claimed personal discomfort upon learning about the operations of a gas chamber: “I was horrified. My nerves aren’t strong enough. I can’t listen to such things without their affecting me.” He maintained that although he continued to supervise the deportation of victims, he endeavored to distance himself from the actual killings.

His trial, from April 11 to December 15, 1961, culminated in Eichmann receiving a death sentence, marking the only instance of such a sentence imposed by an Israeli court.

On May 31, 1962, Eichmann was executed by hanging. “Eichmann was calm, self-possessed, and defiant to the end. Just before the noose was put around his neck, he said: ‘Long live Germany, long live Argentina, long live Austria… I had to obey the laws of war and my flag.’ ‘I am ready’,” wrote Arye Wallenstein, a journalist who watched Adolf Eichmann hanging.

With those last words of allegiance to the dismantled nations that spawned him, one of history’s infamous engineers of atrocity faced judgment. An official announcement stated that Eichmann’s body was cremated aboard an Israeli police boat, and his ashes were then scattered at sea.

  • Shubhangi Palve is a defense and aerospace journalist. Before joining the EurAsian Times, she worked for E.T. Prime. In this capacity, she focused on covering defense strategies and the defense sector from a financial perspective. She offers over 15 years of extensive experience in the media industry, spanning print, electronic, and online domains.
  • Contact the author at shubhapalve (at) gmail (dot) com.