The German equivalent of M16 – the BND foreign intelligence service – is still refusing to de-classify thousands of secret documents detailing the hidden past of Adolf Eichmann, the notorious architect of the Holocaust whose trial began in Israel 50 years ago this spring.
Eichmann was responsible for organising the mass transportation of millions of Jews to the gas chambers of Auschwitz and other Nazi death camps throughout the Second World War. Historians are unanimous in concluding that he played a central role in masterminding the "Final Solution".
There has been speculation that Eichmann almost certainly acted as a BND informer and that the intelligence agency's reluctance to declassify its file on him is part of a continued attempt to keep its reputation clean until Germany's Second World War generation is dead and buried.
The Bild newspaper has launched a legal bid to get the BND to open its Eichmann file. A German court ruled last year on behalf of a German journalist working in Argentina that the BND was no longer legally entitled to withhold the information. Chancellor Angela Merkel's office has claimed that it is necessary to keep the information secret for foreign policy reasons. The court disputes this – so there is an ongoing legal row.
Opposition MPs have used parliamentary question time to ask why the BND did not pass on its knowledge of Eichmann's whereabouts to prosecutors. The response has been mostly stonewalling and the claim that the BND "cannot divulge its sources".
Eichmann was famously tracked down by Mossad agents in 1960 while ostensibly in hiding in Argentina. At the time the then West German government claimed that it had no idea where Eichmann was until the Israeli intelligence agency captured him.
However Bild recently gleaned some key information from just a few of the 4,000 pages of the BND's secret Eichmann file which tells another story. It shows that West German intelligence already knew in 1952 that Eichmann was in Argentina, where he was living with his wife and children under his own name.Reuse content