Nazi's memoirs reveal banal bureaucrat

FRAGMENTS OF the memoirs of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official in charge of the Final Solution, surfaced mysteriously in Germany yesterday, whetting historians' appetite for a document seen until now by only a few researchers.

But if the excerpts published by the German paper Die Welt are anything to go by, there will be few revelations. The 1,300 pages seem to be filled with self-justifying trivia. Eichmann comes through almost as a parody of all those Nazi war criminals who were "only following orders".

It was while awaiting his trial in Israel that Eichmann penned his recollections. They had been locked up in an Israeli vault ever since his execution in 1962.

Earlier this week, Israel took a decision to hand over the documents for publication, and then suddenly photocopies of 127 pages were discovered in Germany's Nazi war crimes archives in Ludwigsburg. It is these excerpts that found their way to Die Welt.

The paper itself is unimpressed by its scoop. Eichmann's trial in Israel had led to the coining of the phrase: "the banality of evil". The Holocaust mastermind gleamed at in his own memoirs is clearly no genius. His rambling account, written in an excruciatingly pedantic language, faithfully documents staff movements in his office, memos in circulation, and the efficient zeal with which he handled his job.

One would hardly guess that this bureaucrat was not only pushing paper around, but was co-ordinating the extermination of the Jews. At one point in his account, Eichmann even congratulates himself for honestly reporting to his bosses.

He undertook "business trips" - to the death factories of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and other concentration camps. That shook him up a bit, judging by the account of what he saw. "Corpses, corpses, corpses. Shot, gassed, corpses in a state of decomposition, and blood fantasies pressing up from the mass graves. An Inferno, a Hell, and I did not know at first whether I was mad, or if everything was, after all, unreal."

Eichmann was there to make sure the orders to kill all Jews were being carried out. The Fuhrer's orders, he informs posterity.

There is a particularly chilling passage about the promotion he received in March 1944. Hitler was exasperated with the situation in Hungary, where the mass murder of the Jews had still not begun. So Eichmann was sent there to get things moving. But Eichmann had doubts. "It was my fate, to start anew something I could not complete," he wrote.

It is this sense of personal failure that pervades Eichmann's oeuvre: the bitter after-taste of a job not quite done. There are few indications that he was aware, or willing to acknowledge, the evil he wrought.

Except that, after the war, he was touched by "cosmopolitan ideas". Not in Argentina, where he had been living it up until the Israelis kidnapped him in 1960, but in a prison in Israel. He talks about his old beliefs collapsing within him "like a house of cards". But to the end, he remained convinced that Germany had been wronged during the war. As he points out in his memoirs, "no one has yet been punished for the expulsion and murder of millions of Germans, and I am sure no one ever will". Clearly, Eichmann died believing himself to be a victim.

Eichmann: In His Own Words

On his visits to camps:

"There followed further business trips, on which I had to ascertain, by order of my boss, what happened as a consequence of the Fuhrer's order that 'All Jews (or the Jews) are to be physically eliminated'."

On what he saw there:

"Corpses, corpses, corpses. Shot, gassed, corpses in a state of decomposition, and blood fantasies pressing up from the mass graves."

On his changed outlook after the war:

"Cosmopolitan ideas have manifested themselves to me during my repeated incarceration, and I have found them clear, simple and a cause for rejoicing. At the same time, everything I had worshiped in the past ... has collapsed inside me like a house of cards."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

News
i100
Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album