Hitherto secret intelligence files have revealed that the former West Germany was fully aware that the infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann was hiding in South America almost a decade before he was kidnapped by Mossad agents and put on trial in Israel.
Eichmann was responsible for the trains that carried millions of Jews to their deaths at extermination camps in German-occupied Poland during the Second World War. He fled to Argentina after the war but was captured in 1960 and flown to Israel where was convicted of crimes against humanity and hanged in 1962.
However leaked German intelligence files, published in the Bild newspaper at the weekend, show that as early as 1952, the then West Germany knew where Eichmann was hiding under the alias of Ricardo Clement in Argentina.
German intelligence is known to be reluctant to surrender all its Eichmann documents because of fears that full disclosure would prove beyond doubt that German and Vatican officials colluded in helping him to avoid trial for war crimes and escape to Argentina.
Bild cited the German intelligence file as reporting in 1952: "SS colonel Eichmann is not to be found in Egypt but is residing in Argentina under the fake name Clement." It added: "Eichmann's address is known to the editor of the German newspaper Der Weg in Argentina." Bild said German intelligence only told Washington about Eichmann whereabouts in 1958.
German historians yesterday welcomed the disclosures. Historian Bettina Stangeth, who is writing a book on the Nazi war criminal, said: "They are in fact a sensation. Until now it was not known that the West German secret service knew about Eichmann's hiding place eight years before his arrest."
It is well documented that German Bishop Alois Hudal in Rome operated post-war "ratlines" which provided passports for wanted Nazis and allowed them to escape justice. Franz Stangl, the commandant of the Treblinka extermination camp, admitted to British Nazi expert Gitta Sereny that Hudal helped him get away after the defeat of Germany in 1945.
Reiner Geulen, a lawyer for a journalist who has been pressuring German intelligence over the files, said: "There is good reason to believe that Eichmann received help from German, Italian and Vatican officials."
Eichmann was the right-hand man to Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler. As the head of department IVB4 of the SS in Berlin, he was responsible for the trains that carried millions to their deaths. After the war he was captured but escaped Allied custody.
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