"In His Own Words"
Background & History
WWII, the Holocaust, and Eichmann
From Capture to Trial
Background & History
Eichmann's Early Years
Adolf Eichmann, the son of Adolf Karl Eichmann and Maria nee Schefferling, wasborn in 1906 in Solingen, Germany. Both of his parents were Protestant. When hewas eight, his family moved to Linz, Austria. He was a mediocre, if not poor,student. His father was the commercial manager of the Linz Electric Works. Thefamily went to church every Sunday.
His mother died when he was ten, and his father soon remarried. By then, he hadone sister and five brothers. Years later, he told the Dutch interviewer WilhelmSassen, with whom he was collaborating on a book about his experiences, that hisbest childhood friend, Harry Selbar, was Jewish. He had a typical Austrianmiddle-class upbringing. As was also typical at that time, a strong stirring ofnationalism was a part of the culture of pre-war Austria and he and his familyabsorbed it cheerfully.
After dropping out of high school, he became a traveling salesman with the SoconyVacuum Company. Later, he took a job with an American oil company, and this gavehim an opportunity to travel.
In 1932, Eichmann and his father were invited to a meeting of the Nazi Party by afamily friend, Dr. Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Eichmann was entranced by theperculating nationalistic fervor of those who attended, and he signed up. Ayear later, he was laid off from his oil company job and sought help fromKaltenbrunner. Kaltenbrunner arranged for Eichmann to be accepted into an S.S.brigade comprised of Austrians. Soon thereafter, Eichmann was invited to jointhe S.D., the S.S.'s Security Service, and given the rank of sergeant. In 1935,he was assigned to the Jewish Department of the S.D. and worked his way up to thetop. Unlike virtually all Nazi bureaucrats, who were rotated among departments,Eichmann kept the same post throughout the war years.
He taught himself Hebrew and Yiddish. HE STUDIED THE JEWS, GATHERING INFORMATIONABOUT THEIR LEADERS, SYNOGOGUES, BUSINESSES, CULTURE. Eichmann married VeraLiebl, a native of Bohemia (in what is now Czechoslovakia) in 1936 and lived withher in Prague. He eventually became the father of four children, all boys.
He was given his military commission in 1937, beginning with the rank of secondlieutenant.
Eichmann's duties during the war
Austria was annexed by Germany on March 13, 1938. Reinhard Heydrich, chief ofthe S.D., was given the responsibility of clearing Germany and its allies ofJews. Eichmann arrived in Vienna on March 17, and, as an expert in Jewishaffairs who had even been to Palestine, was soon given the job of expelling theJewish community. A special authority was set up under Heydrich called theCentral Office for Jewish Emigration, with Eichmann in charge. His strategy wasto reopen Jewish institutions, but only for the purpose of assisting him indeportations. He arranged for Jewish leaders in concentration camps to bereturned to Vienna to staff these offices to assist him in deportations. With aniron hand and insensitive to any appeals, he became an autocrat with respect toJewish affairs. He set up an assembly line in which Jews would go in at one end,and, by the time they reached the exit at the other end, they were stripped oftheir property, bank accounts, jobs, apartments, and given a passport valid fortwo weeks. They were told that if they were not successful in finding a foreignvisa, they would be sent to Dachau, a prison camp near Munich for politicalopponents of the Nazi regime.
By the time war broke out in September 1939, Eichmann was running the CentralOffice for Jewish Emigration with three branch offices. He was promoted almostannually, eventually achieving the rank of Lt. Colonel of the S.S. (SSOberstrumbannfuehrer) by 1941.
Stories circulated about his arrogance--even that he periodically challengedsuperior officers to duels when they failed to share his vision with respect tothe "Jewish problem."
by Gary Grobman
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