Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Adolf Eichmann

Adolf Eichmann

Adolf Eichmann was born on March 19, 1906, in the town of Solingen, Germany, a community noted for its production of specialized knives and surgical instruments. He had five brothers but, despite his crowded upbringing, Adolf was withdrawn and lonely. As a student, he did poorly in school and never aspired to achieve better grades. His father decided to move the family to Austria while Adolf was still a child. There, in a village called Linz, Adolf continued his difficult journey through school. Because he had a dark complexion and distinctive facial features, Adolf's schoolmates often teased him by calling him, "Der kleine Jude!" (the little Jew). Author Quentin Reynolds writes in The Minister of Death (1960): "Neglected by his parents, shunned by his classmates, he developed into a problem child whose moods were never understood by his family or his teachers."

Eichmann in Jerusalem
Eichmann in Jerusalem

But later, Adolf managed to graduate from a vocational school with a certificate in construction engineering. Afterwards, he obtained a job as a salesman with an Austrian oil company. As a traveling representative, Eichmann often met clients in bars and taverns. He was a frequent sight in the clubs along his route and developed a life-long pastime of heavy and habitual drinking.

Adolf Eichmann, younger
Adolf Eichmann, younger

In 1932, Eichmann joined the National Socialist Party (NSP) Though he had no genuine interest in politics, Eichmann became totally immersed in the salacious dreams of A Thousand-Year Reich. In Hannah Arendt's book, Eichmann in Jerusalem, the author wrote, "He had no time and less desire to be properly informed, he did not even know the party program, he never read Mein Kampf." But N.S. P. offered Eichmann a chance at becoming somebody and Eichmann, more than anything else, wanted to be someone important. He became serial number 4536 of the Storm Troopers (SS), the dreaded military arm of Hitler's Nazi Party, and dedicated himself to advancement. Since it would be better for his career if he were married, Eichmann asked authorization to take a wife. It was customary for SS members to request permission for marriage to ensure they wed into the proper racial background. According to the letter found in his dossier years later and published in The Minister of Death, Eichmann wrote, "I, Adolf Eichmann, herewith request permission to marry Miss Veronika Liebel and attach herewith the necessary documents. I refer these documents for analysis by the Institute to reaffirm the purity of race." After a physical exam of the intended bride, permission was granted and Eichmann married Veronika in 1935.

Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf

Eichmann, ever the underachiever, sought always to please his superiors. He was quickly promoted to corporal and, when he learned that Heinrech Himmler had started a new branch of the SS called the Security Service, he applied for a transfer. In 1935, Eichmann was placed within the section that dealt with the Jews and began to research the so-called "Jewish Question." He read everything he could find on the Jewish people.

"I did not greet this assignment with apathy," he wrote in his memoirs, "I was fascinated with it." He studied the historical background of the Zionist movement and took courses on the Hebrew language, which he was never able to master. Soon he became an "expert" on German-Jewish affairs and others in the SS went to him for advice on the issue. He even visited Palestine and returned to Germany with an enhanced reputation as the one Nazi who truly understood the Jewish people.

He knew that Hitler's position, behind closed doors, was that all Jews had to leave Germany and the occupied territories. But first, all property belonging to the Jewish people had to be confiscated. This was a pattern that was repeated over and over in the following years. Before anything could be done to the Jews, all of their property, including money, jewels, land, virtually any material possession whatsoever, even shoes, had to be seized by the Nazi bureaucrats. This theft was supervised, recorded and accomplished with profound efficiency by Eichmann's dedicated staff. For the first time in his life, Eichmann had real power and he used it ruthlessly.

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