Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Adolf Eichmann

The Fugitive

Adolf Hitler's twisted mirage of a Thousand Year Reich ended under American firepower. In April 1945, Hitler, along with his mistress Eva Braun, and some of his most faithful followers, committed suicide in the depths of an underground bunker in Berlin. His body was dragged outside and burned by Nazi soldiers, determined not to let his remains fall into Allied hands.

Dachau prisoners await liberation
Dachau prisoners await liberation

In the meantime, members of the Nazi hierarchy in Germany ran for their lives. They knew that justice would be swift and final if they were captured. Many, like Eichmann, fled into the mountains of Austria. Others shed their uniforms and attempted to blend in with the civilian population. "I was living in a sort of a state of shock," Eichmann said later, "When everything did finally collapse, I lost my zest for life. Many others also experienced the same thing at the time, they had fought, worked, worried and feared for the Reich and now it was collapsing. The will to live was no longer there!"

Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann

But as the advancing Allies came closer and closer, Eichmann decided to run. In May 1945, as he was making his way north through the city of Ulm, Eichmann and other Nazis ran into a patrol of American soldiers. They were taken prisoner and held as POWs. When interrogated, Eichmann said his name was Adolf Barth, a corporal in the German army. He kept this identity for several months, later upping his rank to a lieutenant to receive better treatment. But Eichmann was worried. As the post-war situation stabilized, more attention was paid to the Nazi POWs. The Americans suspected that high-ranking war criminals were already POWs and more intensive efforts were being made to find them. In early 1946, Eichmann escaped from the prison camp and headed deeper into north Germany.

Rudolf Hoess
Rudolf Hoess

Under the name of Otto Heninger, Eichmann settled in the city of Everson. With the help of Nazi sympathizers, some of who knew his true identity, he lived on the outskirts of the city posing as a farmer and raising chickens. He made a little money and began to plan his escape from Germany. By then, the Nuremberg trials had ended. Dozens of his former colleagues were sentenced to death for their war crimes, which were now fully exposed to the world. The name Adolf Eichmann was mentioned over and over again at the trials. Defendants Herman Goering and Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess spoke highly of Eichmann's dedication to the Fuehrer. They praised his talents for organization and his ability to get things done for the Reich. But above all, the other Nazi killers admired Eichmann's enthusiasm for getting rid of the Jews. "I first met Eichmann about four weeks after receiving the order (to kill Jews)," said Commandant Hoess at Nuremberg, "he came to Auschwitz to discuss details with me on the carrying out of the order... I was to receive all further instructions from him."

The secret was out. Eichmann became a hunted man.

Nuremberg War Crimes Trial
Nuremberg War Crimes Trial

Categories
Advertisement