Fact of the day: 31st May

On this day in 1962 Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel.

Otto Adolf Eichmann (19 March 1906 – 31 May 1962) was a German Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel) and one of the major organisers of the Holocaust.

Eichmann was charged by SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich with facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II.

In 1960, he was captured in Argentina by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. Following a widely publicised trial in Israel, he was found guilty of war crimes and hanged in 1962.

After Germany’s defeat in 1945, Eichmann fled to Austria. He lived there until 1950, when he moved to Argentina using false papers. Information collected by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, confirmed Eichmann’s location in 1960.

A team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents captured Eichmann and brought him to Israel to stand trial on 15 criminal charges, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the Jewish people.

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Found guilty on many of these charges, he was sentenced to death by hanging and executed on 31 May 1962. The trial was widely followed in the media and was later the subject of several books, including Hannah Arendt’s work, Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Arendt calls him the embodiment of the “banality of evil”, asserting that he appeared to be ordinary and sane, yet displayed neither guilt nor hatred. Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal said: “The world now understands the concept of ‘desk murderer’.

We know that one doesn’t need to be fanatical, sadistic, or mentally ill to murder millions; that it is enough to be a loyal follower eager to do one’s duty.”

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