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Israel releases Nazi Eichmann's plea for clemency

January 27, 2016

Israel has released a letter from Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann asking for clemency before he was executed. The release coincides with International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Adolf Eichmann NS Kriegsverbrecher Jerusalem Israel
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

In a letter to then Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Eichmann said he deserved clemency because he was carrying out orders to round up and send Jews to concentration camps and the court overstated his role in Hitler's "Final Solution."

The handwritten letter is dated two days before he was executed in Israel in 1962.

"In their judgment of me, the judges made a fundamental mistake in that they are not able to empathize with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years," the letter read.

"... It is not true that I was personally of such a high rank as to be able to persecute, or that I myself was a persecutor in the pursuit of the Jews," the senior SS officer wrote. "... The judges in their ruling ignored the fact that I never served in such a high position ... Nor did I give any order in my own name, but only ever acted 'by order of.'"

It was already known Eichmann had asked for clemency, but the letter had not previously been published.

"There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders," Eichmann pleaded.

He asked Ben-Zvi to exercise his right "to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out."

After WWII, Eichmann managed to go into hiding in Argentina, where Israel's Mossad intelligence agency captured him in 1960.

He was convicted by an Israeli court in 1961 for crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people, war crimes, and membership in the SS, security service and Gestapo.

A spokesman for Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said the letter was recently found in the presidential archives when it was scanned for digital archiving.

cw/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)