Bild: West Germany knew about Eichmann's postwar hideout as early as 1952
The West German predecessor agency to the BND, the present-day German intelligence service, knew the postwar whereabouts of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann, one of the main architects of the Holocaust, eight years before the Israelis found him in Argentina. A report today by the German daily Bild refers to documents which a German court has ordered the BND to make public. The Associated Press reports that the Simon Wiesenthal Center is now asking for the release of all of the German intelligence services' archival information about the Nazis.
After the war, Eichmann was believed to have fled to either Egypt or Syria. By 1952, the German secret service knew he was in hiding in South America. Bild reports an index card in the archival materials released by the BND states the following: "Standartenführer Eichmann is not in Egypt, but is living under the false name of Clemens in Argentina. E.'s address is known to the chief editor of the German-language newspaper Der Weg in Argentina."
At the time the West German secret service took no action against Eichmann, even though he was one of the main wartime organizers of the "Final Solution" through which the Nazis murdered six million Jews. Bild reports the service did not deliver information about him to US agents until 1958. It was later confirmed that Eichmann had been hiding out in Buenos Aires since 1950 under the name of Ricardo Klement. He had also secretly transported his family there from Austria.
"This index card is a real sensation. Until now it was not known that the West German secret services knew of Eichmann's hiding place eight years before he was arrested," said Bettina Stangneth, an historian who is writing a new book on Eichmann.
The daily Die Welt, however, is refuting the implication that the West German authorities covered up Eichmann's whereabouts and has reported that no one, not even Israel, was interested in his capture at the start of the 1950s. The paper refers to statements made at the time by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal: "The Israelis have no interest in Eichmann, they must concentrate on their fight for survival against the Arabs. Even the Americans have no interest in Eichmann any more, they must concentrate on the Cold War against the Soviet Union." The daily claims Wiesenthal had information about Eichmann's stay in Argentina as early as 1953. The Israelis later tracked Eichmann down there, abducted him and brought him to Israel; two years later, after standing trial, he was executed.
Today the Simon Wiesenthal Center called on the BND to release all of its files on Nazi war criminals. "The intelligence service could make a significant contribution to the historical research into that time," AP reports Efraim Zuroff, a representative of the Center, as saying. In Zuroff's view, Germany is really doing its best to bring Nazi criminals to trial today, but these latest findings about Eichmann are proof of the "total indifference of the German authorities of that time" (the 1950s) toward the issue.
Bild acquired the secret documents from the BND on the basis of a complaint filed with the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. The German intelligence services had previously refused to release them, claiming it might endanger the work of their informers and complicate relations with another foreign intelligence service which provided some of the information. Argentinian journalist Gabriele Weber also filed a complaint regarding the materials with the German courts. Last April the Leipzig court found in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the government to release the files. Bild reports the files include several thousand pages of documents about Eichmann which were preserved on microfilm prior to the destruction of most of the originals.