President Reuven Rivlin was making public on Wednesday previously unreleased documents, including a handwritten request for clemency from Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.
Rivlin’s office said in a statement that the request to then president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi would be presented at a ceremony at Rivlin’s official Jerusalem residence to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Although found not guilty of personally murdering anyone, Eichmann was convicted of playing a key role in the genocide of the Jewish people and sentenced to death on December 15, 1961.
In the petition, written after he was brought to Israel in 1960, then tried, convicted and sentenced to death the following year, Eichmann says that the Israeli court overstated his role in organizing the logistics of Hitler’s “Final Solution,” which involved the extermination of six million Jews.
“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,” Rivlin’s office quotes the letter as saying.
“I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty,” he adds.
“I am not able to recognize the court’s ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honour Mr President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out.”
The letter was signed and dated: “Adolf Eichmann Jerusalem, May 29, 1962.”
He was hanged overnight May 31 and cremated hours later. His ashes were scattered outside the borders of the State of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. He was the only person ever executed by the Jewish state.
Eichmann had escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp after World War II and fled to Argentina in 1950, where he lived under a pseudonym until he was snatched by Mossad agents in Buenos Aires in May 1960 and smuggled to Israel.
Other documents to be presented at Wednesday’s commemoration in the presence of Holocaust survivors, include requests for clemency from Eichmann’s wife Vera and his five brothers, and Ben-Zvi’s letter to his justice minister rejecting the appeals.
Former MK Rafi Eitan, who was in charge of the Mossad operation to capture Eichmann, will also attend the ceremony along with members of the family of the late Gideon Hausner who was prosecutor in the case.
Also in the collection, recently digitized by the presidential archives, are a transcript of Eichmann’s defense counsel’s Supreme Court appeal, the handwritten opinion of justice minister Dov Yosef, and a note by prosecutor Gideon Hausner for his opening address.
Below is the full text of Eichmann’s letter to Ben-Zvi in translation, provided by the Rivlin’s office in Jerusalem.
I add myself to the request of my defence counsel, and allow myself to state further the following matters.
In their judgement of me, the judges made a fundamental mistake in that they are not able to empathise with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years. The mistake was caused by the fact that at the time of my judgement, I was presented with a number of documents which without being seen in connection with the general material of the orders, must give an incorrect picture.
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, in the face of such an abundant rule it is clear the judges in their ruling ignored the fact that I never served in such a high position as required to be involved independently in such decisive responsibilities. Nor did I give any order in my own name, but only ever acted ‘by order of’.
Even had I been as the judges assessed the driving, zealous, force in the persecution of the Jews, such a thing would have been evident in my promotion and other awards. Yet I received no such advantages.
It is also incorrect that I was never influenced by human emotions.
Specifically under the impression of the unspeakable horrors which I witnessed, I immediately requested a transfer to a different post. Similarly, I revealed of my own will during the police investigation, horrors which had been till then unknown in order to help establish the undisputable truth.
I declare once again, as I did in the presence of the court: I detest as the greatest of crimes the horrors which were perpetrated against the Jews and think it right that the initiators of these terrible deeds will stand trial before the law now and in the future.
Notwithstanding 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. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.
I am not able to recognise the court’s ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honour Mr. President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out.