A recently discovered document shows that a secret network of pre-state Jewish intelligence leaders were on alert for a possible Adolf Eichmann escape to British Mandate Palestine following World War II.
It would not have been Eichmann’s first time in the Holy Land. In 1937 he had toured Palestine before he was quickly expelled by the British, with the aim of discussing a large-scale Jewish immigration with Arab leaders.
On the taped-together yellowed document, dated October 20, 1947, it is written that because of Eichmann’s “vast experience” while working in the Nazis’ Jewish department, the Shay pre-state military intelligence division of the Haganah feared he would attempt to infiltrate Israel and pass himself off as a Jew.
Eichmann, who had headed the Nazi’s SD Scientific Museum of Jewish Affairs, was the Gestapo’s self-proclaimed “Jewish expert.” The document cites his knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish, and his organizational skills as a high-level Nazi officer.
The eight-page “Alertness Pamphlet” is an internal Haganah watch list of criminals. Each page is filled with portraits of suspects, their written physical descriptions, why they are on the list, and what should be done with them when found.
Eichmann’s profile is listed on Page 8, where he is described as around 40 years old, approximately 176 centimeters in height, with twisted legs and a slim build. He is listed as having dark blond hair, a high forehead, thin lips, gray-bluish eyes, and a large, narrow and slightly twisted nose with large nostrils.
A portrait of a much younger Eichmann in plainclothes is included.
In 1947, when the booklet was issued, Eichmann, born Otto Adolf Eichmann, had already escaped an American army detention camp under the name Otto Ackmann. According to Yad Vashem, after his escape in January 1946, “he hid out on a farm for a few months before going on to live in the British occupation zone under the borrowed identity of Otto Henninger.”
Unbeknownst to the Shay intelligence unit, by 1950 Eichmann would be granted a “certificate of indulgence” by the Catholic Church with which he would make passage from Italy to Argentina under the name “Ricardo Klement.” He used that alias until his capture by the Israeli secret service, the Mossad, on May 20, 1960.
The intelligence agency, however, was certainly aware of Eichmann’s 1937 Palestine trip, which led to his organization of a Central Office for Jewish Emigration (Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung) in Vienna in 1938. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “the Central Office ‘facilitated’ the emigration of 110,000 Austrian Jews between August 1938 and June 1939.”
The 1947 document will come under the hammer on September 8 through the Jerusalem-based Kedem auction house at a starting price of $500. The auction house has previously sold a large container of Eichmann trial-related documents at $12,000.
According to Kedem owner Meron Eren, the booklet is extremely rare, and as a secret internal document of a secret organization operating under the British Mandate, he doubts more than a couple dozen copies were printed.
“This document is the earliest known artifact of the emotional and substantial connection Israel and Israelis have with Eichmann,” said Eren.
For Eren, the document reveals the pre-state Jewish leaders’ “fear of the Nazi influence even after the war.”
“The document also attests to the developed skills of the security bodies of the soon-to-be-state, who did not rely on British intelligence, but still managed to cope with Eichmann’s genial ability to disguise himself throughout the years,” he said.
Eichmann’s disguises in Argentina were eventually penetrated, and after his 1960 capture, he was brought to Israel, where he stood trial in 1961. Although found not guilty of personally murdering anyone, Eichmann was convicted for playing a key role in the genocide of the Jewish people and sentenced to death on December 15, 1961.
After appeals and a visit from his wife Vera, Eichmann was hanged on June 1, 1962, and cremated hours later. His ashes were scattered outside the borders of the State of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea.