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Adolf Eichmann

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Important directive by Eichmann to Theodor Dannecker,

Nazi head of the Jewish Department in Paris,

to create a register of Jews for efficiency in actions against Jews

Otto Adolf Eichmann, 1906–1962. Nazi German SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel); administrator of the Holocaust.  Rare and important typed document signed, Eichmann, one page, 7⅞” x 11⅝”, on stationery of the Sicherheitshauptamt [Reich Main Security Office], no place [Berlin, Germany], September 28, 1941.  In German, with translation.

This is an historically important war-dated directive as Eichmann planned actions against the Jews in France.  As a general matter, it is virtually impossible to obtain autograph material of Eichmann, a key orchestrator of the Holocaust.  His material is one of the “greatest rarities of the Third Reich,” since extremely few of his documents have survived.  Kenneth W. Rendell, History Comes to Life 166 (1995).  The fact that this document is dated during World War II, at the height of Nazi power following the German conquest of nearly all of Europe, makes this piece rarer yet. 

This document illustrates the methodical manner in which Eichmann plotted and carried out Nazi Germany’s systematic actions against the Jews.  In this document, which is marked both secret! and urgent! in red and was sent by telex for speed, Eichmann directs the creation of “a register of Jewish inhabitants’ in order “to ensure an efficient course of action against Jews” during “raids, arrests, etc.”  He writes, in full: 

“In order to ensure an efficient procedure in actions against Jews (arrests, raids, etc.), I hereby order the creation of a so-called “Jewish file” with ongoing statistics. The file is thereby structured and records the Jews in four ways: alphabetically, by profession, by street and nationality.”

The recipient, SS-Obersturmführer Theodor Dannecker, headed the Judenreferat, or Jewish Department, in Paris from 1940, when Nazi Germany conquered France, until 1942.  There, serving under Eichmann, Dannecker directed and managed the arrest of some 13,000 Jews, who were then deported to the German concentration camp at Auschwitz, where most of them died.

Eichmann was head of the Nazi department responsible for Jewish affairs.  Once World War II began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Eichmann and his staff began to concentrate Jews into ghettos in the larger cities with the plan to transport them farther east or overseas.  By the time Eichmann signed this document, Germany had conquered Poland in 1939, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France in 1940, and Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941. 

But the resettlement of Jews became extermination as Nazi plans changed with Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.  Thus, in January 1942, Eichmann was one of 14 high-ranking Nazi German government ministry officials who met with the ruthless SS Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, the director of the Reich Main Security Office and the second in command to SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, at Wannsee, a suburb of Berlin, to plan “the final solution to the Jewish question.”  The “solution” was that Jews in German-occupied Europe would be sent to concentration camps in Eastern Europe, where they would be exterminated—either worked to death or outright murdered.  Eichmann was the recording secretary for the conference.

Eichmann was an administrator—what the Germans called a “Schreibtischtäter,” or “desk murderer.”  Heydrich assigned him to oversee the logistics of rounding up millions of Jews for mass deportation to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe.  He thus was responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews. 

Eichmann escaped Germany after World War II and settled in Argentina, where he was hunted down and captured by Israeli investigators on May 11, 1960.  Argentina had denied other requests to extradite Nazi criminals, so Israeli agents, acting on orders from Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, smuggled Eichmann out of Argentina to stand trial in Israel. 

Repeated interrogations of Eichmann in Israel resulted in more than 3,500 pages of transcripts. When evidence forced Eichmann to admit his actions, he insisted that he had only been following orders.

While he was in prison in Israel in the early 1960s, Eichmann wrote a 1,300-page diary in which he sought to justify his actions on that basis.  But Eichmann recounted telling his men at the end of World War II that he would go to his grave satisfied that he had caused the deaths of “five million Jews.”  At his trial, he acknowledged that he felt that way at the end of the war.  Furthermore, although he continued to claim during his trial that he had merely followed orders at the pain of punishment for disobedience, he admitted that he helped his stepmother’s Jewish relatives escape from Germany to Switzerland in 1943 or 1944—thus showing, if he was truthful, that he could and did, indeed, act with compassion and morality despite what he claimed he was ordered to do.  The Israeli court did not buy his defense.  His role in the Holocaust sent him to the gallows in 1962, some 17 years after the end of the war.

Eichmann has boldly signed this document in green fountain pen.  The document bears typical markings of the era.  It has two file holes in the blank area at the left, and there is minor paper loss at the upper corners, a small stain at the top edge, one tiny chipped areas at both the left and right edges, and a small chipped area at the bottom edge. None of the defects affects either the text or Eichmann’s signature.  Overall the document is in fine condition.

We reject Nazism and all that it represented.  Yet the German Third Reich and the Holocaust that it systematically carried out played an undeniable role in 20th Century history, and this extremely rare document illustrates the Nazis’ calculating, methodical scheme against the Jews.  Since we believe that to decline to offer Third Reich material, although it is offensive, would aid those who want to sweep the Third Reich under the rug and deny that the Holocaust occurred, we offer this material because the world must never forget what happened, lest it happen again.  As Winston Churchill said, paraphrasing the Spanish philosopher George Santayana, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  Click here to read more about these thoughts in our Blog posts of January 8 and February 26, 2010. 

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To the extent applicable to those affected by German law, particularly § 86a StGB, historical and military items from or relating to the period and personalities of the German Third Reich are offered for only purposes of education and research regarding

historical events and military history and uniforms.  Clients who purchase such items agree that they will not use them for propaganda or other purposes that would be punishable under § 86a StGB.

 

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