Tracking Eichmann In 1960, Nazi official Adolph Eichmann was captured in Argentina by Israeli agents and put on trial. Newly released information shows the CIA knew Eichmann's whereabouts at least two years earlier.
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Tracking Eichmann

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Tracking Eichmann

Tracking Eichmann

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DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

He was just doing his job, he testified. And he had nothing personally against Jews. He personified what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil. He turned massacre into a bureaucratic act, the Holocaust administrator.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

NPR's Senior News Analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: I have delayed giving his name because I wonder how many still remember it a half-century later. Adolph Eichmann, who escaped from Germany with the end of the war and was living in Buenos Aires when Israeli commandos capture him in May 1960 and flew him to Israel for trial. For him, Israel suspended its ban on capital punishment as he went on trial in April 1961. His name comes up again because newly released documents reveal that the CIA learned in 1958 of Eichmann's whereabouts in Argentina and his alias, but didn't tell anybody or do anything about it. It was a time when the Cold War was dictating policy and the CIA was using the services of a lot of Nazis, or shall we say, ex-Nazis.

I was reporting from West Germany at the time of Eichmann's trial and I remember how nervous the German government was about the trial in Jerusalem. Chancellor Conrad Adenauer, who had presided over an agreement to provide Israel with some $800 million in reparations, talked to me about the Eichmann case as he was preparing to leave for Washington for his first meeting with President Kennedy. He feared that the Eichmann trial would negate his efforts to befriend the Jews and result in a resurgence of anti-German feeling in the United States.

I asked Adenauer whether he thought of asking to have Eichmann brought to Germany for trial. He shook his head. We have no special feeling about this murderer, he said. When the Chancellor from Washington, he said he was enormously relieved that American reaction to the trial had been less vehement than he had feared. But I wonder how they feel in the CIA now, knowing that this mass-murderer had been protected by American intelligence for two years and were it not for Israeli intelligence, he might've lived out his life in peace. This is Daniel Schorr.

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