The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police

  • Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police, edited by Jochen von Lang in collaboration with Claus Sibyll. Translated from the German by Ralph Manheim. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York, 1983, 293pp.

reviewed by Ted O’Keefe

The kidnapping, trial, and execution of Adolf Eichmann, the German officer alleged by the Israelis to have played a central role in the killing of six million Jews in the years 1941 to 1944, have attracted vast attention and endless comment. Much of this has dealt with ethical or even metaphysical issues: Eichmann’s justification in claiming that he was merely carrying out his orders, “the banality of evil,” and the like. This book, which purports to be a translation of selected transcripts of Eichman’s nine-month interrogation by the Israeli Police, presents a fairly detailed account of Eichmann’s alleged misdeeds and attempts to establish that he was “in fact the flywheel of [the] merciless extermination machine.”

The transcripts, which were translated from German to English by Ralph Manheim, well known for his translation of Mein Kampf, are conceded by their editors, Jochen von Lang and Claus Sibyll, to have been “collated … so as to present the record in logical and chronological order.” Like anything which comes out of Israel, particularly when it touches on the “Holocaust” tale, their authenticity is open to considerable doubt. Nevertheless, despite the pains of the Israelis, as well as the editors and translator, the Eichmann transcripts, when carefully studied, offer considerable ammunition to revisionists of the Extermination myth.

The reader will doubtless be surprised to learn that Eichmann’s interrogation was carried out by the Israeli Police Force, a national organization comparable in its duties and function to the British national police headquartered at Scotland Yard. The details of Eichmann’s surveillance and capture remain murky, despite several accounts, at least one of them purportedly by former Mossad chief Isser Harel, but few doubt that Harel’s shadowy spy and terror directorate played a commanding role in the affair. The most interesting conversations between Eichmann and the Israelis were between the former SS Obersturmbannführer and the Mossad, particularly in light of his many dealings with Zionist leaders and agents, from his trip to Palestine in 1937 with Haganah operative Feivel Polkes to his contacts with Raoul Wallenberg in 1944.

It is interesting to learn from the introduction by Avner Less, the German-born policeman who questioned Eichmann, that of the thirty-man team charged with preparing the interrogation “no one … had detailed knowledge of the Holocaust.” Since the interrogation team had to “plow through” the voluminous records of the Nuremberg trials, as well as material supplied by the Yad Vashem center, it is clear that Less and his helpers lacked a coherent account of the activities Eichmann had been arrested for, and were conducting an investigation and an interrogation simultaneously. This goes far to explain the ineptitude often exhibited by Less in this edition of the transcripts, which doubtless were edited to put the Israeli case in the best light.

Captain Less’s ignorance of Eichmann’s career (he admits in his introduction that Gerald Reitlinger’s Final Solution “became almost a bible” for him), didn’t stop him from attempting to create an all-encompassing role for his prisoner as architect of the “Final Solution,” which for Less means the systematic murder of the Jews of German-occupied Europe. The documentary evidence presented by Less as to Eichmann’s role in promoting Jewish emigration from Austria, the Czech lands which then formed the “protectorate” of Bohemia and Moravia, and Germany proper, as well as for his part in organizing the deportation of Jews from various European countries to ghettoes and camps in territories to the east of the German Reich, is for the most part credible. As to Eichmann’s activities in other facets of the “Final Solution,” however, there is grave doubt, even when Eichmann is presented as admitting to them, as he does often in these transcripts. In inflating Eichmann’s role in the “Holocaust” story to the stature claimed for it in the testimony of a number of his subordinates in the “war crimes” proceedings, the Israelis have created a dilemma for themselves from which escape is a difficult matter indeed.

In this effort to build up Eichmann as the managing director of Exterminationism they've been more poorly served by the editors, Lang and Sibyll, and their translator, Manheim, than they may imagine. All three are fussy pedants of a particularly Teutonic mold who seldom miss an opportunity to catch an error, no matter how minor, if it will detract from the credibility of an Eichmann or a Hitler (readers of Mein Kampf in Manheim’s translation will recall his quibbling at the author’s every minor lapse, and his assurance that Hitler’s use of classical allusions carries no proof that he’s familiar with the original works). If Eichmann’s forgotten a date or mixed up a time sequence, the editors' intervention is swift and implacable.

All the more damning, therefore, that Eichmann is unchallenged by interrogator, editors, or translator in a whole series of ludicrous mistakes about the version of the “Holocaust” that currently enjoys the imprimatur of recognized Exterminationist experts. The ex-SS officer claims to have witnessed mass slaughter on a grand scale at Auschwitz in the fall of 1941, where the camp commandant, Rudolf Höss, informed him that the great, factory- like buildings, the chimneys of which belch smoke, are “working to capacity: Ten thousand!” This months before the Auschwitz crematoria were constructed, let alone in use. In a Cook’s tour of mass murder sites which Eichmann claims he took that memorable Fall, on the urging of Gestapo chief Heinrich Mueller and Reich Security Main Office head Reinhard Heydrich, he obligingly admits to visiting half a dozen places where killings are already being carried out, including Treblinka-although he’s not sure if it’s Treblinka-where gassings are being carried out with a submarine engine; places near Minsk and Lemberg, where mass shootings are taking place (including one mass grave from which “blood was gushing out … like a geyser,” although it had already been filled in); and again Treblinka (this time there’s no doubt: phony railway station and all) where gassings are being carried out with the insecticide Zyklon-B. The gushering geysers are a nice touch, and jibe well with the propensity of other “Holocaust” mass graves to quake and spew forth blood, sometimes for months after the killings; Treblinka, however, is supposed not to have been functioning as an extermination center until the summer of 1942, nor was Zyklon-B ever claimed to have been employed there.

As has been stated, these minor absurdities don’t seem to have perturbed Captain Less, who throughout the remainder of Eichmann Interrogated skips merrily from document to document, confronting his prisoner time and time again with allegedly damning accusations culled from affidavits and bills of lading, passenger lists and confessions. in his efforts to have Eichmann own up to his full guilt. Although the prisoner does his best to be obliging throughout the transcripts (Eichmann even offers substantiation for the six-million claim-he says he’s worked out the numbers from reading Jewish almanacs), he persistently rejects the accusation that he was the organizer of the “Final Solution” or the “flywheel of the extermination machine.” Indeed, Eichmann is allowed to score occasionally some telling points. Why carry several weeks provisions, footgear, and blankets, as one deportation order provides, if the deportees are to be gassed as soon as they alight, is Eichmann’s plaintive question, to which Less has no good reply. These transcripts, organized and collated as they may be, offfer no all-embracing confession.

What has been worked out, however, with Eichmann’s seeming agreement, is a role as a sort of presiding genius of Exterminationism, intimately involved somehow in all its grisly details, sometimes to be sure only in the role of a voyeur, gaping at mass slaughters from Kulmhof (which Eichmann calls in these transcripts Kulm, for the most part), at other times implicated by bits of paper which have flowed through his office or across his desk; in a word, an Erich Dorf avant la lettre (and the reader will surmise that the fictional Dorf was awarded his subsidiary but all- encompassing part in the Holocaust of the novel and the docudrama because Greater Ones than he were privileged to be giving out orders, and more brutal men than he were allowed to carry them out).

The propaganda bonanza which Israel reaped from the Eichmann affair was necessarily transitory. Unfortunately for the proponents of the “Holocaust” tale, Eichmann Interrogated will be around for a long time.

Bibliographic information
Author: O’Keefe, Theodore J.
Title: Eichmann Interrogated: Transcripts from the Archives of the Israeli Police (review)
Source: The Journal for Historical Review
Date: Summer 1986
Issue: Volume 6 number 2
Location: Page 231
ISSN: 0195-6752
Attribution: “Reprinted from The Journal of Historical Review, PO Box 2739, Newport Beach, CA 92659, USA.”
Please send a copy of all reprints to the Editor.