Washington, Monday, February 28, 2000
Israel to Release Eichmann Memoirs
By Dina Kraft
JERUSALEM -- Despite misgivings, Israel is morally obliged to release the memoirs of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in order to help defeat a lawsuit challenging the scope of the Holocaust, Israel's attorney general said today.
The 1,300 handwritten pages Eichmann penned in an Israeli prison are already on their way to the defense attorney of American professor Deborah Lipstadt, who is being sued for libel for saying that British historian David Irving denied the Nazi genocide.
The manuscript will also be released to the Israeli public for the first time on Tuesday, Israel state archivist Evyatar Friesel told The Associated Press.
"We think as part of Israel's obligation and commitment as a Jewish state, all of us being survivors in fact of the Holocaust, we felt that we should enable the public to have access to what was written," Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein told reporters today.
Few scholars have seen the memoirs, which have been kept in state archives for nearly 40 years.
In them, Eichmann reportedly writes that the mass killing of Jews during the Holocaust was the worst crime in human history.
Some Israeli officials have expressed concern that the document could fall into the wrong hands, and that self-serving passages could be used by people who deny the Holocaust happened. One of Eichmann's sons, Dieter, threatened legal action to claim the book as family property.
Amos Hausner, whose father, Gideon, prosecuted Eichmann, questioned the wisdom of using the documents in court.
"We still have many of Holocaust survivors with us, they can testify on the gas chambers," Hausner, a lawyer himself, said in a phone interview. "But instead of believing those people we take the document of a Nazi criminal before he was executed."
Israel had finally decided to have a German research institute publish the memoirs - a process that was expected to have taken months, if not years.
But this week's announcement means the public will have unfettered access to the memoirs almost immediately.
Irving is suing Lipstadt in Britain for writing in a 1994 book that Irving both denied the Holocaust and distorted the truth of what happened in World War II.
Irving said he does not deny Jews were killed by the Nazis, but challenges the number and manner of Jewish concentration camp deaths.
Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta, and her codefendant, Penguin Books, deny libel.
Israel hopes the memoirs will provide more proof of the systematic killing of Jews by the Nazis, as well as of the scope of the genocide. In the trial, Irving disputed historically accepted witness accounts that hundreds of thousands were gassed to death at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.
According to Rubinstein, Eichmann provided details in the memoirs on the workings of the death camps, as well as insight into decision-making in the Third Reich, Rubinstein said.
Scholars who have seen the diary say it repeats arguments Eichmann made at his trial - that he was only a midlevel official following orders.
Journalist Tom Segev, who has written widely on the Holocaust and its effects on Israeli society, said the decision to release the Eichmann memoirs should have been made long ago. "The principle needs to be that no material on the Holocaust remains locked in the archives," he said.
Eichmann wrote the diary while in jail from 1961 to 1962, after Israeli agents captured him in Argentina and brought him to trial in Israel. Eichmann was executed by hanging in 1962.
Monday, February 28, 2000