“BERLIN (AP) _ The basics of Adolf Eichmann’s story are well documented: Commonly known as the “architect of the Holocaust” for his role in coordinating the Nazi genocide policy, he fled Germany, was captured in Argentina by Israel’s Mossad, and hanged after trial in Jerusalem.
But Germany’s intelligence service, the BND, is sitting on 4,500 pages of files on Eichmann a reporter thinks could fill in gaps about his postwar life: Who helped him escape? How much did Germany know about where he was? Is there more to the story of his capture?
The files could also help shed light on claims that the Vatican helped war criminals hide or escape after World War II _ allegations church officials have always strenuously denied.
The BND claims that the files need to remain secret, so freelance reporter Gabriele Weber sued to have them released. They are now being reviewed in secret by three judges at the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig. Weber said she anticipates a ruling in the next month or two, and expects to obtain at least some degree of access.
“I think it’s impossible that in Germany we are hiding documents about a convicted Nazi mass murderer today,” she said in a telephone interview from her home in Buenos Aires, where she splits her time with Berlin.
“I can’t imagine they will be able to maintain secrecy 100 percent.”
The American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants group has weighed in, urging the release of the files.
“For Holocaust survivors, the withholding of files on Eichmann, the ‘architect of the Final Solution,’ more than a half century after the war is unconscionable and indecent,” said vice president Elan Steinberg in a statement. “For Germany to be acting thusly, is doubly so.”
The BND said Thursday it could not comment because of the ongoing legal action.
But according to court files, the agency maintains that releasing the files would jeopardize the work of an informant, and has also argued that since much of the information came from a “foreign intelligence service,” giving them to the public would harm future cooperation with that unidentified country, said Weber’s attorney, Remo Klinger.
The BND has clarified that the intelligence did not come from the Americans, so it is widely assumed many of the files came from Israel, Klinger said.
Rafi Eitan, an Israeli politician and former officer with the Mossad intelligence agency who helped capture Eichmann, has never heard of the documents and knows nothing about what they may contain, his office said. Attempts to get Mossadcomment through the prime minister’s office received no response.
Klinger disputed the BND’s reasons for withholding the files, saying it would be easy to black out anything indicating the source of the document. He said he thinks the real reason the BND does not want to release the files is that they could be embarrassing.
Already in 2006 the CIA released documents showing that it wrote to the BND in 1958, saying it had information that Eichmann “is reported to have lived in Argentina under the alias ‘Clemens’ since 1952” _ both his correct whereabouts and only a slightly different alias, which was actually Ricardo Klement.
But neither side acted on that information because they were apparently worried about what he might say about Hans Globke, a highly placed former Nazi and a chief adviser in West Germany helping the U.S. coordinate anticommunist initiatives in that country.
It was not until 1960 that Israeli agents abducted Eichmann in Buenos Aires and brought him to Jerusalem for trial. Eichmann, who helped organized the extermination of Europe’s Jews as the head of the Gestapo’s Jewish affairs office during the war, was found guilty of war crimes, sentenced to death and hanged in 1962.
It was the release of the CIA files and the indication that the American agency had talked with West German intelligence that prompted Weber to ask the BND whether they had any more, she said.
“I always knew that the BND had something, but when the CIA released their documents and they said they had a document about the BND, I could prove it,” said Weber, a German.
But, she said, she was “really surprised” when they said they told her they had 4,500 pages of files and suspects that the agency never thought they could be forced to release them.
“They were so sure that it was a secret _ secret forever,” she said…”