Andrew James John Mackenzie
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‘forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders’; the Adolf Eichmann Plea

Released by Israel in commemoration of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a letter has been revealed from the hand of notorious Nazi, Adolf Eichmann. Written on 29 May 1962, Eichmann penned the letter to the then-President of Israel, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, begging for his life and the overturning of his death sentence just days before he was due to be hung.

Within the letter’s pages, Eichmann denied any responsibility for the horrors of the Nazi regime and the treatment of Jewish prisoners in concentration camps during World War Two. Although a committed Nazi and SS officer, he differentiated himself from those ‘leaders’ in government, arguing that it was they which had propagated war and had forced individuals such as himself to carry out atrocities against Jewish peoples.


His writings demonstrate that he felt no guilt for the actions perpetrated and personally overseen by him. His lack of compassion and feeling for the many millions persecuted and murdered by the regime he subscribed to would be taken to his grave. He was hung on 1 June 1962.


The letter transcript can be seen in full as follows:

To: Mr. President,

I add myself to the request of my defence counsel, and allow myself to state further the following matters.

In their judgement of me, the judges made a fundamental mistake in that they are not able to empathise with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years. The mistake was caused by the fact that at the time of my judgement, I was presented with a number of documents which without being seen in connection with the general material of the orders, must give an incorrect picture.

It is not true that I was personally of such a high rank as to be able to persecute, or that I myself was a persecutor in the pursuit of the Jews, in the face of such an abundant rule it is clear the judges in their ruling ignored the fact that I never served in such a high position as required to be involved independently in such decisive responsibilities. Nor did I give any order in my own name, but only ever acted ‘by order of’.

Even had I been as the judges assessed the driving, zealous, force in the persecution of the Jews, such a thing would have been evident in my promotion and other awards. Yet I received no such advantages.

It is also incorrect that I was never influenced by human emotions.

Specifically under the impression of the unspeakable horrors which I witnessed, I immediately requested a transfer to a different post. Similarly, I revealed of my own will during the police investigation, horrors which had been till then unknown in order to help establish the undisputable truth.

I declare once again, as I did in the presence of the court: I detest as the greatest of crimes the horrors which were perpetrated against the Jews and think it right that the initiators of these terrible deeds will stand trial before the law now and in the future.

Notwithstanding there is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders. I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty.

I am not able to recognise the court’s ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honour Mr. President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out.

Adolf Eichmann

Jerusalem, 29.5.62



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