Documents pertaining to the requests to commute the death sentence of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann – who was abducted from Argentina by the Mossad in 1960 and put on trial – were revealed to the public by the Office of the President this week. The news reports focused on the clemency requests filed by Eichmann's wife and brothers.
Writing in Mida, Dr. Tzvi Tzameret exposed additional facts that surfaced in the documents. It turns out, for one, that since executing Eichmann had political ramifications, the matter came up for a Cabinet vote. Two government ministers wanted Eichmann's death sentence commuted, after the Supreme Court rejected Eichmann's appeal of his sentence in May of 1962. One was Levi Eshkol, who would become prime minister the next year. The other was famed foreign minister Abba Eban.
When Prime Minister Ben-Gurion asked for a re-vote in the cabinet, Eshkol and Eban changed their minds and voted in favor of complying with the court's death sentence.
The Israeli public was not told about the first vote – only about the second, unanimous one.
In addition, about 20 intellectuals and other public figures asked President Yitzhak Ben-Tzvi to commute Eichmann's sentence.
These included leading professor of philosophy Nathan Rotenstreich, as well as famed philosophers Martin Buber, Hugo Bergmann and Akiva Ernst Simon. Rotenstreich would go on to become the Rector of Hebrew University.
They all signed a letter that said that if the Nazi criminal could make the Jews employ an executioner, that would be a victory for the Nazis. Jew haters worldwide, they warned, would then claim that Eichmann's death had atoned for the Nazis' crimes against the Jews.
President Ben-Tzvi refused to commute Eichmann's sentence and he was executed on May 31, 1962.
Eichmann, one of the main organizers of the Holocaust, escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp after World War II and fled to Argentina in 1950, where he lived under a pseudonym until he was snatched by Mossad agents in Buenos Aires in May 1960 and smuggled to Israel.
In Eichmann's own letter to President Ben-Tzvi, he wrote: "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," the Nazi wrote. "I am not able to recognize the court's ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honor Mr. President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out."