Interagency Working Group (IWG)

Record Group 263: Records of the Central Intelligence Agency

Records of the Directorate of Operations


Analysis of the Name File of Adolf Eichmann

By Robert Wolfe, Retired Archivist and Historian
National Archives and Records Administration

Eichmann's file divulges little about the man and his career in Nazi Germany not long since derived from captured German records. Documents in this file mainly illustrate how the CIA and its predecessor agencies, the SSU and CIG, as well as the Army Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), went about investigating rumors about Eichmann's whereabouts and postwar activities, mainly from hearsay and unsubstantiated assertions; the file also contains copies of newspaper and magazine articles.

Eichmann was purportedly in Egypt when the CIA entered the chase late in the game, toward the end of 1959. When Eichmann was accurately rumored to be in Argentina, CIA agents interrogated presumably knowledgeable persons, i.e., Eichmann's former Reich Security Main Office (RSHA) colleagues. Eager to ingratiate themselves, they gladly peddled hearsay to their uninformed interrogators. Two persons had given some substantial information in 1945-46 to CIC interrogators: Wilhelm Hoettl, who made his postwar living peddling hearsay to the conquerors; and Kurt Becher, who successfully passed himself off as the "white hat" among the SS. These two had at least seen and talked to Eichmann at the last RSHA Amt IV (Gestapo) evacuation station at Bad Aussee in Austria during the closing days of the Second World War.

The CIA was interested particularly in how Eichmann was captured. A series of documents reflect United States concern that Argentina was threatening to bring the Israeli kidnapping of Eichmann before the United Nations Security Council. This was successfully forestalled by an American-mediated compromise.

In the summer of 1960, CIA agents were particularly concerned with the bona fides and intentions of three West German investigators, headed by the chief of the Ludwigsburg Central Office for Prosecution of Nazi Crimes (Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen), Dr. Erwin Schuele. He came to Washington seeking evidence against some 1,200 Nazis, including Eichmann, whom the Federal Republic of Germany had already indicted as war criminals to forestall inhibition of their prosecution by the long-standing West German 20-year statute of limitations. An analyst for the American Historical Association who was preparing guides to the captured RSHA records (Robert Wolfe) was instructed to provide direct references to Dr. Schuele. When Israeli prosecutors preparing their case against Eichmann also requested this information, CIA investigators passed it on without attribution.

Also among documents in the CIA's file on Eichmann are 334 pages of marginally pertinent German Foreign Ministry files (Auswartiges Amt: Inland II Geheim Endloesung)-which include the 15-page, so-called Wannsee Protokoll. This file, not yet discovered during the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, was released in the course of the American zonal trial of German Foreign Ministry defendants, and soon thereafter made available on microfilm (T-120, Roll 780, frames 371889-372223) to research. Its release is not news now.

The CIA file on Eichmann contains some misinformation about a follow-up meeting to the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942. A second interagency meeting of lesser Nazi officials took place in Berlin (at Kurfuerstenstrasse 116, the headquarters of Eichmann's unit of the Gestapo) on March 6, 1942: the Eichmann dossier says that this meeting was held in Duesseldorf.

Also reflected in the Eichmann file are some difficulties with the International Tracing Service (ITS), which at first blocked access to its Eichmann files on grounds of protecting privacy of victims, a practice which inadvertently protected culprits. ITS, by then an agency of the International Red Cross, was the successor of the United Nations Rescue and Relief Agency (UNRRA) and the International Refugee Organization from which it derived its records, which was set up to trace the whereabouts of missing persons. After some persuasion, however, ITS did make its Eichmann material available.

A disturbing item in the Eichmann file is a vituperative diatribe against Nuremberg prosecutor and later author Telford Taylor by a patently biased CIA agent or informant. He dubbed Taylor a "comsymp" or dupe because Taylor had publicly advocated that Eichmann be tried by an international tribunal rather than an Israeli court. Some accused Taylor of anti-Semitism for this recommendation. But he was following precedent. During the four-power negotiations in the summer of 1945 which culminated in the London Charter establishing the Nuremberg trials, U.S. chief prosecutor Robert Jackson had remonstrated that he was not prepared "to lay down a rule of conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us." Taylor liked the notion of international standards that applied to everyone-including the United States.

One item in the Eichmann file supplies information on U.S. Military Government official Kurt Ponger, who was convicted of supplying information to East Germany. More detailed information about Ponger is available in the CIA name files on Wilhelm Hoettl and Wilhelm Krichbaum. Another document of interest discusses speculation that Eichmann, like Hitler at Landsberg Prison, was writing his memoirs in his Jerusalem cell.

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