Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann can be heard admitting the scale of the Holocaust – and his part in it – in a new film.
The lieutenant colonel in the SS is heard but not seen in a new film, as an actor mouths the words he used more than 60 years ago to describe his key role in the Final Solution.
Transcripts from the interviews helped convict the Nazi of war crimes, which culminated in his being hanged in Israel in 1962. They show he admitted having no regrets about the mass murder – and even expressed disappointment that millions more Jews were not killed
Eichmann went into hiding after the war – but was snatched from Argentina by the Israeli intelligence service Mossad in May 1960 to be put on trial in Jerusalem.
Four years before he was captured, Eichmann had given hours of interviews to Dutch Nazi journalist and exile Willem Sassen at the reporter’s home in Argentina.
The recordings show Eichmann said: “In conclusion, I must say to you… I regret nothing. I have no desire to say that we did something wrong.
“If we had killed 10.3 million Jews I would say with satisfaction ‘Good, we destroyed an enemy.’ Then we would have fulfilled our mission. And thus, to my regret, it was not to be.”
But Eichmann claimed in his defence during the trial that he was just a minor bureaucrat and that his quotes had been taken out of context in the transcripts.
Actor Eli Gorenstein plays Eichmann in scenes in “The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes” that recreate the interview in which Eichmann described to Sassen how the Holocaust occurred. But it is the original voices from the recordings that are heard on the soundtrack.
Sassen had asked Eichmann to write his life story, and did 70 hours of interviews with him over six months.
Other expat Nazis in the area came to the Sassen home to hear, firsthand, about the Holocaust.
Producer Yariv Mozer said many of them found it hard to believe six million Jews were really killed – they thought it was a lie made up by the Jews themselves. The recordings captured them saying “It can’t be done, it can’t be.”
Eichmann is heard instructing Sassen the content must only be used for research and not published until after his death.
Sassen carefully transcribed all of the recordings and gave them to Eichmann, who added handwritten notes.
But once Eichmann was captured by Mossad, Sassen sold a story to Life, an American magazine. An article based on the interviews was published on November 28, 1960, with the title “I transported them to the butcher” and the byline “Adolf Eichmann.”
Before Eichmann’s trial, a copy of the magazine was sent to the Israel Police, which has been kept in its archives. Six months into his trial, 700 pages of transcripts from the recordings were sent to Israeli prosecutors – but the court only accepted the pages that had Eichmann’s handwritten notes on them.
Israel’s attorney general and chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner confronted Eichmann with the transcripts at the trial. The Life magazine piece, he said, was quoting him out of context.
Sassner had at first buried the original recordings at a secret location and later gave them to the Eichmann family. They ended up at the German national archive in the city of Koblenz.
“The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes” is scheduled to be shown at the DocAviv Film Festival in Tel Aviv on May 29, where it is entered in the Israeli documentary competition.
A three-part series about the recordings will be broadcast on Kan – who made it with MGM and Tadmor Entertainment – starting June 7.
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