In all of Israeli history, only one man has been sentenced to death by a civilian court and then executed: Adolf Eichmann. On Wednesday, the country released the Nazi's handwritten plea for clemency, penned two days before he was hanged. The AFP reports the release coincides with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and quotes, along with the BBC and Ynetnews, from the May 29, 1962, letter, in which Eichmann tries to make the case that he was merely following orders when he implemented the "Final Solution":
- "[The judges] made a fundamental mistake in that they are not able to empathize with the time and situation in which I found myself during the war years.
- 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.
- Had I been, as the judges assume, the fanatical driving force in the persecution of the Jews, this should have been reflected in a promotion and other rewards, but I was never granted any benefit.
- 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."
The Times of Israel reports that Eichmann—who fled a POW camp after the war, made his way to Argentina, and was kidnapped by Israeli intelligence agents in 1960—was cremated hours after his May 31 hanging; his ashes were spread in the Mediterranean Sea. Wednesday's release includes related documents, including President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi's rejection of the request; the letter Eichmann’s wife, Vera, wrote to Ben-Zvi; and chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner's moving handwritten opening statement that referenced the "six million accusers" with him who "are now only ashes." (The dark details of France's WWII Vichy regime were exposed last month.)