Wiesenthal was born Szymon Wiesenthal in Buczacz, Polish Galicia then a part of Austria-Hungary, now a part of the Lviv Oblast section of Ukraine, to a Jewish merchant family. He graduated from the Technical University of Prague in 1932 after being denied admission to the Polytechnic University of Lwów because of quota restrictions on Jewish students. In 1936, he married Cyla Müller, and they had a daughter, Paulina, who lives in Israel.
Wiesenthal was living in Lwów, then Poland (formerly Lemberg, now called Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine), when World War II began. As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Lwów was occupied by the Soviet Union on 17 September 1939. Wiesenthal's stepfather and stepbrother were killed by agents of the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, as a part of the anti-Polish repressions designed to eliminate all Polish intelligentsia. Wiesenthal was forced to close his firm and work in a factory. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June of 1941, Wiesenthal and his family were captured.
Simon Wiesenthal survived the Holocaust thanks to the intervention of a man named Bodnar, a Ukrainian auxiliary policeman who, on 6 July 1941, saved him from execution by the Nazis then occupying Lwów, as recalled in Wiesenthal's memoir, The Murderers Among Us, written with Joseph Wechsberg.
Wiesenthal and his wife were first imprisoned in the Janowska camp in the suburbs of Lwów (now Lviv), where they were forced to work on the local railroad. Members of the Polish resistance movement helped Cyla Wiesenthal escape from the camp and provided her with false papers in exchange for diagrams of railroad junctions drawn by her husband. Cyla Wiesenthal was able to hide her Jewish identity from the Nazis because of her blonde hair and survived the war as a forced-laborer in the Rhineland. Until the end of the war, Simon believed she had perished in the Warsaw Uprising.
However, Simon Wiesenthal was not as fortunate; although he escaped from Janowska camp in October 1943 (just before the Nazis began killing all of the camp's inmates) he was recaptured in June and after two failed suicide attempts was sent with the 34 remaining prisoners at Janowska camp on a death march through camps in Poland and Germany to Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. By the time he was liberated, he had been imprisoned in a total of 12 concentration camps (five of which were death camps) and had barely escaped execution on a number of occasions. Together, Cyla and Simon Wiesenthal lost 89 relatives during the Holocaust.
Adolf Otto Eichmann (March 19, 1906 – June 1, 1962), born Karl Adolf Eichmann, was a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany and served as an Obersturmbannführer in the S.S. He was largely responsible for the logistics of the extermination of millions of people during the Holocaust, in particular Jews, which was called the "final solution" (Endlösung). He organized the identification and transportation of people to the various concentration camps. Therefore, he is often referred to as the 'Chief Executioner' of the Third Reich.
Born in the city of Solingen, Germany, Adolf Eichmann was the son of a moderately successful businessman and industrialist. In 1914, his family moved to Linz, Austria, and during the First World War, Eichmann's father served in the Austro-Hungarian Army. At the war's conclusion, Eichmann's father returned to the family business in Linz. In 1920, Eichmann's family moved to Germany.
Adolf Eichmann in 1932
Adolf Eichmann in 1932
When Eichmann came of age in 1925, he returned to Austria to study mechanical engineering. Being a poor student, however, he soon dropped out of college. Eichmann then tried to follow in his father's footsteps in business, working as a travelling salesman which brought him back to Germany in 1930.
Eichmann's first contact with the Nazi Party was when he joined the Wandervogel movement, which has been described as "a peasant Aryan brotherhood based on Anti-Semitic ideals". There is evidence, however, that some of the Wandervogel groups had Jewish members, and anti-Semitism may have existed in only some parts of the movement. In 1932, Eichmann returned again to Austria and formally joined the Austrian Nazi Party at the age of twenty-six.
Nazi Party and the SS
SS-Scharführer Adolf Eichmann in 1933
SS-Scharführer Adolf Eichmann in 1933
On the advice of old family friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Eichmann joined the Austrian branch of the SS, enlisting on April 1, 1932, as an SS-Anwärter. He was accepted as a full SS member that November, appointed an SS-Mann, and assigned the SS number 45326.
For the next year, Eichmann was a member of the part time Allgemeine-SS and served in a mustering formation operating from Salzburg.
In 1933 when the Nazis came to power in Germany, Eichmann returned to that country and submitted an application to join the full time SS. This was accepted, and in November of 1933, Eichmann was promoted to Scharführer and assigned to the administrative staff of the Dachau concentration camp.
By 1934, Eichmann had chosen to make the SS a career and requested transfer into the Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police) which had, by that time, become a very powerful and feared organization. Eichmann's transfer was granted in November of 1934, as he was promoted to the rank of Oberscharführer and assigned to the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) in Berlin. Eichmann became a model administrator in the SD and quickly became noticed by his superiors. He was promoted to Hauptscharführer in 1935 and, in 1937, commissioned as an SS-Untersturmführer.
In 1938, Eichmann was assigned to Austria to help organize SS Security Forces in Vienna after the Anschluss of Austria into Germany. Through this effort, Eichmann was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer, and by the end of 1938, Adolf Eichmann had been selected by the SS leadership to form the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, which was in charge of forcibly deporting and expelling Jews from Austria. Through this work, Eichmann became a student of Judaism, finding the religion fascinating while also developing deep Anti-Semitic values and a hatred of the Jewish faith.
World War II
Adolf Eichmann in 1942
Adolf Eichmann in 1942
At the start of the Second World War, Eichmann had been promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer and had made a name for himself with his Office for Jewish Emigration. Eichmann had even been sponsored, by the SS Race and Settlement Office, to take a trip to Palestine and study aspects of the Jewish Homeland. Through this work Eichmann made several contacts in the Zionist movement which he worked with to speed up Jewish Emigration from the Reich. Ironically his ultimate executioner was the State of Israel.
Eichmann's office was expanded in late 1939 to cover the entirety of the German Reich, and Eichmann was transferred from the SD to the Gestapo in 1940. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer in late 1940, and less than a year later to Obersturmbannführer. He was assigned as the commander of the Jewish Division of the Gestapo Religions Department in the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA) with the code for his position listed as "IV-B4".
In 1942, Reinhard Heydrich invited Eichmann to attend the Wannsee Conference where Germany's anti-Jewish measures were set down into an official policy of genocide. To this "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" Eichmann was tasked as "Transportation Administrator", which put him in charge of all the trains which would carry Jews to the Death Camps in Poland. For the next two years, Eichmann performed his duties with incredible zeal, often bragging that he had personally sent over five million Jews to their deaths by way of his trains.
Eichmann's work had been noticed, and in 1944, he was sent to Hungary after Germany had occupied that country in fear of a Soviet invasion. Eichmann at once went to work deporting Jews and was able to send four hundred thousand Hungarians to their deaths in the Nazi gas chambers.
By 1945, Eichmann's world was collapsing, as Reich Leader Heinrich Himmler had ordered that Jewish extermination be halted and evidence of the Final Solution be destroyed. Eichmann blatantly turned against Himmler and continued his work in Hungary against official orders. Eichmann was also working to avoid being called up in the last ditch German military effort, since a year before he had been commissioned as a Reserve Untersturmführer in the Waffen-SS and was now being ordered to active combat duty.
Eichmann fled Hungary in 1945 as the Russians invaded, and he returned to Austria where he met up with his old friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Kaltenbrunner, however, refused to associate with Eichmann since Eichmann's duties as an extermination administrator had left him a marked man by the Allies.
Post World War II
At the end of World War II, Eichmann went into hiding. He was briefly captured by the Americans but managed to escape by using a false name and claiming to be a demobilized German Army soldier. Eichmann was able to secure passage to South America, and he left Germany at the start of 1947. He remained in hiding within a Catholic monastery in Italy for a year.
In 1947, Eichmann bought a plane ticket to Buenos Aires under the assumed name Ricardo Klement, using a passport issued by the Vatican on July 14,1950, and, for the next sixteen years, worked in several odd jobs in the Buenos Aires area (from factory foreman, to junior water engineer and professional rabbit farmer). Eichmann had also brought his family to Argentina and had started a completely new life. Argentina at the time was a haven for many Nazis.
Adolf Eichmann during his 1961 trial in Jerusalem.
Adolf Eichmann during his 1961 trial in Jerusalem.
Throughout the 1950s many Jews and other victims of the Holocaust dedicated themselves to finding Eichmann and other Nazi war criminals. Among them was legendary Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. In 1954, Wiesenthal's suspicions that Eichmann was in Argentina were sparked upon receiving a postcard from an associate who had moved to Buenos Aires. "I saw that dirty pig Eichmann," the letter read in part, "He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company". With this (and other) information collected by Wiesenthal, the Israelis had solid leads regarding Eichmann's whereabouts. Isser Harel, the then-head of Mossad (Israeli Secret Service), later claimed in an unpublished manuscript that Wiesenthal "'had no role whatsoever' in Eichmann's apprehension but in fact had endangered the entire Eichmann operation and aborted the planned capture of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele." (Schachter, Jonathan "Isser Harel Takes On Nazi-Hunter. Wiesenthal 'Had No Role' In Eichmann Kidnapping." The Jerusalem Post 7 May 1991)
Also instrumental in exposing Eichmann's identity was Lother Hermann, a worker of Jewish descent who fled to Argentina from Germany following his incarceration in the Dachau concentration camp. By the 1950s, Hermann had settled into life in Buenos Aires with his family; daughter Sylvia became acquainted with the Eichmann family and romantically involved with Klaus, the oldest Eichmann son. Due to Klaus's boastful remarks about his father's life as a Nazi and direct responsibility for the Holocaust, Hermann knew he had struck gold in 1957 after reading a newspaper report about German war criminals - of which Eichmann was one. Soon after, he sent Sylvia to the Eichmanns' home on a fact-finding mission. She was met at the door by Eichmann himself, and after unsuccessfully asking for Klaus, she inquired as to whether she was speaking to his father. Eichmann confirmed this fact. Excited, Hermann soon began a correspondence with Fritz Bauer, chief prosecutor for the West German state of Hesse, and provided details about Eichmann's person and life. Bauer knew Germany, served by former employees of the Nazi regime, would do little to serve justice to Eichmann. He contacted Israeli officials, who worked closely with Hermann over the next several years to learn about and formulate a plan to capture Eichmann.
In 1960, the Mossad discovered that Eichmann was in Argentina and began an effort to locate his exact whereabouts when through relentless surveillance, it was confirmed that Ricardo Klement was, in fact, Adolf Eichmann. The Israeli government then approved an operation to capture Eichmann and bring him to Jerusalem for trial as a war criminal. He was kidnapped (against international law) by a team of Mossad agents on May 11, 1960, as part of a covert operation. He was flown aboard an El Al airliner from Argentina to Israel on May 21, 1960.
For some time the Israeli government denied involvement in Eichmann's capture, claiming that he had been taken by Jewish volunteers. Eventually, however, the pretense was dropped, and then prime minister David Ben Gurion announced Eichmann's capture to the Knesset (Israel's national legislature) on May 25, 1960, receiving a standing ovation in return. Isser Harel, head of the Mossad at the time of the operation, wrote a book about Eichmann's capture entitled The House on Garibaldi Street; some years later a member of the capture team, Peter Malkin, authored Eichmann in my Hands, a book that contains fascinating insights into Eichmann's character and motivations but whose veracity has been attacked.
Eichmann in a bulletproof glass booth during the open trial.
Eichmann in a bulletproof glass booth during the open trial.
His trial in front of an Israeli court in Jerusalem started on February 11, 1961. He was indicted on 15 criminal charges, including charges of crimes against humanity, crimes against the Jewish people and membership of an outlawed organization. As part of Israeli criminal procedure, his trial was presided over by three judges instead of a jury. Gideon Hausner, the Israeli attorney general, personally acted as chief prosecutor.
The trial caused huge international controversy as well as an international sensation. The Israeli government deliberately fuelled the sensation by allowing news programs all over the world to broadcast the trial live without any restrictions. Television viewers saw a nondescript man sitting in a bulletproof glass booth while witnesses, including many Holocaust survivors, testified against him and his role in transporting victims to the extermination camps. During the whole trial, Eichmann insisted that he was only "following orders."
Convicted on all counts, Eichmann was sentenced to death on December 15, 1961, and was hanged a few minutes after midnight on June 1, 1962, at Ramla prison, the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel. His body was cremated and ashes scattered at sea, so that no nation would serve as Adolf Eichmann's final resting place.
In the forty years since Eichmann's death, historians have speculated on certain facts regarding his life. The most important question is how responsible Eichmann was for the implementation of the Holocaust. Most agree that Eichmann knew exactly what he was doing; however, some "Eichmann Defenders" (his son included) state that he was unfairly judged and that he was only doing his duty as a German soldier.
A third - and highly controversial - analysis came from political theorist Hannah Arendt, a Jew who fled Germany before Hitler's rise, and who reported on Eichmann's trial for New Yorker magazine. In Eichmann in Jerusalem, a book formed by this reporting, Arendt concluded that, aside from a desire for improving his career, Eichmann showed no trace of anti-Semitism or psychological damage. She called him the embodiment of the "banality of evil," as he appeared at his trial to have an ordinary and common personality, displaying neither guilt nor hatred. She suggested that this most strikingly discredits the idea that the Nazi criminals were manifestly psychopathic and different from common people. (Many concluded from this and similar observations that even the most ordinary of people can commit horrendous crimes if placed in the right situation, and given the correct incentives, but Arendt disagreed with this interpretation.)
Eichmann's involvement with the SS Underground Group ODESSA is also a mystery, as there is evidence that Eichmann had contact with the group but did not actively participate in ODESSA activities. Rumours also abound as to whether or not Eichmann personally knew Josef Mengele and whether or not the two war criminals ever worked together in South America. Mossad was convinced that Eichmann was a contact for Mengele and had planned to conduct a dual-capture operation in 1961 had Eichmann revealed Mengele's whereabouts.
A footnote to Eichmann's SS career focuses on the point as to why he was never promoted to the rank of full SS-Colonel, known as Standartenführer. With Eichmann's record and responsibilities, he would have been a prime candidate for advancement, yet after 1941, his SS record contains no evidence that he was ever even recommended for another promotion. Many have speculated that Ernst Kaltenbrunner may have seen Eichmann as a dangerous man, rising through the SS ranks, and had curbed his SS career to prevent Eichmann from becoming too powerful.
Karl Josef Silberbauer (1911 – 1972) held the rank of SS - Oberstabsfeldwebel (Sergeant Major) in the Dutch Nazi Sicherheitsdienst (German Security Service). He arrested Anne Frank and her family in their hiding place in 1944. 
Born in Vienna, he served in the Austrian army before following his father into the police force in 1935. Four years later he joined the Gestapo, moved to the Netherlands and in 1943 transferred to the Sicherheitsdienst in The Hague.
On August 4, 1944 he was instructed by a superior officer to investigate a tip-off that Jews were being hidden at Prinsengracht 263. He took a few officers with him and upon arrival interrogated Victor Kugler about the entrance to the hiding place. Miep Gies was also interrogated but allowed to stay on the premises after Kugler and his associate Johannes Kleimann, together with Anne Frank, her parents and sister, Hermann van Pels and his wife and son, and Fritz Pfeffer were arrested and taken to the Gestapo Headquarters. From there they were sent to Dutch and German concentration camps. Of the ten, only Otto Frank, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleimann survived.
Silberbauer returned to Vienna in April 1945 to begin serving fourteen months in prison for his activities during the war. He was reinstated by the Viennese police force in 1954, two years after the English language publication of Anne Frank's diary.
Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal's search for the man who had arrested Anne Frank began in 1958 when he was challenged by Holocaust deniers to prove the existence of Anne Frank by finding the Nazi who caught her. His name had been disclosed in 1948 during the initial investigation into the betrayal and arrest of Anne Frank, her family, the four people she hid with, and two of their protectors. Two of the Dutch Sicherheitsdienst detectives who had assisted with the raid were identified by Johannes Kleimann, Victor Kugler and Miep Gies. The two men said they remembered nothing about it, other than the name of their superior, Karl Silberbauer.
Wiesenthal requested the help of Anne's father, Otto Frank, who refused on the grounds that their betrayer, not the arresting officer should bear the blame. Wiesenthal disagreed, and in October 1963 after two years eliminating fourteen other Austrians with the same name he tracked Silberbauer to Vienna. Silberbauer was suspended from the police force pending an investigation into undeclared Nazi activities during the war and when the Dutch media learned of his whereabouts they descended on his home and he admitted to them that he had arrested Anne Frank. The story was broken to the world's media on November 11, 1963 and an investigation into the identity of the betrayer was re-opened.
Although his memories of the arrest were notably vivid, Silberbauer had not been told by his superiors who had made the tip-off, only that it came from a 'reliable source', and was unable to provide any information that would further a police investigation. The Viennese Authorities and the Amsterdam police could not produce enough evidence of criminal misdemeanor to prosecute Silberbauer himself, and given Otto Frank's crucial declaration that Silberbauer had obviously acted on orders and behaved correctly and without cruelty during the arrest, the judicial investigation was dropped. His suspension from the police force was lifted and he returned to work.
Franz Stangl (March 26, 1908 – June 28, 1971) was an SS officer, commandant of the Sobibór and of the Treblinka Nazi extermination camps.
The son of a night-watchman, he was born in Altmünster, Austria, on March 26, 1908. After working as a weaver, Stangl joined the Austrian police in 1931 and soon afterwards the then illegal Nazi Party.
After Anschluss, Stangl was quickly promoted through the ranks. In 1940 Stangl became superintendent of the T-4 Euthanasia Program at the Euthanasia Institute at Schloss Hartheim where mentally and physically handicapped people were sent to be killed.
In 1942 he was transferred to Poland where he worked under Odilo Globocnik. Stangl was commandant of extermination camps in Sobibór (March, 1942 - September, 1942) and Treblinka (September, 1942 - August, 1943). Always dressed in white riding clothes, Stangl gained a reputation as an efficient administrator and was described as the "best camp commander in Poland".
At the end of the war Franz Stangl managed to conceal his identity and although imprisoned in 1945 he was released two years later. He escaped to Italy with his colleague from Sobibór, Gustav Wagner, where he was helped by some officials of the Vatican to reach Syria on a Red Cross passport. Stangl was joined by his wife and family and lived in Syria for three years before moving to Brazil in 1951. After years of other jobs, Stangl found work at the Volkswagen plant in Sao Paulo with the help of friends, still using his own name.
For years his responsibility in the mass murder of men, women and children had been known to the Austrian authorities but Austria did not issue a warrant for Stangl's arrest until 1961. It took another six years before he was tracked down by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and arrested in Brazil.
After extradition to West Germany he was tried for the deaths of around 900,000 people. He admitted to these killings but argued: "My conscience is clear. I was simply doing my duty ...". Found guilty on October 22, 1970, Stangl was sentenced to life imprisonment. He died of heart failure in Düsseldorf prison on June 28, 1971.
Franz Stangl was interviewed, while in prison waiting for his trial, by the journalist and biographer Gitta Sereny in 1970 and his history and quotes are reported in her book Into That Darkness (1974). Sereny wrote that she had been waiting and searching (with the help of prison directors) for years before she found a main perpetrator of the Holocaust who was capable and willing to talk about his experiences and that several other candidates were unable or not open enough.