Triumph and Tragedy


In a moment we were abreast of the melee. The lieutenant and corporal remained stoically silent as we passed the ugly scene, but from the back seat the sergeant, his face contorted with rage, shook his fist and shouted, “Kill them! Kill the bastards! Kill the murdering sons of bitches!”

Something seemed to snap in my mind. I reached in front of the startled lieutenant and shook my fist. “Kill them!” I cried. “Kill them! Kill them! Kill them!” A few minutes later we were again outside the town, in the quiet countryside, headed south. I knew I would remember the name of Nordhausen the rest of my life.

Having asked the questions that reminded me of these recent, grim events, our prisoner remained sunk in silence. After about an hour someone came up the stairs and said the MPs had arrived. Dick and I took the prisoner downstairs and out to the front of the house, where two MPs were waiting. They put him in their jeep and drove off. We said nothing to him, and he said nothing to us as he departed, but he gave us one final, chilling look with those cold eyes and that mysterious little smile. We both were relieved to see him go.

Exactly fifteen years later, in May 1960, I saw that face again and almost immediately recognized it, staring coldly from television screens and from the front pages of newspapers, beneath headlines saying EICHMANN CAPTURED!

The man I guarded for about an hour that day, and spoke with briefly, was surely Adolf Eichmann. Army records show that we were in the area in which Eichmann, according to sketchy biographical and autobiographical accounts, surrendered to American troops, on the day he said he surrendered. He said that he surrendered alone and in disguise, that disguise being a Luftwaffe corporal’s uniform. In the last days of the war I saw thousands of surrendering Germans, but of those thousands I remembered only one face, and that one was identical to the face in the rare photographs of Adolf Eichmann. The ill-fitting Luftwaffe uniform had proved to be one of the great disguises of history and had earned for its wearer fifteen years of uneasy freedom, seventeen more years of life altogether. Fifteen years later that name and that face would be known by much of the world, but on that spring day in 1945, in that peaceful Austrian hamlet, there were only two who knew the terrible secret. There were only two who knew that behind that ordinary face with the icy smile there was unspeakable evil. There were only two who knew that the blood of innocent millions dripped from those manicured hands: Eichmann himself and his Creator.