Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Who 'Caught' Eichmann?

Last night, on a panel that that included Alan Dershowitz, Robert Gibbs and Bob Woodward, CNN pundit David Gergen claimed that Simon Wiesenthal "caught" Adolf Eichmann, facilitating the Nazi's trial in Israel. Gergen made the assertion in order to counter Dershowitz, who had given props to Obama for getting Osama and to the tactic of targeted assassination, an measure Dershowitz applauds but which apparently makes Gergen grumpy and uncomfortable; Gergen was also pandering to a degree to the crowd, attendees of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal swanky annual soiree. (I was there for the panel portion only, having scored a freebie ticket--courtesy my pal BCF--and was sitting up in the cheap seats along with High School students bused in for the occasion.)

When Gergen credited Wiesenthal with the collaring, none of the experts or the panel (or moderator Heather Reisman) bothered to correct him, I suspect because they themselves were unaware of the facts. Deborah E. Lipstadt describes events leading up to Eichmann's capture in her book The Eichmann Trial:
Eichmann's whereabouts would probably have remained a mystery but for a combination of amateur sleuthing and dumb luck. Two of the names most prominently associated with locating him had little to do with the operation, whereas those who played a pivotal role have largely been forgotten. The Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and, to a lesser degree, Tuvia Friedman have claimed and been given credit over the years for finding Eichmann. In fact, though they may have been responsible for finding other murderers, they contributed relatively little to the capture.
Lipstadt goes on to tell the story of the capture. She notes that in the early 1950s, Wiesenthal got a tip that Eichmann was in Argentina, whereupon he
passed the information on to the World Jewish Congress, who gave it to the CIA. No one followed up. The Israelis, whom Wiesenthal also informed, failed to follow up. Had any of these groups acted, Eichmann might have been found and Wiesenthal would have deserved the credit. Wiesenthal's claim to have found Eichmann is further weakened by his letter to the Israeli ambassador to Argentina written on September 23, 1959, about six months before Eichmann's capture. In it he suggested that Eichmann could be found in northern Germany.
He couldn't be; he wasn't. Gergen's assertion to the contrary, Wiesenthal neither "found" him nor "caught" the pro-active mass murderer, even though it seems everyone thinks he did.

Update: Since I have neither the time not the energy right now to comment on last night's proceedings, here's the abbreviated version in the form of the e-mail I sent BCF (who couldn't make it):
"Feather" Reisman "moderated" the panel of experts (that is, she impotently fumed, "Guys, guys, please" as Alan Dershowitz and Robert Gibbs shouted over each other). Dershy was fine--the only one, in fact, who got it right re history and unfolding events--but he severely undercut himself (for me, anyway) by saying that despite everything he still hopes to vote for Obama. How could he even think of voting for that Bozo? Gergen and Woodward--meh. Gibbs was obnoxious--an Obama loyalist 'splaining how we Jews "misunderstood" Barry's border speech.

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