Thousands of documents from Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann’s year in Austria just before World War II broke out have been discovered among files of the former East German secret police that ended up in Germany’s federal archives, a newsmagazine reported Saturday.
The files, confiscated from Eichmann’s Vienna office by the Soviets after the war and turned over to East Germany in 1955, are expected to add new fuel to the debate in Austria about compensating Holocaust victims, Der Spiegel magazine said.
Eichmann followed Adolf Hitler’s army into Austria in 1938 and immediately began an anti-Semitic campaign to force Jews out. While much is already known about his terror tactics, the files are expected to add details as well as possibly aid survivors and their heirs seeking the return of stolen property.
Unlike Germany, Austria has paid relatively little to Nazi victims in the way of compensation, claiming its 1938 annexation by Germany made it Hitler’s first victim. A commission set up by Austria’s new government to review restitution claims has already expressed interest in reviewing the newly found files, Der Spiegel said.
Berlin historian Joerg Rudolph--who discovered the files by chance, still packed in the East German secret police cartons in a branch office of the Federal Archive--estimated that it would take months to go through the 15,000 to 20,000 files. In addition to the papers from Eichmann’s Vienna office, other files relate to Gestapo persecution of Communists, Roman Catholics and other groups.
Eichmann, who returned to Berlin in 1939 to head the Gestapo’s Jewish office and oversee the Holocaust, was sentenced to death in Israel after the war and hanged in 1962. Israel released Eichmann’s prison memoir last month.