February 28, 2000
JERUSALEM -- Israel, acting on a request from lawyers in a British libel case involving claims that the Holocaust never happened, agreed Sunday to hand over contents of unpublished memoirs by convicted Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann during his trial in 1962.
Lawyers for Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, a scholar in modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, sought the journals of thoughts, jottings and philosophical essays.
Right-wing British historian David Irving is suing Lipstadt and Penguin Books. Irving contends that a book by Lipstadt, published in 1995, caused irreparable harm to his reputation by calling him "a dangerous spokesman for Holocaust denial."
The book examines claims that the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews never took place.
Irving denies that millions of Jews were systematically slain by the Nazis.
He claims that Hitler didn't know about the genocide until the final stages of World War II.
Richard Rampton, defense counsel for Lipstadt, asked Israeli Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein last week to send a copy of the notes to London for use in the trial, as proof that the Holocaust did in fact occur.
The journals have been locked away in state archives since Eichmann was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed in Israel in 1962.
Eichmann was snatched by an Israeli spy squad from his hideout in Argentina in 1960.
Scholars who have read the notes say they contain attempts by Eichmann to justify his role in the Nazi extermination policy in which as many as 6 million Jews and 4 million others were murdered, many in designated death camps.
In the notes, Eichmann repeats the blunt admission he made at his trial that the mass murder of Europe's Jews took place under the Nazis. However, he denied playing a major role.
In fact, historians say, Eichmann was the key Nazi official in charge of organizing the forced emigration of Jews from Germany, Austria and the Czech protectorate before the exterminations began.
Eichmann was put in charge of the mass transportation of Jews from western, central and southeastern Europe to the extermination camps after the mass murders began in 1941.
The Israeli authorities have refrained from publishing the notes because of questions about copyright. Eichmann's sons have demanded that the notes be returned to the family.
Yehuda Bauer of the Hebrew University, Israel's leading Holocaust scholar, was one of the experts called in to advise Rubinstein.
"The copyright issue has not yet been settled, but if there is a demand from the court in London, it has to be considered," he said. "Apart from the fact that he fully admits the murder of the Jews in all its details, which might be useful, there's nothing new in it. There is no historical significance to the notes, but they may be of significance in a trial at which somebody tries to show that there was no Holocaust. This is one of the major actors talking quite freely about the destruction of the Jews."
The Israeli Justice Department said Prime Minister Ehud Barak "agrees with the decision, which is in line with his policy of fighting Holocaust denial."