A new Israeli documentary series on Nazi Adolf Eichmann is featuring tape recordings of the Holocaust architect that were made in 1957 in Buenos Aires.
The documentary, “The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes,” used hours of old recordings which were denied to Israeli prosecutors at the time of Eichmann’s historic trial in Jerusalem six decades ago.
The tapes were recorded in 1957 by Willem Sassen, a Dutch journalist and Nazi SS officer who was one of the many Nazis who fled to Argentina after the war. The recordings fell into various private hands before ending up in Germany’s government archive. In 2020, Germany gave permission to the documentary’s producer and director to use the 15 surviving hours of the recordings in their series.
Eichmann maintained throughout his trial that he was merely a functionary following the orders of others. He went to the gallows denying any responsibility for the crimes for which he was found guilty.
Reenacting meetings of Nazi sympathizers in Buenos Aires in 1957, the documentary intercuts Eichmann’s own words from the recordings in which he defended the Holocaust.
In the audio, Eichmann is heard telling his compatriots that he didn’t care if the Jews sent to Auschwitz lived or died. He said that the order given was Jews who were fit to work would work and Jews not fit to work “must be sent to the Final Solution, period.”
Eichmann is heard boasting that if the Nazis “killed 10.3 million Jews,” he would say, “Good, we destroyed an enemy” and fulfilled the mission.
Eichmann was put on trial in Jerusalem in 1961 after Mossad agents kidnapped him in Argentina and rendered him back to Israel. After his capture, Sassen sold the transcripts of the recordings to “Life” magazine which published a sanitized version.
Prosecutors in the trial had obtained over 700 pages of transcripts from the Buenos Aires audio recordings that included edited corrections written by Eichmann. But Eichmann argued that the transcripts had been distorted. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the transcripts could not be used as evidence, only permitting Eichmann’s handwritten notes.
Believing the audio recordings were securely hidden, Eichmann demanded the chief prosecutor in the case, Gideon Hausner, produce the original tapes.
Hausner later wrote in his book, “Justice in Jerusalem,” that someone was offering to sell the recordings at the time, but added a condition that the tapes could not be taken to Israel until after Eichmann’s trial was over.