During his 1961 trial, the Israeli court ruled that the prosecution could not use the extensive audio recordings of Adolf Eichmann’s conversations before his capture by the Mossad. Since then, the tapes have been kept away from the public; it was only in 2011 that a German researcher used them along with other evidence to demonstrate conclusively what had been apparent to many: that Eichmann was not the thoughtless cog in the machine that Hannah Arendt had made him out to be in her famous book, but a fanatical anti-Semite. Recently a group of Israeli filmmakers gained access to the tapes, and used them in producing a new documentary about the man who played a major role in coordinating the Holocaust. Isabel Kershner writes:
The tapes were made by Willem Sassen, a Dutch journalist and a Nazi SS officer and propagandist during World War II. Part of a group of Nazi fugitives in Buenos Aires, he and Eichmann embarked on the recording project with an eye to publishing a book after Eichmann’s death. Members of the group met for hours each week at Sassen’s house, where they drank and smoked together.
Exposing Eichmann’s visceral, ideological anti-Semitism, his zeal for hunting down Jews and his role in the mechanics of mass murder, the [documentary] brings the missing evidence from the trial to a mass audience for the first time. Eichmann can be heard swatting a fly that was buzzing around the room and describing it as having “a Jewish nature.”
He told his interlocutors that he “did not care” whether the Jews he sent to Auschwitz lived or died. Having denied knowledge of their fate in his trial, he said on tape that the order was that “Jews who are fit to work should be sent to work. Jews who are not fit to work must be sent to the Final Solution, period,” meaning their physical destruction.
“If we had killed 10.3 million Jews, I would say with satisfaction, ‘Good, we destroyed an enemy.’ Then we would have fulfilled our mission,” he said, referring to all the Jews of Europe.