On Wednesday afternoons there are no lectures at the UK’s Manchester University. That was when I often organized guest speakers to come to address the Jewish students, where I served as the official campus rabbi for 25 years.
On one such Wednesday in 1986, my guest speaker arrived very early in the morning. I had the unparalleled privilege of spending the entire day with Peter Malkin. He was the leader of the team of Israeli agents who tracked down and captured Adolf Eichmann.
SS Obersturmfuhrer Eichmann was one of the main architects of the Holocaust. He was captured by American forces but escaped and eventually fled to Argentina under the name Ricardo Klement.
Peter Malkin told me that under interrogation by his team, he repeatedly denied his real identity. Eventually, one of Malkin’s men screamed at him, “Your name is Adolf Eichmann and your SS number is 45526.”
Eichmann’s German sensibilities were offended at this. The Israeli had gotten his number wrong by one digit and he shouted back, “My SS number is 45326!”
How many Jews did he believe himself responsible for killing? To a close friend he confided he was responsible for at least five million Jewish deaths.
Sickeningly and bizarrely, Eichmann insisted to the end that he wasn’t in the slightest anti-Semitic. He told Malkin, “Ich war den Juden immer zugeneicht” – I have always been fond of Jews. He insisted that his conscience was clear. He had carried out the duties imposed on him, simply because he was a “Good German.”
In 1986 it was hard for me to fathom how anyone could rationalize such a massive contradiction between what he believed about himself and his actions that proved the opposite.
Today, evidence of precisely this kind of denial of anti-Semitism is to be found everywhere.
Two weeks ago, a famous BBC TV program called “Panorama” conjured a Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein moment they had been preparing for months.
The degree to which Britain’s Labour Party has been infected by virulent anti-Semitism is already well known. Jeremy Corbyn and his closest advisors insist that they were appalled and doing everything in their power to stamp out the cancer. It was a mantra they repeated countless times. The BBC exposed their lie and provided irrefutable evidence that far from purging anti-Semites and anti-Semitism from their ranks, they had been actively protecting and supporting Jew haters all along.
The same kinds of sinister and clandestine figures that protected and concealed Nazis like Eichmann protected leftist anti-Semites within the Labour Party, across the UK.
In interview after interview, when confronted by their guilt, like Eichmann, they protested with passion and sincerity that they didn’t have an anti-Semitic bone in their body.
And do you know, I believe them! Or at least I believe that they believe themselves, precisely the way that Eichmann did.
Another thing Peter Malkin told me Eichmann said was: “Sie lieben kinder” – I love children. Malkin replied, “You mean you love some children.” Eichmann looked hurt, “Nein, ich leibe alle kinder!” – No! I love all children.
Eichmann’s love for all children did not stop him from sending one million of them to the gas chambers. It’s the actions of people that show who and what they really are.
Two years after I heard Peter Malkin’s first-hand account of coming face to face with one of the most evil human beings in history, I read in Simon Wiesenthal’s book, Justice, Not Vengeance:
“The world now understands the concept of ‘desk murderer.’ We know that one doesn’t need to be fanatical, sadistic, or mentally ill to murder millions; it is enough to be a loyal follower eager to do one’s duty.”
Coming home from the office every day, with no blood on their hands or clothes, it’s easy for such people to detach themselves from the inevitable outcome of their actions.
Today on campuses across the United States and in the newsrooms of some of the country’s most famous newspapers and TV stations, “Eichmann Delusion Syndrome” is alive and well.
Jews are dutifully attacked and marginalized. The NY Times recently printed a raw anti-Semitic cartoon. Ask almost any of the perpetrators and supporters of this new oppression and be prepared to be told with conviction and passion, “Me – anti-Semitic?”
Of course, the same assurances that “I have always been fond of Jews and my conscience is clear” is easily identifiable in America’s body politic too.
Ilhan Omar and her supporters passionately deny she’s anti-Semitic. Rashida Tlaib and her supporters passionately deny that she’s anti-Semitic.
In May, after being banned by Facebook, Louis Farrakhan gave a speech denying he is anti-Semitic! He explained that he knows “the truth” and “separates the good Jews from the Satanic Jews.”
That will be a comfort to all those many members of the Democratic Black Caucus, who lined up to have their picture taken with a man who knows the difference between Jews who have horns and those of us who don’t.
They too don’t have the teeniest drop of anti-Semitic blood flowing through their veins, nor do those supporting BDS including its Jewish supporters.
After his trial and execution in 1962, Eichmann’s body was cremated. His ashes were scattered in the Mediterranean. There would be no grave, his evil presence purged. In 2019, sickeningly, it turns out Eichmann’s legacy and his Delusion Syndrome have not been purged after all.