The Israeli government released a handwritten letter on Wednesday, penned by Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in which he pleads for his life.
The missive, written in 1962, two days before Eichmann was due to be put to death, was sent to former Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, and was publically revealed for the first time as part of a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In the letter, Eichmann refuses to accept responsibility for his crimes, writing that the judges at his trial "made a significant error, since they cannot put themselves in the time and situation I was in during the war years."
Eichmann standing in a glass cage in the Jerusalem courtroom in 1962 where he was tried for war crimes
"I never served at a rank so high that it could have been involved in such decisive and independent powers," he continued. "I never gave any order in my own name, but rather always acted ‘on orders’"
“There is a need to draw a line between the leaders responsible and the people like me forced to serve as mere instruments in the hands of the leaders,” he wrote. "I was not a responsible leader, and as such do not feel myself guilty."
"I am not able to recognise the court’s ruling as just, and I ask, Your Honour Mr President, to exercise your right to grant pardons, and order that the death penalty not be carried out."
According to Haaretz, the letter, which was written in German and translated into Hebrew, was recently recovered during the digitisation of Israel’s archives. The letter will form part of an exhibition about Eichmann’s trial at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.
In response to Eichmann's plea, Ben-Zvi returned a letter, stating that he had rejected the requests and would not "use my authority to pardon on reduce the penalty for this case."
A lieutenant colonel in the Schutzstaffel (SS), Eichmann was one of the key organisers of the Holocaust, overseeing logistics for the mass deportation of Jews to concentration camps in Eastern Europe.
He fled to Argentina after the Second World War, but was captured and smuggled to Israel by Mossad agents in 1960. After two trials, the Israelis eventually hanged Eichmann a few minutes after midnight at a prison in Ramla on 31 May 1962.