Stamps of India: Article of the Month - May 2012

Stamp Collectors Trace Eichmann

by Yogini Jhingan

Adolf Eichmann, the perpetrator of mass crimes against humanity during the World War II was captured in 1960 by the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service, and tried in Israeli courts which generated much hype. He was charged for murder of 5 million Jews. His capture was direct result of a meeting between Nazi hunter and philatelist, Simon Wiesenthal and a fellow philatelist in Austria who told him a sighting of Eichmann in Argentina. Today, the May 31, 2012 is the 50th anniversary of Adolf Eichmann's execution.
Adolf Eichmann was a German Nazi and Schutzstaffel (a paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party) Lieutenant Colonel and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. He played the leading role in facilitating and managing the logistics of mass deportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupied Eastern Europe as well as in the plunder of their property. After World War II Eichmann was arrested and confined to an American internment camp, but he was able to escape unrecognized in 1946 and by 1950 he had fled to Argentina where he lived under the assumed name of Ricardo Klement for the next ten years.

Simon Wiesenthal, an Austrian Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter. Wiesenthal claimed the credit of tracking down Eichmann. He has disclosed the amazing sequence of philatelic coincidences in his book 'Ich Jagte Eichmann' (I Chased Eichmann) published in 1961.

Adolf Eichmann

Simon Wiesenthal
Israel Austria Joint Issue 2010

In this book, Wiesenthal narrates how he was suffering from from extreme insomnia and nerves and saw a doctor, who also was personal friend, in this regard. The Doctor warned Wiesenthal that he would suffer a complete breakdown if does not have some diversion from his work which was becoming an obsession. The Doctor suggested that Wiesenthal take up some hobby and mentioned coin, porcelain plate, match box, and stamp collecting.

Wiesenthal took up stamp collecting and later wrote that “I don't wish to serve as publicity agent for stamp dealers, but I must admit that the new hobby really diverted me and put my mind at rest. I bought some catalogs, magnifier, tweezers, and spent my evenings bent over the stamps which increasingly caught my imagination. It made me forget the events of the preceding day. It became a passion with me.”

While attending a stamp exhibition in 1953, Wiesenthal learned that an elderly Austrian nobleman, Baron Mast, wished to sell part of his collection. Wiesenthal contacted the Baron and who invited him to his villa near Innsbruck to look at the stamps. After looking at the stamps both the stamp collectors settled in the Study for informal talks on world affairs in general. Wiesenthal mentioned during the conversation that he is a Jew and suffered considerably at the hands of Nazis. Baron told him that he too suffered severe discrimination both as a Catholic and as a follower of of the Habsburgs. Baron then mentioned that a fellow philatelic friend in Argentina recently wrote a letter and a part of which may interest Wiesenthal. It read 'Ich sah jenes schmutzige Schwein Eichmann.' (I saw that filthy pig Eichmann.) 'Er wohnt in der Nähe von Buenos Aires und arbeitet fürein Wassergeschäft.' (He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company.) Wiesenthal was stunned as till then all his efforts as well as those of the Mossad to trace Eichmann had failed.

Wiesenthal sent a copy of the letter to the Israeli consul in Vienna. It did take a few years and a much more work for Mossad to identify and locate the exact whereabouts of Eichmann. Mossad abducted Eichmann on May 11, 1960 in Argentina and nine days later flew him to Israel. The controversial and highly publicized trial of Eichmann lasted from April 2 to August 14, 1961. Eichmann was sentenced to death and executed in Ramleh Prison on May 31, 1962. 

Acknowledgments: Wikipedia

Version 1.0, First published in Issue # 525 of May 31, 2012 of the Stamps of India Collectors Companion
Version 1.1, May 31, 2012, with images published on


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