An Architect of Evil
Werner Klemperer is Adolf E Eichmann, one of the most evil men to ever have lived. It was Eichmann who had the idea of killing Jews in gas chambers and then burning the bodies in large ovens. Eichmann was a true engineer of evil. One of the things that make this film so fascinating and frightening is that we see Nazis as human beings yet most had no humanity. It is alarming to see men who regard their workdays of mass murder as just another day at work. I think the most alarming scene in the film was watching Eichmann having a nice dinner with his chief lieutenant, Hess and his wife and children and discussing the effectiveness of Zyklon B for human extermination. Hess says the reason the gas is so effective is because you see nothing and you hear nothing and throws it off as if saying something mundane. It actually turned my stomach to think that anyone could discuss genocide as they ate.
This is not a new film—it was released in 1961 and was meant to capitalize on the capture and trial of Eichmann and because it was a rush job the filled is filled with inaccuracies. Eichmann had managed to live as a free man as he avoided justice from 1945 until 1960 when he was captured by Israeli agents who found him in Argentina. While that period of his life may not be accurate, his crimes are fully documented and we see him as the head and the man responsible for the “Final Solution of the Jewish problem”.
The film begins with Eichmann standing trial in a Jerusalem courtroom and saying that the new Nazi movement will again rise and destroy all who oppose it. This is just fiction he never said anything like that but he could have because he was going to be executed no matter what. However, that statement set the mood for the film. During the 15 years that he was on the run, he was obsessed with the idea of rebuilding the Nazi party and doing so all over Europe as well as in South America where he happened to be hiding. He managed to escape Germany when the military collapsed in 1945 and he assumed many identities. He was always one step ahead of his pursuers and he felt he was invincible and would never be caught.
In the film he is given a love interest something that he did not have in real life and it is quite to understand what she saw in him but then that was a Hollywood gimmick. The movie shows us his rise to power and his association with top Nazi officials—Rudolf Hess, the commandant of Auschwitz and Heinrich Himmler. The movie portrays Eichmann as a loose cannon and no one wants to see him live. With him gone, it would have been easier for other Nazis to move around because as long as Eichmann was alive, he jeopardized the safety of his former comrades. The Israeli Mossad was finally able to get him without having to kill him. It was the court’s job to decide his fate although there was little to consider when he was convicted of war crimes. He was executed in May of 1962 at Ramle prison near Tel Aviv.
It is too bad that this is such a rush job Hollywood movie. It sinks into melodrama and is by and large fiction. The idea of combining the Holocaust with a cloak-and-dagger operation could have and should have worked but it does not.
Those of us who were alive when this happened have no problems remembering what happened. I still remember watching pictures of the trial on television and seeing Eichmann in the glass booth which was there so that no one could get to him before a verdict was handed down. In this film we see him as a man balancing himself between life and death, an evil psychotic person with whom justice has finally caught up with.
It is really hard to watch Klemperer as Eichmann smirking as he watches footage of gas-chamber extermination of Jews and he takes pride that he was part of that. Nazism and the War are pushed into the background so that we can concentrate on the arrogant and sneering Eichmann.
The capture of Eichmann could have provided the movies with one of the greatest chases ever but instead it looks like something from a “B” film.
I wish that this had been a better film and there were better films made about the subject (“The House on Garibaldi Street being a perfect example). Now Eichmann is almost forgotten and with it one of the great monuments of Israeli history.