Adolf Eichmann's Daughter-in-Law Defends Him in Argentina, Drops Out of Mayoral Race

Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann inside a bulletproof booth during his trial in a Jerusalem court in 1961. File photo/Reuters

Carmen Bretin Lindemann was a mayoral candidate in the Argentinian village of Garupa until she defended her father-in-law—the late Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann—on television last week, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

"The history that you know is not the real one. The version that you know from movies and books is written by the Jews, and all the world accepts that history," she said during the interview with the TN news channel, which aired October 21. "He wasn't a bad person; he obeyed orders and did not personally kill anyone."

Lindemann reportedly referred to Eichmann as "Grandpa" during the interview, but the war criminal is better known as the man who engineered the deportations of hundreds of thousands of Jews to Nazi extermination centers. He was captured in 1960 by agents of the Mossad, Israel's spy agency, in Argentina and brought to trial in Jerusalem, where he was found guilty and then hanged on June 1, 1962.

Following Eichmann's trial and Hannah Arendt's famous coverage of it for The New Yorker (later turned into the 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil), Eichmann has often been portrayed as a bureaucrat following orders, or an eager joiner of a historic movement. Arendt wrote that "the trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal."

But people often oversimplify her report, and more recent scholarship—particularly Bettina Stangneth's 2011 book, Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer, translated into English in 2014—has moved toward "a new critical consensus," as Roger Berkowitz put it in a 2013 piece for The New York Times. "This new consensus holds that Arendt was right in her general claim that many evildoers are normal people but was wrong about Eichmann in particular," he wrote.

Stangneth, in her book's introduction, writes, "Eichmann, after all, is famous for saying that he had been 'just a small cog in Adolf Hitler's extermination machine.' What is surprising is that, until now, the secondary literature on Eichmann has dutifully parroted this view." Because she had a "suspicion that something was amiss," she went on to paint a more complicated picture of Eichmann as a fanatic Nazi.

Eichmann's daughter-in-law was expelled from the party she represented, United for a New Alternative, after her television interview went on the air. She said in a statement Thursday, "In order to not hurt my fellow party members in the alliance, my immediate resignation is necessary. I want to assure the public that I don't and never did support the Nazis."

DAIA, an umbrella organization for Argentina's Jewish community, condemned Lindemann's remarks. "We strongly condemn the position of this candidate," DAIA President Julio Schlosser said in a statement in Spanish posted to the DAIA website, which was put through translation software. The organization rejected "any possibility that a person with this kind of racist and xenophobic ideas is even a candidate. In our country there is no room for these kinds of thoughts and such people."