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Adolf Eichmann’s Clandestine Visit to Palestine

In 1937, years before he would become one of the most notorious mass-murderers of Nazi Germany, Adolf Eichmann visited Mandatory Palestine under cover as a German journalist. Eichmann’s second visit, twenty-four years later, was organized for him courtesy of the Israeli Mossad.

What was Eichmann hoping to find in Palestine before the start of the Second World War? Why was it important for him to see the Jewish yishuv with his own eyes? The last and most frightening question of all: what conclusion did Eichmann draw from his visit? The answers to these questions are discussed below.


Eichmann reported from his visit to Israel: The creation of a Jewish State must be prevented


Long before the “Final Solution” was conceived at the Wannsee Conference, Hitler and the upper echelon of the Nazi regime had hoped to resolve the “Jewish problem” through forced emigration of the Jews living in Germany. Almost three years before the outbreak of World War II, in 1937, an unassuming clerk by the name of Adolf Eichmann was sent on a covert visit to Mandatory Palestine, together with his direct supervisor in the Nazi party’s intelligence agency (the notorious SD), in order to explore the possibility of deporting the Jews of Germany there.


A clandestine meeting took place in Berlin between Eichmann and an unofficial representative of the Hagana named Feivel Polkes about the possibility of shipping off the persecuted Jews from Germany to Palestine. The Nazi officer wanted to see the Jewish settlement in Palestine and to check in person whether the plan was actually feasible.

On 2 October 1937 the Romania docked at the port of Haifa, carrying the two Nazi officials who travelled incognito as a German journalist and a student. Their application to enter Mandatory Palestine was denied by the Mandatory authorities. It is not clear whether the two had been identified or whether their entry permits had aroused the suspicion of the customs officials. In any event, they were given a temporary entry permit for one night only. Disappointed by the failure of their mission, the two toured Haifa and spent the night on Mount Carmel. After the time they were allotted was up, they sailed for Egypt where they met with the Mufti and the representative of the Hagana.


Feivel Polkes tells about his meeting with the Hitler's emissaries and the S.S. with the goal of expediting the emigration of Jews to the land of Israel


Even though the two Nazi representatives had been within the borders of Palestine for less than a day, Adolf Eichmann considered himself a qualified expert on the future of the state-in-the-making. In a detailed report to his superiors, Eichmann wrote that the economic situation of the Jewish settlement was dire, and it did not appear that it would improve any time soon. He did not tie the difficult situation to either geo-political or material conditions but (as befitting a good Nazi) blamed it on the Jews’ devious and destructive nature. They cheated each other as there were no Aryans around to cheat instead.


​Eichmann’s great fear was that the expulsion of the Jews from Germany would contribute in the future to the establishment of a stronger and prosperous Jewish entity that would rely on the great wealth which the deportees would bring with them to Palestine. Eichmann feared that over time, that same Jewish state will become a threat to Nazi Germany.

Eventually, the outbreak of the Arab rebellion and the opposition of the Arab leadership in the region to the forced emigration to Palestine of the Jews from the Reich put the kibosh on the plan. The fact that the British were working to limit Jewish immigration, until stopping it completely with the start of the war, had not helped matters.

Following the crushing defeat of Nazi Germany, Eichmann was captured by the US forces for of his role as one of the executioners of the Jewish people during war. With help from his old friends he was able to escape the POW camp under a false identity and made his way to Argentina. In 1960, the Mossad discovered his whereabouts, kidnapped him and brought him to the State of Israel for trial. Following a long trial, he was convicted and sentenced to death. In the early morning hours of 1 June, he was executed by the Jewish State whose establishment he had feared even before the war. 



אייכמן במשפטו Eichmann at his trial. Photo: David Rubinger



The Eichmann trial. Photo: David Rubinger