June 13, 1934: Hitler and Mussolini meet in Venice for the first time.
The first meeting between Europe’s two new fascist leaders was not successful and, in retrospect, a little amusing. Mussolini had led Italy as Il Duce for nearly nine years, and Hitler had barely held power for one; Mussolini was decked out in ceremonial dress fit for a general - riding boots and all, while Hitler had come in plain civilian clothing; the boisterous Italian leader also found Hitler’s constant quoting of Mein Kampf boring, and he later referred to him as “a silly little monkey”.
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt (of V-J Day in Times Square fame), who snapped a photo of the two leaders shaking hands, later said that “[Mussolini] didn’t think much of Hitler” and “when Hitler and Mussolini met on June 13, 1934, in Venice, Mussolini was the big shot”. It was true. Hitler’s first coup (the “Beer Hall Putsch”) was an attempt to emulate Mussolini’s successful March on Rome, and Hitler’s paramilitary “brownshirts” were directly inspired by the Italian “Blackshirts”.
Adolf Eichmann is sentenced to death - December 1961.
May 31, 1962: Adolf Eichmann is executed.
After escaping U.S. custody at the end of World War II, this SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) fled to the “Nazi haven” of Argentina, where he lived in relative obscurity for ten years. His passport gave his name as “Riccardo Klement”. Although it had been suspected that Eichmann had been hiding out in South America prior to 1960, it was only that year that Mossad agents abducted and smuggled the notorious ex-Nazi to Israel for trial.
David Ben-Gurion described Adolf Eichmann (who was in charge of the deportation and transportation of Jews in occupied Poland) as “one of the greatest of Nazi war criminals”. Eichmann’s case was hopeless; over a decade earlier at the Nuremberg Trials, his own former associates had more or less cemented his guilt as a principal organizer of the Holocaust. And his own quotes - for example:
I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction.
were equally damning. Over a hundred people testified against Eichmann, including former SS officers. He was convicted in 1962 on fifteen counts, including murder, sterilization, enslavement, starvation, deportation, persecution, and war crimes in general (plus the three additional charges of belonging to criminal organizations, those being the SA, SD, and Gestapo). For these, Adolf Eichmann was hanged shortly before midnight on May 31, 1962, fifty years ago today.
Nazi book-burnings (Berlin) - May 10, 1933.
German men and women! The age of arrogant Jewish intellectualism is now at an end! … You are doing the right thing at this midnight hour—to consign to the flames the unclean spirit of the past. This is a great, powerful, and symbolic act… . Out of these ashes the phoenix of a new age will arise… .
Oh Century! Oh Science! It is a joy to be alive!
- Joseph Goebbels, Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.