Wallenberg and Eichmann


Wallenberg and Eichmann


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Wallenberg and Eichmann

By Stephen Krashen

The perhaps cruelest man and kindest man who ever lived, Adolf Eichmann and Raoul Wallenberg actually met, and had dinner together. It was in Budapest. Eichmann's mission was to kill as many Jews as possible before the end of the war – the Nazis were clearly losing and the Russian army was closing in on Budapest. Wallenberg, a member of the Swedish delegation to Hungary, had spent the last six months saving thousands Hungarian Jews. Eichmann had already threatened to kill Wallenberg when they met by chance in the Foreign Ministry Building in Budapest. With his typical boldness and audacity, Wallenberg invited Eichmann to dinner.

The dinner took place in the home of Lars Berg and Berg described their conversation in detail in his book, What Happened in Budapest, and his description has been quoted in many biographies of Wallenberg. According to Berg, Wallenberg knew that negotiation with Eichmann was hopeless, but in their discussion Wallenberg "brilliantly … picked Nazi doctrine apart, piece by piece …". Eichmann had little defense, and admitted that Wallenberg's analysis was correct. Astoundingly, he admitted that he had never believed in Nazism! Then why did he support the party so willingly and so vigorously? Why did he supervise the murder of millions of people?

Berg quotes Eichmann as saying that Nazism "has given me power and wealth" and Eichmann wanted to keep this power and wealth as long as he could: "I know that this pleasant life of mine will soon be over. My planes will no more bring me women and wine from Paris, or delicacies from the Orient. My horses, my dogs, my luxurious quarters here in Budapest will soon be taken over by Russians and I myself, as an SS officer, will be shot on the spot … but if I obey my orders … and exercise my power harshly enough I may prolong my respite for some time …."

In other words, Eichmann's incredibly evil behavior was not driven by ideology, but by his desire for personal physical pleasures. The contrast with the altruistic Wallenberg could not be clearer. While Wallenberg was one of the few humans ever to reach the highest stage of Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development ("principled conscience," or in Talmudic terms "the way of the pious") one must put Eichmann at the lowest stages ("fear of human punishment" and "self-interest").

At the end of evening, Eichmann politely thanked Wallenberg for a pleasant evening. Soon after, a truck rammed Wallenberg's car, an obvious attempt on Wallenberg's life engineered by Eichmann. Wallenberg protested in person. Eichmann "regretted" the incident, but as Wallenberg left Eichmann's office, Eichmann said "I will try again."


from the July 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine




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