Eichmann's Israeli interrogator reburied in Berlin

AP News
Posted: May 23, 2014 10:45 AM
Eichmann's Israeli interrogator reburied in Berlin

BERLIN (AP) — With the words of the Kaddish and a sprinkle of earth over his remains, the Israeli official who interrogated Adolf Eichmann was reburied Friday in Berlin's Wannsee neighborhood, not far from the house where the Nazi who helped organize the Holocaust outlined his genocidal plans in 1942.

Though the choice of the final resting place for Avner Less — near the mansion that hosted the infamous Wannsee Conference — was more coincidence than symbolism, his son told The Associated Press his father would have appreciated the irony.

"I think he would be quite pleased at the contradiction of these two men who had different ideas," Alon Less said. "It is quite a good contrast."

Friday's cemetery ceremony brought Avner Less back together with his wife, Vera, whose remains also were reinterred on the spot after being moved from her original Hamburg resting place. That fulfilled a pledge Alon made to his dying father in 1987: to bury his parents together in their native Germany.

"I made a promise to my father on his death bed to bring him to his wife, because they belong together," he said. "It's a beautiful love story."

Avner and Vera Less married in 1936 in Paris, where they met after both fled Nazi Germany. A year before the outbreak of World War II, they immigrated to what was then British-controlled Palestine, where Avner found work as a policeman.

Many others in their family remained in Europe and died in the Holocaust, including Avner's father and stepmother, who were deported to Auschwitz, and Vera's mother, who escaped Germany only to be hunted down by the Nazis in Belgrade.

In 1960 after Israeli Mossad agents captured Eichmann in Argentina, Avner was chosen to be part of the unit preparing evidence for Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem.

Eichmann, a top deputy of Adolf Hitler, is known as a primary architect of the Holocaust for his role in coordinating the Nazi genocide policy. Alon Less recalled his father's recollection of his first meeting with Eichmann in Israel.

"He thought he would see a tall man, blond hair, blue eyes — a real Nazi German — and he saw a little man, nearly bald with thick glasses, a normal man from the street," he said. "That shocked him. That's when he realized what human beings could do, any human beings."

During the interrogations, Eichmann tried to present himself as a small cog in the Nazi machine, and insisted he was simply following orders. Avner Less got him to talk — for 275 hours.

He caught Eichmann in lies by confronting him with meticulously collected evidence, and rattled his subject with well-timed revelations of his own family's experiences.

"Eichmann at one stage asked my father: 'How is your family?'" Alon Less recalled. "My father smiled back and said: 'My older brother and sister are OK. But you sent my father to Auschwitz'."

Eichmann was found guilty in 1961 on 15 charges, including crimes against humanity and crimes against the Jewish people. He was hanged the following year in prison, the only time Israel has carried out a death sentence.

Vera Less died in Switzerland in 1980 and was allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in her native Hamburg even though she had been cremated, a violation of traditional Jewish customs. When Avner Less died in 1987, he also was cremated and the Hamburg cemetery refused to make an exception for him.

Instead his urn was interred in Switzerland, where Alon lives. After the lease on the Swiss plot expired 25 years later, he again attempted to have his father's remains reburied in Hamburg, but again was refused. Instead he found the solution to have them reburied in his father's native Berlin, in Wannsee's municipal cemetery.

Alon said his parents long were convinced that Germany had changed dramatically since the Nazi era, and wanted to be buried in the country they considered home.

"My father said that during his interrogation of Eichmann, the months he was there he was fighting against hate — his own hate," Alon Less said. "He said hate does not solve any problems. It only causes more problems."