Almost 40 years after locking away the handwritten memoir of Adolf Eichmann, Israel announced Tuesday it would release the manuscript the Nazi war criminal wrote in prison after he was captured and brought to trial in the Jewish state.
The nearly 1,300-page document, written in Eichmann's Gothic-style script, has been out of reach to all but a select few scholars since it was placed in the national archives in 1962, shortly after Eichmann was hanged for crimes against humanity.
The decision to release the manuscript, announced by the Justice Ministry, followed a demand by Eichmann's children that the prison diary be made public as well as repeated requests by Israeli scholars and journalists to see the manuscript.
Opposition was originally voiced by, among others, Amos Hausner, the son of Gideon Hausner, the lawyer who prosecuted Eichmann in the four-month trial that captivated the world when it started in May 1961.
Concerns have been expressed in Israel that the memoirs, in which Eichmann repeated his defense at the trial that he did not play an important role in the "Final Solution" to kill European Jewry, would be used by neo-Nazis to deny the Holocaust.
But scholars who actually have read parts of the manuscript say it is a largely uninteresting document that will be of no use to revisionist historians trying to claim that 6-million Jews were not murdered or that the Nazis were not responsible.
"It's a boring monotone where a criminal is trying to justify his actions," said Holocaust scholar and retired Hebrew University professor Yehuda Bauer.
"In his memoirs Eichmann does talk about the mass murder of the Jews, he just says he was not responsible," said Bauer, who has read portions of the manuscript.
During World War II, Eichmann, an SS lieutenant colonel, was responsible for organizing the transport of Jews to death camps and promoted the use of gas chambers for their extermination.
After the war he fled to Buenos Aires, where he lived until Mossad agents tracked him down and abducted him in 1960.
Following Eichmann's execution in May 1962, prosecuting attorney Hausner said releasing Eichmann's manuscript would only give the war criminal, who told his side of the story at the trial, another chance to dispute the verdict. Then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion agreed and ordered Eichmann's memoirs sealed in the state archives.
"The decision then was understandable, but that was many years ago, when the verdict was still new," said journalist and historian Tom Segev, who has repeatedly applied to see the manuscript and was always turned down.
"But what's absurd now is why they just don't make it public right away. Instead it is still being treated as if it is something that can harm the national interests of the Jewish people," he said.
The Justice Ministry said the memoir would be released as "soon as possible" once various issues were resolved including the legal question of who actually owns it.
Under the decision reached Sunday at a meeting of Justice Ministry officials and Holocaust scholars, the manuscript will be published in a scholarly edition put out by German experts in the field who will add commentary and footnotes.
Until then, no part of the manuscript will be made available to the public.