Postmarks from the Simon Wiesenthal Collection

Stamp Collecting on Eichmann's Trail

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Adolph Eichmann on trial. Courtesy Library of Congress

The search for Adolf Eichmann was Wiesenthal's most famous and most controversial case. It was also the one most associated with stamp collecting. Eichmann, whom Wiesenthal aptly called a "desk murderer," planned and coordinated the mass deportation of Jews to the concentration camps. After the war, he successfully vanished for years.

According to Wiesenthal, he obtained the crucial clue to Eichmann's whereabouts during a 1953 visit with a fellow stamp enthusiast, an Austrian baron. After the two men looked through the baron's collection, they began discussing the fate of former Nazis. The baron read aloud from a letter from Argentina. "Imagine whom else I saw," ran one passage. "That awful swine Eichmann who commanded the Jews. He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company."

Wiesenthal wrote that he shared this stunning news with the local Israeli consulate and the World Jewish Congress. Eichmann was indeed living in Argentina, where the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, abducted him in 1960. He was tried in Israel, convicted, and executed. Years later, a dispute arose. Wiesenthal maintained that his information had helped to locate Eichmann, but many of those involved, including the former Mossad chief, said it played no part in the case.