The struggle for the soul of Adolf Eichmann
Adolf Eichmann (1906–1962) was one of the principal architects of the Nazi Holocaust, in which six million Jews were systematically murdered. His task was to maintain the killing capacity of the concentration camps by providing a steady flow of victims. Following his capture in Argentina in 1960, he was tried as a war criminal in 1961 in a Jerusalem Court, found guilty, and sentenced to death.1 After the trial, the Rev. William L. Hull, who spent 27 years in Israel as a Christian missionary, was appointed spiritual adviser to the condemned man by the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Interviewing a murderer
Over a period of 50 days in 1962, Hull had 14 interviews, mostly lasting one hour, with Eichmann in the death cell at Ramleh Prison from 11 April until the day of Eichmann’s execution there, 31 May. On the first of these, Hull gave Eichmann a German Bible, and subsequent meetings took the form of discussion of verses selected by Hull, which Eichmann agreed to read between meetings. Many of these were on the subject of God’s judgment of all men, such as Luke 12:4–5; Psalm 9:17; Hebrews 9:27; Romans 1:16–32, and Gospel passages such as John chapter 3, John 14:6. Hull used over 70 Bible passages.
The Struggle for a Soul is Hull’s record of what transpired at these meetings.2 In the foreword, Hull gives one reason for his writing: “The world is entitled to know, if it may be found out, how a living human being could yield himself to be used as such an awful instrument of destruction. … that it may be warned against itself, for it was the world that produced an Adolf Eichmann” (p. xii). Hull goes on to say that “ … Eichmann died denying any faith in Jesus Christ, any need of a mediator” and points out that his “almost public rejection of Jesus Christ completely disassociated him and his evil deeds from Christianity” (p. xiii).
Hull further points out that there was nothing confidential or of a confessional nature in what Eichmann said, as the Chief Warden was present at all times, as well as never fewer than four guards, all of whom heard every word that was uttered (p. xi), as did Mrs Hull, who acted as interpreter. Also, Eichmann never ever made any admission of guilt.
During these discussions, Eichmann confirmed that he had been brought up in the Evangelische Church (p. 34), but said that he did not believe that Jesus died to save sinners (p. 37). He said he found God through nature (p. 35) and through what the philosophers wrote (p. 83). He said that the Old Testament was “nothing but Jewish stories and fables” (p. 23), and that he had no use for the New Testament (p. 30). He did not believe in hell (p. 24) or Satan (p. 86), and he did not believe that anyone needed a Saviour (pp. 132–33, 140). He declared, “I have nothing to confess”, “I have no sin”, and “I have no regrets” (p. 83). Other subjects raised by Eichmann included Buddhism, and the beliefs of Kant, Planck, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Spinoza.
Eichmann’s evolutionary worldview
There was one subject that Eichmann mentioned to Hull no fewer than six times at different meetings. This was his belief in evolution and millions of years.
- On Hull’s second visit Eichmann asked, “If God needed to send His Son, why did He wait, why was He not sent millions of years sooner?” (p. 36).
- Then at the third meeting, Hull asked him to read Genesis 2:7. Eichmann read out loud: “The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” Then he immediately said, “But I do not believe that man was created by God. My belief is that man evolved from a protoplasm” (pp. 46–47).
- On Hull’s fourth visit Eichmann again asked, “ … why did God wait … millions of years, from the beginning of creation, and only provide this salvation through His Son two thousand years ago?” (p. 53).
- Following this visit, Eichmann wrote in a letter to Hull: “I am not prepared to accept anything that disagrees with my naturalistic conceptions.” And “ … over hundreds and millions of years of development man has developed downwards, to become ‘Homo sapiens’” (p. 77).
- On Hull’s sixth visit Eichmann repeated, “For millions of years God created and prepared the world” (p. 69).
- Then in a long letter which Eichmann wrote to Hull, arising from Hull’s eighth visit, he quoted Pope Pius XII as saying that “ … the beginning of time may have happened about ten billions of years ago.” He also quoted Spinoza as saying that “in this world there exists nothing that is evil in itself”. And he added his own comment: “Man, a product of development willed by the Creator, is still in the early stages of becoming, only on the way toward perfection.” And: “Our former animal instincts will disappear by our own efforts within ourselves. But human development toward perfection must be measured not in generations but in aeons” (pp. 146–49).
Clearly, Eichmann had an evolutionary worldview. Although this is a comparatively modern term, it does not mean that the effects of this belief system were not there in 1962. Racist Darwinism, propounded by Hitler and absorbed by Eichmann, influenced all his thinking and provided the rationale for his participation in the Nazi Holocaust without any self condemnation for what he did. It also prevented him from accepting the truth of any of the Bible verses quoted to him by Hull.
Hull appears to have missed this key to Eichmann’s soul, even though Eichmann flagged it to him on at least six separate occasions in their personal interactions. As we have seen, Hull in his foreword blamed “the world” for producing an Adolf Eichmann. However, it was Eichmann’s evolutionary belief that the earth was millions of years old (with all that this entailed) that motivated his actions and stifled his conscience. It provided an absolute block to his even beginning to consider any of the Gospel verses from the Bible which he read or which were quoted to him by Hull.
Interestingly and surprisingly, in his book, in the very next line after Eichmann had quoted Pius XII’s reference to “ten billions of years”, Hull adds in brackets: “(According to radioactive dating it was five billion years ago.)” (p. 147). This appears to indicate that Hull himself was a “long-ager”. Does this also mean that he believed in theistic evolution? In the event, Hull appears to have offered no scientific or biblical rebuttal of Eichmann’s evolutionary belief system, nor yet even seen the necessity for doing so.
The message for us
The message for any Christian who wants to win another to faith in Christ today is clear. Not only must he himself hold the biblical worldview without reservation and accept the total authority of the Word of God, but he must then be able to uphold and defend the biblical worldview against the arguments of the other person’s worldview. In short, he needs to replace the other person’s non-Christian worldview with the biblical worldview.3
It is true, as Hull says in his foreword (p. xiii), that “Salvation is not the result of winning an argument or of convincing someone of the wisdom of being saved. … [but] is the result of the Gospel being preached to a heart tenderized and softened by the Holy Spirit”. However, two further things need to be said:
- Anyone who would wield the sword of the Spirit (“which is the word of God”—Ephesians 6:17), must ensure that it is not blunted by the wielder’s own non-acceptance of its total truth.
- It is also true that before the “stony ground” can become “good soil” the stones must first be removed.4
How tragic that Hull did not have any answer to the central and determining point of Eichmann’s worldview. The Bible unequivocally describes the recent creation of the universe and the earth, and specifically ascribes these activities to the immediate acts of God through the power of His Word. There is also ample evidence in the world around us that the record in Genesis is a true and accurate history of how the universe and Earth came into being (Romans 1:20).
How many millions of other people are there in the world today who need to be convinced of this truth before they will accept that they have a need of the salvation from sin that God freely offers them? We are reminded of 1 Corinthians 1:18, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
References and notes
- Grigg, R., The trial and death of Adolf Eichmann, 3 March 2009. Return to text.
- Hull, W., The Struggle for a Soul, Doubleday, New York, USA, 1963. Possibly inspired by the title of Hitler’s major work, Mein Kampf, meaning “My Struggle”. Return to text.
- See Grigg, R., Mission not impossible, Creation 29(3):38–42, 2007. Return to text.
- See Grigg, R., Should missionary societies have a position on creation/evolution? Creation 12(3):42–45, June 1990. Return to text.
I think it is clear that Eichmann was a clinical ill, psychopath. He was neurologically unable to feel any guilt for the misery he caused others - even though he seemed to function well in other spheres of life. I wonder if there is any way to successfully witness to such people.
Thanks to Creation.com, I've used what I've learned here to put a lot of serious doubt in many of my atheist friend's beliefs. Many still, however, try to find a way to back up their arguments almost to a ridiculous level. It boils down to people not "wanting" to believe no matter how logical you can be.
We look at this article and theorize that Eichmann could have been saved if he was challenged by someone armed with creation/genesis knowledge and science. I would love to believe that too, except to me, I think Eichmann didn't have an soft soil for any Christian to work with.
I guess this is why we're told we should pray for whom we're going to witness to first.
I bet you Eichmann is an evangelical now.
From a human perspective, one can look at this and speculate 'what if'. But if God is the ultimate agent/determinant of anyone's salvation, then from His perspective, ultimately, such speculations after someone's death are redundant. It is like asking 'what if' one had used such and such an argument to one's unsaved relative just before their death, e.g.
So even though we are responsible for delivering the Good News where possible, even our foolishness and inadequacy can't frustrate God's purposes, in one sense. And that recognition can save one having terrible guilt feelings in such circumstances.
However,that does not mitigate against using this tragic example in Eichmann's case in ensuring that one's witness is as biblically consistent as possible. Plus, we are commanded to be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15).
Paul the Apostle taught much on God's sovereignty in salvation, but while recognizing his dependence on God, he seems to have exercised his wisdom and best efforts in ensuring that his preaching was as effective as he could make it. This included adapting his arguments to the needs of his hearers, as in his address at Mars Hill.
A very thoughtful and amazing message conveyed. I'd appreciate if you try to solve those questions raised by Eichmann. Apparently, there are many non-believers who come up with the same as Eichmann did.
I presume you mean his repeated questions about why God waited millions of years. But the whole point is that in the biblical description of history, He didn't. The question is only a problem for those who want to compromise the Bible's account with the 'millions of years' philosophy. To see a great deal of theological and scientific evidence on this, feel free to use our extensive Q & A section and/or a search using the engine on our site.
What an eye opener. Yes, many so called Christians today would be surprised to know they hold similar if not identical biblical beliefs to those of Eichmann. They too don't believe in the OT stories, such as Noah’s Flood or that God created everything not long ago, and instead prefer to believe we evolved from non-life somehow over billions of years. Such polarisation of ideas is so patently obvious yet ignored by most Christians. Keep explaining the true meaning of the scriptures as you are already doing. It's an excellent way to highlight what is required by a true Christian; one that believes in the raw scriptures, and not some twisted or corrupted misinterpretation of them. You may not have it perfectly right, and I don't think any particular group or church does, but it's accurate enough to be decidedly different from most other so called Christian followings. It beggars belief for any person to call themselves a Christian when they go out of their way to refuse the true scriptures in their entirety. There can be only one version of the truth since there is only one God, and it's in the inspired scriptures.