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Last Updated: Monday, 2 April 2007, 07:04 GMT 08:04 UK
Eichmann search was ended early
Adolf Eichmann prison cell in 1961
Adolf Eichmann was executed for war crimes in 1962
British authorities called off the hunt for the man who organised the Nazi Holocaust just 17 months after the end of World War II, files have revealed.

The files relating to Adolf Eichmann were released by The National Archives.

They show that at the time the decision was made, Eichmann was hiding in the British-controlled zone of Germany.

He went to Argentina in 1950 where he was later abducted by Israeli secret police. Following his trial, Eichmann was executed for war crimes in 1962.

At the end of the war Eichmann, who organised and administered the Holocaust, was among the most wanted men in Europe.

It has since been found that he arranged the deportation of Jews across Europe and his office ordered the Zyclon B gas for the gas chambers.

But the files reveal that in February 1947, the British War Crimes Unit decided to call off their hunt for him.

A Major Cowper wrote to an officer: "An exhaustive search had been carried out, but the only indication of his fate was he may have committed suicide."

'Case closed'

On that basis, the major wrote that the case would be considered closed by the unit.

Ironically, Eichmann was living in the British side of Germany at the time.

Professor David Cesarani, who is Eichmann's biographer, said: "There could not have been a safer place for Eichmann to have been than in the British zone because at that point the British police field intelligence had struck him off their list of wanted men."

Prof Cesarani believes this probably helped the war criminal to stay in Germany until he escaped to South America in 1950, where he lived for another decade.

He said at the time the British Crimes Unit was very small and very overstretched and its priority was to track down Nazis responsible for atrocities against British servicemen.

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