WASHINGTON -- The CIA, in the 1950s, suppressed the whereabouts of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann to help protect ranking West German officials from possible revelations about their own Nazi pasts, according to CIA data released yesterday.
A memo was written in March 1958 by West German intelligence sources that informed the CIA that Eichmann -- the Gestapo officer who oversaw Hitler's ``Final Solution" to annihilate European Jewry -- was living under the alias ``Clemens" in Argentina, where he had arrived seven years earlier.
``It now appears that West Germany could have captured him in 1958, if it wished to," said a University of Virginia historian, Timothy Naftali, who is director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.
``Newly released CIA materials suggest that in the highest levels of the Konrad Adenauer government, there was concern about what Eichmann could say, if caught, about those close to the chancellor."
He was speaking at a news conference at which a government working group, headed by the National Archives, announced the release of 27,000 pages of CIA documents relating to ties to former Nazis, including war criminals.
The CIA also could have passed along the information to Israeli intelligence, which was ending its own search for Eichmann in Argentina when the US spy agency received word of his whereabouts from West Germany.
It was not US policy at the time to pursue former Nazis, who were still being recruited as Cold War spies against the Soviet Union.
The Israelis captured Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. He was tried in Jerusalem for crimes against the Jewish people, was found guilty and was hanged in 1962.
But Naftali said the CIA also helped West Germany to suppress part of Eichmann's diary that could have embarrassed Adenauer's national security adviser, Hans Globke, himself a former Nazi.
Eichmann's family had sold the Nazi fugitive's memoirs to Life magazine to raise money for his defense. West German officials asked the CIA to help suppress the document.
``The CIA explained that they could not stop publication but persuaded Life [magazine] to delete the one reference to Globke," Naftali said.
``The CIA, which worked closely with Globke, assisted the West Germans in protecting him from Eichmann," he said.
About 8 million pages of documents from agencies that also include the FBI and the Defense Department have been declassified under the disclosure act.