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Religion: Converting Eichmann

4 minute read

Twice each week, armed guards escort Pastor William Lovell Hull of Jerusalem’s nondenominational Zion Christian Mission into the maximum security cellblock of Israel’s Ramla prison. As he enters, a sallow, thin-faced prisoner behind a thick glass partition snaps to his feet, bows and clicks his heels. Then the two men sit down, take up the earphones and microphones through which they communicate and open their Bibles. Pastor Hull then begins another session of trying to bring Adolf Eichmann back to the Christian faith he left in 1937.

With the approval of the Israeli government and the wary cooperation of the prisoner, Evangelical Preacher Hull has been Eichmann’s spiritual adviser since his conviction. Hull and his wife, who serves as German-English interpreter, are the only strangers Eichmann is allowed to see, and they hope to convert him before the Israel Supreme Court rules, probably next month, on his appeal of his death sentence.

Hull at first coldly visualized Eichmann “with a rope around his neck,” and although now “God has given me a slight feeling of compassion,” the preacher still feels that Eichmann had a fair trial and ought to hang for his crimes. “I’m not interested in his body,” he says. “But I am interested in his soul. He should be given a chance to save it. As Christians, we are obliged to offer him that much.”

“Jewish Fables.” Canadian-born Evangelist Hull, 62, seems oddly matched to his spiritual charge. A former Winnipeg salesman on the Manitoba grain exchange, Hull received “a very real personal call from God to move to Jerusalem” while attending services one night at Winnipeg’s Zion Apostolic Church. He settled down in Palestine in 1935, following his ordination to the ministry. A strong believer in Israeli independence, Hull has long enjoyed the favor of Israel’s government, and after Eichmann’s conviction Hull offered his services as a spiritual counselor. Eichmann, who had been brought up in Austria’s Evangelical Church, refused at first, agreed to one meeting on the advice of Lawyer Robert Servatius, and now seems to welcome Hull’s visits.

To bring Eichmann to the point where “God can reach his heart,” Hull has tried to make Eichmann see that God’s judgment of his soul is more important than the Israeli court’s judgment of his body. At their first conference last month, Hull asked Eichmann to turn in his Bible to a text in Ecclesiastes. Eichmann hesitated. “Isn’t that in the Old Testament?” he asked. When Hull said it was, Eichmann answered: “I won’t read it. I don’t believe in Jewish stories and fables.” Patiently, Hull explained: “I’ve laid out a plan of study for you to consider that your soul might be saved, and if you don’t follow the plan I can’t help you. The Bible is one book. Both Old and New Testaments were written by Jews, and our early church was composed of Jews.” Eichmann thought for a moment, then turned to the chapter.

A Nazi God. Eichmann so far seems to have accepted the idea that he has a soul that will be judged by God, and that this soul can be saved before death. But he obstinately insists that as a helpless tool of Adolf Hitler he was not fully responsible for his crimes, does not yet agree with Hull that faith in Christ is the way to salvation, speaks of a creator that Hull feels is a Nazi God of power and force, not a God of love. “So far we are not talking about the same God,” says Hull.

Hull spends about two hours a week with Eichmann, preaching and reading Biblical passages with him. At the end of their sessions he leaves a written lesson, which Eichmann studies and returns, usually marked with questions. Hull finds ministering to the prisoner totally exhausting. “The power of Satan in that cell is tremendous,” he says. “I feel a tremendous responsibility, and if God were not with me I’d never attempt it.”

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