In January 1933, deep in the global economic depression, still psychologically wounded from the devastating defeat in the Great War, Germany arose as a military power to challenge the world and again thrust itself into another global war.
By 1945, Hitler and his dream of global conquest were dead, along with untold millions of others.
Hitler, who reportedly married his longtime companion, Eva Braun, just prior to their suicide in an underground Berlin bunker, never had any children. But many of his top lieutenants did.
So, whatever became of the descendants of the top Nazi command?
More than 67 years after the fall of the Third Reich, the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the people who engineered the Holocaust walk among us -- some live in obscurity, some changed their surnames to avoid shame and notoriety, others renounced their parents’ ideology, and some remained loyal to Nazism, while still others have attempted to live ordinary lives.
Otto Adolf Eichmann, one of the major architects of the Nazi Holocaust, met justice in 1962 after Israeli Mossad commandoes grabbed him in Argentina (where he and many other Nazi fugitives fled to after the war) and brought him to Israel for trial.
Eichmann, a former Nazi SS-Obersturmbannführer (lieutenant colonel), was executed by hanging in May 1962.
He left behind four sons: Klaus Eichmann, Horst Adolf Eichmann, Dieter Helmut Eichmann and Ricardo Eichmann (who was born in Buenos Aires).
In 1995, in an interview with British media, Ricardo, by then a professor of archaeology at Tubingen University in Germany, assured that he was not a Nazi sympathizer.
"Change my name?" he pondered. "What would have been the point? You cannot escape from yourself, from the past."
(One of the factors behind Israeli intelligence’s discovery of Adolf Eichmann in Argentine related to the fact that while he changed his name, he neglected to do the same for his wife and children).
Only five years old at the time of his father’s apprehension, Ricardo stated: "I remember him holding my hand and taking me to the bus stop. I remember him taking me into a sweet shop and buying me some chocolate. And I remember sitting outside on the step every evening thinking, when will my daddy come home?"
Years later, Ricardo met the man who seized his father, Israeli agent Zvi Aharoni, in a London hotel room.
"It was a very emotional meeting,” Ricardo said. “People have asked if I feel anger toward [Aharoni]. I don't. Adolf Eichmann deserved to be brought to justice for what he did. I don't agree with the death penalty, but I can see why they did it at the time."
Ricardo also distanced himself from his father’s grievous crimes.
"Adolf Eichmann is a historical figure to me," he said.
"I knew my father was dead, but I didn't know how he had died. My mother kept all the newspaper cuttings about him under the sofa. I would creep under there and peek at them. I understood bits and pieces but not the whole picture. When I asked my mother, she would say, 'Lass das' -- 'leave it.' It was a taboo subject and stayed that way till my mother died two years ago. ... Once, at school, the history teacher started talking about an exam she had set on the Eichmann trial. Later she called me in. She said she hadn't meant to offend me. She hadn't realized I was in the class. I remember always going bright red when people mentioned Nazis and SS men."
Ricardo also discussed his absence of relations with his siblings and his fatherless youth.
"I am bitter about the fact I had no father. I am furious about the horrors of the Holocaust,” he said. “And it would have been better if [my mother] had talked to me. I wanted to challenge her, but I saw her inner turmoil. I loved her, and she loved my father. What was I supposed to do?
"I know now that pain comes from not knowing. That is why I am not afraid to confront the truth. I always wanted to know. I went to see the deportation orders, black on white, that my father had signed. I never wanted anyone saying that I didn't believe what he had done."
Ricardo commented that he was caught between vastly different camps -- neo-Nazis seek to embrace him, while some Jews and Israelis connect him to the horrors of the Holocaust.
"Perhaps if [Adolf] Eichmann had been imprisoned for life, we could have used him to understand the mentality of the Nazis more, of how and why they committed the horrors," Ricardo commented.
"I had pushed my father aside. I had dealt with it psychologically, but then you, the journalists came and brought back my father's ghost, and now I have to deal with it again. Perhaps this is my fate. ... I had and have nothing to hide. The journalists are my psychologists. But mainly I am doing this for my children. If I talk about Eichmann, my father, perhaps they will not be asked about Eichmann, their grandfather."
As for Adolf Eichmann’s eldest son, Klaus, he apparently shares his father’s virulent hatred of Jews.
According to a report in the Guardian newspaper from 2002, Klaus told Sylvia Hermann, a German refugee in Argentina whom he did not know was partly Jewish, that he regeretted the Nazis had not completed their extermination of the Jews.