At first they handed over the SS men to the Allied authorities, but many of
the SS men "escaped in the chaos that followed the war or were
released." At one point the Russians released two Nazi Germans who had
been turned over to them by the Jews. The Germans walked out into the street,
laughing at their release. But not for long. The Avengers "cut the men
down with a burst of sub-machine gunfire."
From then on the Avengers simply tracked down and killed former Nazis.
Perhaps 1000 Nazis were tracked down in this way after the war.
But Adolf Eichmann had escaped both the Nuremberg trials and the Avengers.
All trace of him had been lost in May 1945. He had actually remained in Europe
until 1950, maintaining no contact with his family. In 1950, with the help of
an organization assisting former Nazis to leave Europe, he escaped to
Argentina. He sent for his wife and children two years later.
The passport issed to Adolf Eichmann by the International Committee of the Red Cross on June 1, 1950 was discovered by a graduate student in at the University of San Martin mid-2007 conducting research on Eichmann's wife, Veronica Catalina Leibel. The name on the passport reads "Ricardo Klement," and claims that he was a "technician born in Bolzano, Italy, and apolide (without nationality)."
When Eichmann arrived in Argentina in 1950, he lived for almost three years in a quiet town near Buenos Aires called San Fernando, where he worked in a metal factory. He then moved to the province of Tucuman, located over 600 miles from Buenos Aires, where he worked at an engineering company called the Capri firm, to which Juan Peron, the Argentine president at the time and known Nazi-sympathizer, gave many state contracts in order to modernize the province's water administration.
Eichmann's wife and two children arrived in Argentina in mid-1952, and accompanied him to Tucuman. He registered his two children at a German school, known to promote anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi propoganda at the time, under the name Eichmann, suggesting again how the Argentine government aided and abetted former Nazis and their sympathizers.
In April 1953, the Capri firm declared bankruptcy and Eichmann moved his family to Buenos Aires, where he worked for a number a companies. He was hired by Mercedes Benz in March 1959, where he continued to use the alias Ricardo Klement.
No one had heard him for years. But in the autumn of 1957 Walter Eytan at
the Israeli Foreign Ministry, got a call from Fritz Bauer, the public
prosecutor of the province of Hesse, Germany. Hesse told Eytan that Eichmann
was alive and living in Argentina.
Eytan immediately alerted Isser Harel, the head of the Mossad. Harel spent
one autumn night reading Eichmann's dossier. At that point Harel didn't know
much about him. As Harel writes in his book on the capture of Eichmann, The
House on Garibaldi Street; "I didn't know what sort of man Eichmann was.
I didn't know with what morbid zeal he pursued his murderous work or how he
went into the fray to destroy one miserable Jew with the same ardor he devoted
to the annihilation of an entire community. I didn't know that he was capable
of ordering the slaughter of babies - and depicting himself as a disciplined
soldier; of directing outrages on women - and priding himself on his loyalty
to an oath; or of sending helpless old men to their deaths - and classifying
himself as an 'idealist'…But I knew when I rose from my desk at dawn that in
everything pertaining to the Jews he was the paramount authority and his were
the hands that pulled the strings controlling manhunt and massacre. I knew
that at all the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals this man was pointed to
as the head butcher. I knew that he was a past master in police methods, and
that on the strength of his professional skill and in the light of his total
lack of conscience, he would be an exceedingly dangerous quarry. I knew that
when the war was over he had succeeded in blotting out all trace of himself
with supreme expertise."
Harel knew that this man must be brought to justice and punished for his
crimes; the victims of his slaughter demanded it; justice and morality
demanded it; but no one was looking for him - no agency, no government, no
police force. Until the Mossad took over.
It was not going to be an easy task. Eichmann was certainly living under an
assumed identity, and had friends in and out of the Argentinian government.
Moreover, Harel determined that he would capture him - but not kill him in the
style of the Avengers. He was going to bring him to Israel and make him stand
trial before the people he so murderously tried to wipe out.
Harel asked Ben-Gurion for the go-ahead. Ben-Gurion gave it. And thus the
operational machinery of searching for Eichmann went into effect.
They had slim leads at first, but there were leads. One of Eichmann's
supposed sons, Nicholas, had gotten involved with an Argentianian Jewish girl,
and apparently not knowing she was Jewish, boasted about his father's role in
the killing of the Jews of Europe. He had mentioned that it would have been
better if the Nazis had "finished the job" during World War II.
Nicholas Eichmann also used the family name Eichmann openly at times.
The Mossad followed up on it. But when they checked the old address of what
was supposed to have been Eichmann's house, he no longer lived there. That
lead didn't go anywhere, other than clarifying that one of Eichmann's sons was
indeed in Argentina with Adolf Eichmann.
But the investigation still moved slowly and delicately. "The
investigators could not risk the danger that their prey would learn he was
being followed. Even more difficult was the necessity of identifying their man
beyond the slightest doubt. The only thing worse than losing the real Eichmann
would be capturing the wrong one." But investigators had a very difficult
task. Eichmann had carefully destroyed all evidence of his former identity. He
had even removed the tattoo all SS men had under their left armpit. All the
investigators had were blurred pictures before the war. No fingerprints were
In late 1959 the Israelis discovered that Eichmann had changed his name
after the war to Ricardo Klement. He was on the way to Argentina when he did
so. Apparently his sons sometimes still used their family name.
Eichmann had run a laundry business for a while, which went bankrupt. The
Mossad team followed Eichmann's son's trail and was led to Garibaldi Street in
the San Fernando section of Buenos Aires. "They surveyed the house
constantly, photographing it from every angle with a telephoto lens, making
notes about its lack of a fence, its fiberboard door, its unplastered walls.
They observed the habits of the balding, bespectacled man who lived there with
his family. They felt certain he must be Eichmann."
But they still didn't have the proof.
On March 21, 1960, "the agents got their proof." On that evening
Ricardo Klement got off the bus "and walked slowly toward his home. In
his hands was a bouquet of flowers." Klement gave the bouquet to the
woman who greeted him at the door. Their children were dressed for a special
occasion. Later they heard the sound of laughter, of people in a celebratory
March 21 was the date of the Eichmann's silver wedding anniversary.
There were no more doubts.
Isser Harel decided to go to Argentina to personally supervise the capture
of Eichmann. The Mossad team devised a plan for "capturing Eichmann and
flying him out of Argentina with forged documents. Every detail was worked out
and every contingency planned for. Minor changes were made in accordance with
the new information supplied by the team in Argentina, who by this time were
shadowing Eichmann's every move."
In May 1960 Argentina would be celebrating its 150th year of independence.
Additional Israeli operatives were sent to Argentina in connection with the
larger number of people who would be on hand for the country's anniversary.
Each man was handpicked by Isser Harel for his or her special qualities
developed and proven over years of undercover intelligence work. All had
risked their lives in Arab and other countries." Each one could be
trusted and depended on in times of crisis.
The leader of the group had proved his mettle helping illegal Jewish
immigrants land on the Palestine shores under the vigilant eyes of the
British. He later took direct action against the British himself. He had also
fought Arab marauders and had been wounded. He later joined Harel's Mossad.
All the others had survived Nazi persecution. Most of them had seen most if
not all of their families wiped out in Nazi concentration camps.
The man who was chosen to grab and overpower Eichmann had lost his sister
and her three children at the hands of the Nazis. He would finally get his
chance to do his part in avenging them, to whatever extent he could.
Another member of the team had been one of the original members of the
"Nokmim" or Avengers we have already discussed.
Altogether, there were over 30 members of the team.
"Nothing was left to chance. To ensure that there were no problems
with documents, plane connections, visas, health certificates, character
references for the unit, a miniature travel agency was set up by the Mossad"
in an unidentified European city. They tried hard not to leave the impression
that they would be operating from Israel. As Isser Harel well knew, Israel
would be violating Argentinian sovereignty by kidnapping Eichmann and taking
him out of the country. Moreover, Argentina and South America had been a haven
for Nazis and their sympathizers since the end of World War II, and it could
be counted on that many of them would make things difficult for the Israelis
if they knew what was afoot.
Israeli agents began to fly in from all over the globe ostensibly for
Argentina's 150th anniversary celebrations, but in reality for capturing
Eichmann. No two came from the same city. They rented safe houses and
constantly changed cars to throw off anybody who might be watching them or who
would get suspicious.
On May 11, Mossad operatives were ready to move into action. They knew
Eichmann was home from work at about 7:40 p.m. They were there at 7:35. Two
Mossad operatives tinkered with the engine of their car. Another car was
parked about 30 yards behind the first one, and the passengers were also
tinkering with their engine. A bicyclist stopped and offered to assist them in
their efforts to fix their car. He must have been surprised when they politely
but firmly refused his offer.
Two buses came and passed, but Eichmann "didn't alight from either of
them. The men lying in wait began to get a little worried. Could it be that he
had come back early that day and was home already? Perhaps he wasn't coming at
all?" Four days had passed since they had observed Eichmann last; they
began to wonder if he had changed his routine.
Another bus passed. Eichmann was not in it. Although they began to question
whether he would arrive, nobody gave voice to their doubts.
Eight o'clock came. This was some time after Eichmann usually arrived, and some
of the Mossad operatives thought they should get out of there. They didn't
want to "risk spoiling their chances of putting their plan into action
another day." However, without telling the others, the leader, Gabi, had
decided to wait until 8:30 p.m.
In the second car, Ehud, had decided to continue waiting as well - although
neither Gabi nor Ehud had communicated his thoughts to the other.
At five minutes after 8 another bus pulled up. A man began walking towards
Garibaldi Street. The Mossad man in the first car recognized Eichmann
immediately; in the other car, they recognized him 15 seconds later.
Eichmann approached the car. One of the Mossad operatives said to him
"Just a moment" and then pounced on him. Eichmann "let out a
terrible yell, like a wild beast caught in a trap…" as he fell to the
ground. Then the others pulled the panic-stricken Eichmann into one of the
cars. "The whole operation had taken less than ten minutes."
They started driving off. Eichmann's head was pressed below the view of a
passerby. He showed no resistance. They gagged him, tied his hands and feet,
put a pair of goggles that blocked his vision and lowered him to the floor.
During the whole operation, Eichmann didn't utter a sound." The Mossad
team limited their verbal contact with him to a terse "If you don't keep
still, you'll be shot."
They drove off towards their safe house without a hitch. The two cars were
let into the garage by another member of the Mossad team. Eichmann was taken
out. It was 8:55 - 50 minutes after the bus had arrived.
They drove the first car back to the city in case it had been noticed. They
then shackled one of Eichmann's legs to a bed frame. They took off his clothes
and put pajamas on him. They checked in his mouth for poison - they didn't
want him to take his own life before he had been tried in an Israeli court.
They looked for the SS tattoo under his left armpit. It had been removed.
He only briefly tried to hide his identity, then he cooperated. He told them
"that when he was briefly in American hands after the war he had tried to
remove the number with a blade." They found all of his other
distinguishing features they had on record. His cooperation was full and
unhesitating - even obsequious. "Gone was the SS officer who once had
hundreds of men to carry out his commands. Now he was frightened and nervous,
at times pathetically eager to help."
The Mossad team could hardly believe that such a monstrous criminal could
look so ordinary. But that was their impression. Everyone who saw him was
amazed at his extraordinarily ordinary appearance. They expected him to look
more sinister, more imposing - but there was nothing.
They kept him for a week in a room in a safe house, never letting him out
of their sight. They had to plan the next phase - getting him out of
Argentina. They had organized an El-Al plane to leave Buenos Aires on May 20.
Its departure could not be advanced for fear of arousing the suspicions of the
Isser Harel was almost alone among Mossad operatives who felt that the
Eichmann family would not make a public fuss about the missing Eichmann. If
his missing would be brought into the public eye, it would almost certainly
bring to light his true identity - not Ricardo Klement, but Adolf Eichmann. He
would receive little succor then. Moreover, his Nazi associates could also be
implicated if they got publicly involved.
His family did call hospitals and clinics, but avoided calling the police.
They contacted their friends but none were willing to help. "Most of them
ran for their lives and scattered all over the continent. Some even headed for
Europe - just in case the group who had seized Hitler's henchman were also on
their tracks." They assumed it must have been the Israelis that had gone
to all the effort to seek out and capture Eichmann in South America. They
assumed that the Israelis might invest the same effort in capturing them.
Several acts of revenge were plotted by Nazi sympathizers in Argentina following Eichmann's abduction, including kidnapping the Israeli ambassador and bombing the Israeli Embassy, though neither came to fruition, according to researcher and author Uki Goni. On August 17, 1960, a young group of Argentine Nazis called the "Huaraches" attached Jewish students in the Legions National Pimientos. They fired several shots and wounded a 15-year-old student named Edgardo Vilnius.
The Mossad also tried to capture Joseph Mengele, the sadistic Nazi doctor
who had performed particularly cruel experiments on Jewish men, women and
children without anesthetics in the Auschwitz death camp. The Mossad nearly
got him, but were unable to finalize the capture. Unfortunately he was never
taken by the Israelis.
The Mossad still had to plan the taking of Eichmann out of the country
without arousing the suspicions of the Argentinian authorities. Thus they sent
one of their own agents into a local hospital with the claim that he had
suffered brain damage from a fake accident. He was supposed to exhibit gradual
On the morning of May 20 it was shown that the patient had recovered
sufficiently to fly home to his native Israel.
The Mossad simply took the certificate and substituted Eichmann's name and
photograph on the form.
Eichmann was then drugged so that his senses would be blurred when brought
to the plane. He would still be able to walk, if supported by a man on either
side of him.
They dressed him in an El-Al uniform and brought him aboard. "The Nazi
prisoner cooperated so fully that at one stage he reminded his captors that
they had forgotten to put on his airline jacket. 'That will arouse suspicion
for I will be conspicuously different from the other members of the squad who
are fully dressed,' lectured Eichmann."
The Mossad men drove in a group of three cars, with Eichmann in the second,
to the airport. The men in the first car "began singing and laughing as
they approached the guard house entrance. The driver explained in an
"embarrassed" state that the men had enjoyed themselves so much that
some were still dozing off.
The guard didn't question the ruse. In fact, he evinced a masculine
fellowship in the results of their carousing.
Two Mossad members took the half-conscious Eichmann aboard the plane. There
were no foul-ups. Many of the crew members got very emotionally disturbed
finding out Eichmann was aboard the plane. But on Isser Harel's orders no one
manhandled him until the trial.