My quest to snatch Eichmann and finally bring him to justice

By Rafi Eitan, April 17, 2008
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1960: Eichmann's capture

In 1958, David Ben-Gurion made a decision that Israel would bring the major Nazi war-criminals to justice, so that the world would see and learn about the Holocaust, and so that the survivors in Israel, who before then had been ashamed of talking about their experiences, would have a chance to give testimony.

As head of operations in the Mossad, I was part of a small team that decided on the targets. We narrowed the list down to four. One was Adolf Eichmann, who had headed the SS Jewish department and been in charge of all deportations.

After getting a lot of unreliable information as to his whereabouts, we thought we had found him, living as Rikardo Klement in the San Fernando neighbourhood of Buenos Aires. The photographic evidence made me 90 per cent sure it was him, so we assembled our team, the necessary documents and equipment, and left for Argentina in April 1960. I was the operational commander.

On a mission, you never let yourself get excited. You have to concentrate and shut out your feelings, and this time was no different. But on the night before we left, I told my wife that we were going on a historic mission.

When we snatched Eichmann off the street, next to his home, we held him down on our knees on the back seat. Tzvi Malhin gripped his legs, and I held his head and covered his mouth. Tzvi Aharoni ordered him in German to be quiet if he valued his life, and Eichmann whispered: “Jawohl.”

He understood German! At that moment, we realised that we had the right man. Me and Malhin shook hands over Eichmann. I found myself humming the Jewish Partisans’ Song, and the last line going over in my mind — “we are here”.

Last updated: 2:57pm, March 2 2009