Despite the brief history of contemporary Israel, the Israeli Mossad is regarded as one of the most capable intelligence organizations in the world. It is Israel’s national intelligence agency, in charge of gathering information, conducting covert operations, and combating terrorism. The work of Mossad is crucial to Israel’s security and stability, and it has far-reaching ramifications for the rest of the globe and a rich history full of genius operations. Many of them are explained in “Mossad. The most outstanding operations of Israeli intelligence”, a book written by Michael Bar-Zohar. This non-fiction work got my attention and never bothered to limit my interest in stories about Mossad. Let me tell you about one of the greatest operations in the history of intelligence agencies.
The discovery of Eichmann
“So what’s your name?” the girl asked.
“Nicholas, but my friends call me Nick. Nick Eichmann.”
This answer became the beginning of a huge story….
In the fall of 1957, Mossad received news that Adolf Eichmann, one of the main Nazis who organized the Holocaust, was alive and in Argentina. This information was of great interest to the intelligence service because it was he who ordered the “solution to the Jewish question” – the systematic extermination of Jews in Europe. This could be said to be his terrible goal in life. After the end of World War II, Eichmann simply disappeared, and no one knew where he was.
The circumstances of his life turned out to be extremely interesting: his son met a girl named Sylvia, a daughter of a blind half-Jewish man, Lothar Hermann, who suffered because of the Nazis during World War II. Sylvia began dating a young man named Nick Eichmann. When her father learned his name, it immediately occurred to him that the young man might be a relative of a famous Nazi, Adolf Eichmann. With this, the old man went to Fritz Bauer (a German judge and prosecutor who played a decisive role in the Auschwitz trials). Fritz did not trust German law enforcement because of the Nazis left behind, and he feared that Eichmann would be warned. So he decided to go directly to Mossad.
The first thing Israeli intelligence wanted to do was find out if this man in Buenos Aires really was Adolf Eichmann. Agents of the special services came to Hermann, Silvia’s father. So they talked to his daughter, hoping that she would guide them to their destination. As the book tells us, “one and a half years ago, she said, her family lived in the Olivos district of Buenos Aires. There she met Nick Eichmann, a wonderful young man whom she had dated several times. She did not tell him about her Jewish origin, because “Nicky” behaved like an Aryan family. Nick wasn’t choosing his words. Once he remarked to her that the Germans should complete the right to exterminate Jews. Another time he mentioned that his father had served as an officer in the Wehrmacht during the Second World War and had fully fulfilled his duty to the fatherland.”
The guy never said where he lived during the entire time of acquaintance. However, after having a difficult conversation with her father, Sylvia found a way to discover his address. Nick wasn’t there when she arrived, but she managed to gather more information through a dialogue directly with his father – Adolf Eichmann who was home back then.
Later, Mossad agents again asked to visit the Hermanns. They gave him and his daughter a list of characteristics needed to uniquely identify Eichmann Senior: photo, current name, occupation, official documents relating to him, and fingerprints. A few months later, a message from Hermann reached Mossad headquarters. He excitedly announced that he had learned everything about Eichmann.
However, the information provided by Hermann was questionable regarding the special services. They decided to verify the identity again but this attempt failed… The Mossad decided that the man they found was not Adolf Eichmann. The investigation was closed. But was it the right move?
A year and a half after these events, Fritz Bauer came to the Israeli intelligence agency with new information. He learned that Eichmann’s pseudonym in Argentina was Ricardo Clement. Mossad realized that they had made a big mistake and almost lost the chance to find the person who caused the mass extermination of their ancestors. From then on, the real hunt began. The dialogue between director of Mossad – Isser Harel and Ben-Gurion – first prime minister of Israel signified the importance of this operation.
“We found Eichmann in Argentina,” Isser said.
I think we can catch him and bring him to Israel,” Ben-Gurion immediately replied.
“Take him dead or alive,” he said.
After thinking about it, he added, “Better alive. This will be very important for our young people.”
Then, the special services formed a task force to kidnap Adolf. Thanks to the Mossad spies, they managed to conduct a brilliant operation to find Eichmann’s new home. Twelve of the task participants were volunteers. Some of them survived the Holocaust and had concentration camp numbers tattooed on their forearms.
Mossad started work in April. The plan was as follows. On May 20 1966, Argentina celebrated the 150th anniversary of independence. High-ranking persons from all over the world were to come to the celebrations. Guests from Israel, led by Minister of Education Abba Eban, also had to arrive. The airline “El Al” presented him with a special plane “Bristol Britannia”, known as the “Whispering Giant”. It looked like they had been assigned a special plane for this visit, when in fact it was chosen for the Eichmann operation. According to the intelligence “scenario”, everything was supposed to look like this: Adolf gets kidnapped on May 10, plane arrives on the 11th and leaves for Israel on the 12th.
However, plans changed at the last moment. Due to the large number of guests who attended the Independence Day celebrations, the Argentinian Ministry decided to postpone the arrival of the Israeli delegation until the afternoon of May 19. For Mossad, this meant either delaying the kidnapping or going ahead with the plan and going into hiding with the prisoner for ten days. It was dangerous because the relatives of the missing person could organize an intensive search. There was a real risk that the police would find Eichmann and his Israeli captors.
Nevertheless, the special mission continued as originally planned. Mossad’s plan was written down to every minute. Everyone knew what to do, even when they had a problem. As the book tells the story, “All members of the group changed their appearance: put on make-up, false mustaches, beards, wigs. The twelve who had arrived in Buenos Aires a few days before – those who walked the streets, rented cars and apartments, stayed in hotels, watched over the house on Garibaldi – they disappeared; their places were taken by twelve others, of a different appearance, with other documents in other names.”
On May 11, at 08:15, a silhouette was seen on Via Garibaldi. This was Ricardo Clement. He was going to his house. A car pulled up to him. “Un momentito, señor”- “Just a minute, señor,” a man said. It was Zvi Malkin – volunteer agent, these were the only two Spanish words he knew. After that, everything went incredibly. According to the book, “Malkin was afraid that Clement would pull out a weapon. He jumped and knocked him into the dirt on the side of the road. Clement screamed with all his might. Another man jumped on him from the car, followed by another. Strong hands grabbed his head and covered his mouth. He was shoved into the back door and immobilized on the floor. The driver started the engine, and the car jerked forward. Not even half a minute passed between Clement’s appearance and this moment.” Already in the car, Clement’s hands were tied and the agents began to look for scars on the body. Of course, the agents found them. The scars indicated if it was that exact Nazi. The kidnappers looked at each other and shook hands. It was Adolf Eichmann.
On April 1, 1961, his trial began in Jerusalem. Prosecution witnesses included 110 Holocaust survivors. Eichmann was sentenced to death. His last words were:
“We will meet again… I lived with faith in God… I followed the laws of war and was faithful to my flag…”
As the book narrates, “Two police officers behind the screen pressed two buttons at the same time, only one of which activated the hatch. Who got this button, no one knew, so the name of the person who executed Eichmann remained unknown.”
So as we can see, the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, has a reputation for being one of the world’s most elite and successful intelligence outfits. The Mossad has proved its unshakable dedication to the safety and security of the State of Israel, from its participation in the capture of Adolf Eichmann to its engagement in other clandestine operations. The Mossad’s sophisticated intelligence collection and covert operations talents serve as a reminder that even the most wanted persons cannot escape the grasp of a determined spy organization. Mossad’s effectiveness in carrying out its tasks has won it a place among the world’s top intelligence agencies and cemented its reputation as a formidable force.
Featured image: Mossad retrieved from https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Mossad