The True Story of How Israel Captured Adolf Eichmann

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On the evening of Wednesday, May 11, 1960, Ricardo Klement was late arriving home to the San Fernando suburb of Buenos Aires. Advance observations had shown that the lanky, bespectacled man descended from the number 203 bus at 7:40 P.M. and then, aided by a flashlight, walked about 100 meters along the dark road before turning left onto a dirt path ‏(designated as Garibaldi Street in the municipal master plan‏). He entered a solitary house, where his wife and family awaited him. The remote neighborhood in which Klement lived had not yet been hooked up to the power grid, and in the small house a few Lux oil lamps emitted a faint light.

The seven men in two black American cars with big tail fins who were waiting for Klement that evening grew increasingly tense. They were determined to put an end to his meticulous routine − and to his life, if necessary. For they were certain that Ricardo Klement was actually S.S. officer Adolf Eichmann, one of the planners of the “Final Solution,” the organizer of the transports that had carried millions of Jews to death camps in Europe. They were aflame with desire to capture him.

The minutes passed. The seven men in the ambush, six of them from the Shin Bet security service ‏(not the Mossad‏) and a physician, began to think that maybe their timing was off. Three of them were in a Chevrolet parked on the main road, with a view of the bus stop. They were Avraham Shalom ‏(at the time deputy head of the Shin Bet operations unit‏), Yaakov Gat ‏(a Paris-based field operative‏) and an anesthesiologist ‏(to drug Eichmann, if necessary‏). Their task was to identify him, blind him with lights and help in the escape. Four others waited in a Buick that had supposedly broken down on the dirt path by the isolated house. Their mission was to nab Eichmann and get him to a safe house ‏(one of three that were available‏).

The abduction team consisted of Rafi Eitan, the operation’s commander ‏(who headed the Shin Bet operations unit‏); Zvi Aharoni, an interrogation expert, who was sitting behind the wheel of the car, next to Eitan ‏(Aharoni was the Shin Bet’s chief interrogator and had tracked down and identified Eichmann‏); the burly Peter Zvi Malkin, who was to make the initial assault on Eichmann; and Moshe Tavor, the “technician,” another hefty fellow, who was to help bring the target under control. Malkin and Tavor stood next to the car’s open hood and awaited a signal.

Everything was ready, but where was Eichmann? The bus they had watched for had arrived on time, but had not stopped. The dark road remained totally deserted. Every minute, the risk grew that they would arouse curiosity by their presence here. At 8:04 P.M., as the frustration level mounted and someone from the Chevrolet had already gone over to the Buick to ask Rafi Eitan ‏(in the absence of a walkie-talkie‏) what to do, the lights of another bus suddenly sliced through the black night and someone got off and started to walk in their direction. “It’s him,” said Avraham Shalom, who was at the wheel of the Chevrolet.

Shalom: “I see Eichmann walking with a red and white flashlight and I turn on the car lights and he turns left toward the house.” He counted 30 seconds on his watch before his buddies in the Buick revved the engine and sped off with their catch....

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