There is the comb, the cigarette holder and the house keys he had on him when he was captured; the needle used to sedate him during his abduction from Argentina to Israel; and the booth in which he sat during his trial.
Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, has lifted a veil of secrecy to display publicly for the first time documents, equipment, artefacts and personal testimonies relating to the capture, abduction and trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal who was hanged in Israel almost 50 years ago.
Operation Finale, an exhibition at the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, is curated by a serving Mossad officer, who can only be named as Avner A. Ninety per cent of the material on display comes from the Mossad archives, the first time in the agency’s history that it has opened its vaults.
The exhibition includes espionage equipment, such as a camera hidden in a briefcase and items used to forge documents and number plates; the original Mossad file on Eichmann, handwritten on yellowing paper; and the booth in which he sat during his trial. It discloses that the target was identified by his ears.
Eichmann was in charge of implementing Hitler’s Final Solution for the Jewish people, in which six million people died. After the war he was captured by Allied forces but escaped and fled to Argentina. There, a Holocaust survivor whose daughter was dating Eichmann’s son became suspicious about the identity of the boy’s father, and Israeli intelligence was alerted.
A complicated operation, involving about a dozen agents, most now dead, was prepared and executed in May 1960. Eichmann, who was living in Buenos Aires under the alias Ricardo Klement, was surreptitiously photographed and the images compared to those from his SS file. From the shape of his ears it was concluded that Eichmann and Klement were the same person.
He was bundled into a car on his way home from work by a team of Mossad agents. One of them, Rafi Eitan, who attended last week’s opening of the exhibition, described in video testimony what happened. “Eichmann’s head was in my lap,” he said. The agent examined his body for known scars and said he felt ecstatic when he found them.
Eichmann was taken to a safe house. Asked to identify himself, he first gave a German alias, then his Argentinian identity. On the third time of asking, he responded: “I am Adolf Eichmann. This is indeed my name.” Then, recalled Eitan, he asked for a glass of wine.
An elaborate plan to spirit him out of he country without alerting the Argentinian authorities was put into action. An El Al plane brought an official Israeli delegation to Buenos Aires as a cover for taking the high-value target back. He was passed off as a sick airline employee, dressed in an El Al uniform and heavily sedated in a first class seat.
Luba Volk, now in her 80s, played an unwitting part in the abduction. A former El Al employee who had relocated to Buenos Aires, she was contacted by the airline and asked to help secure documentation for the flight. She had no idea of its true purpose.