Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Adolf Eichmann


Since the end of the war, the Israelis had collected every scrap of information about Nazi fugitives who fled to all corners of the earth. After Eichmann's name was prominently mentioned at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials in 1946, the Mossad (Israel's Secret Service) paid special attention to his case. They knew that the immediate family of Adolf Eichmann had suddenly disappeared from their home in Linz, Austria. Rumors indicated they had left on a trip to South America, perhaps Brazil. The Israelis knew there were many countries in that region of the world who welcomed Nazi fugitives. However, suspicion soon settled on Argentina and the city of Buenos Aires.

Israeli agents were dispatched to Buenos Aires to gather more intelligence. Since they did so without the approval or knowledge of the Argentinean government, they had to be doubly careful. For weeks they watched suspected addresses and followed other men known to be Nazi outlaws. But none were Eichmann. Agents were aware that Eichmann was using the name Ricardo Klement. Through Jewish informants, Israeli agents located Klement living with his family in the San Fernando section. Over the next several days, they kept the house under surveillance hoping for an opportunity to see Klement and perhaps identify him as Adolf Eichmann. First they saw Vera Eichmann on several occasions and each of the four children. Finally, on March 19, 1960, Israeli Secret Service agent Zvi Aharoni saw Eichmann walking in front of his home. "I saw him about two o'clock in the afternoon," Aharoni wrote in Operation Eichmann, "...I saw a man of medium size and build, about fifty years old, with a high forehead and partially bald, collecting the washing." Aharoni felt certain it was Eichmann.

But the proof would not come until three days later. While agents kept the suspect under constant surveillance, they saw the same man go to a local store and buy a bouquet of flowers. Then the man boarded a bus and headed home. He walked down the street where he lived carrying the bouquet as agents secreted themselves nearby. When he arrived home at 16 Garibaldi Street, the agents saw his children dressed for a special occasion. The man handed the flowers to his wife at the door. Israeli agents could barely contain their excitement. That day, March 21, 1960, was Adolf Eichmann's 25th wedding anniversary.

The killer of six million had been found.

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