Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Adolf Eichmann

"Eichmann Is Here!"

Eichmann remained hidden away in the safe house until final arrangements could be made to smuggle him out of Argentina. He was given intravenous drugs to keep him complacent and cooperative. Mossad agents then took him to the Buenos Aires airport where he was carried on board an El Al flight to Spain. Every second of the operation was critical, for discovery by the Argentinean police meant certain prison and worse, freedom for Eichmann. "Every minute seemed to last an hour," wrote Zvi Aharoni, "We were tense and indescribably nervous...all sorts of horrific thoughts quite naturally went through our minds!" But just after midnight on May 21, 1960, the prop plane lifted off the runway and headed out toward the Atlantic.

David Ben Gurion
David Ben Gurion

Two days later, during a meeting of the Knesset, Israel's Congress, David Ben Gurion, the Prime Minister and founder of Israel, made a stunning and totally unexpected announcement to the world. "I have to inform the Knesset," he began, "that some time ago Israeli security forces found one of the greatest Nazi criminals, Adolf Eichmann, who together with other Nazi leaders, is responsible for...the extermination of six million European Jews. Adolf Eichmann is already in this country under arrest and will shortly be brought to trial here under the law." Across the world, newspapers printed huge headlines, "Eichmann Captured!" Jews everywhere rejoiced that the most important Nazi fugitive, responsible for millions of deaths, had finally been apprehended after 15 years of freedom.

A few weeks later, Time magazine published a detailed account of Eichmann's kidnapping. The article confirmed Argentina's suspicions that Israel had violated her sovereignty by sending secret agents within its borders. Its ambassadors demanded that Israel be punished for this transgression. Argentina's Prime Minster said his country delivers its "most formal protest for this illicit act committed in violation of one of the most fundamental rights of the Argentine state." Israel apologized to Argentina but refused to return Eichmann. Prime Minister BenGurion later said, "This man, Eichmann, was the one directly responsible for...the final solution...six million of our people were massacred...on a gigantic and unprecedented scale throughout Europe...I am certain that only a very few persons in the world would fail to understand the profound motivation and supreme moral justification of the details of his capture." Argentina was not satisfied and appeared before the United Nations accusing Israel of violating the U.N. Charter. But not everyone in Argentina was unsympathetic. According to author Quentin Reynolds, one member of the Argentine Parliament made a speech in which he said, "Of course, we non-Jewish Argentineans cannot understand it. Our children were not thrown into the flames, our graybeards were not buried alive, the bodies of our sons and daughters were not made into soap!" The political tension continued for several weeks but in the end, Argentina and Israel patched up their differences.

The path was cleared for a trial in the holy city of Jerusalem.

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