Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Hunt for Adolf Eichmann

Argentina and Eichmann

When Eichmann arrived in the city of Buenos Aires, he wore dark sunglasses, a large mustache and a winter coat pulled tightly about his neck. He was greeted at the airport by former SS friends who spirited him away from the bustling facility. Ricardo Klement was taken to Tucaman, approximately 600 miles from Buenos Aires, where he was given a job under the auspices and safety of other fugitive Nazis. For the next two years, he worked for the water company as a supervisor and received several promotions for his good performance. But Eichmann grew restless. His wife, along with his three children, was still in Austria. Despite the danger involved, Eichmann contacted her and through a series of letters, arranged for her to relocate to Argentina. On July 28, 1952, Vera Eichmann and the children Klaus, 16, Horst Adolph, 13, and Dieter, 10, arrived in Buenos Aires.

The reunited family lived on a spacious farm in the Tucaman region, which was not heavily populated. Among the dense forests and rolling hills of northern Argentina, the Eichmanns felt a comforting solitude, which they had never experienced before. The children began to ride horses and attended the local schools. Eichmann made enough money to support them in an adequate fashion. In this glorious wilderness, which was far removed from the universal devastation in Germany, they lived together as a family once again. The children learned Spanish and fished the rivers for food. They made friends with neighbors, many of whom were German. Tucaman was home to hundreds of former SS men hiding from justice. No one asked any questions, for they all shared the same fears and suspicions. Eventually, Vera Eichmann changed her name to Catalina Klement and obtained a national identity card. For all practical purposes, on paper at least, they became the Klement family.

But despite the relative safety of the Argentine wilderness, Eichmann still felt threatened. He knew the Israelis were still searching for him and would never relent until he was caught. He lived in constant fear of discovery. Over the next few years, Eichmann began to move from place to place, from job to job, never staying too long in one location. One Argentinean official later told the press, "He changed jobs, he changed names. But wherever he went, he was in constant fear of being killed...he grew gaunt, nervous and bald." In 1956, concerned about his place in history and what his children would think when they discovered their father was a mass murderer, he began to write his memoirs. "I have slowly wearied of living as an anonymous wanderer between the worlds," he wrote, "I was nothing but a loyal, methodical, correct and diligent member of the SS...inspired by nothing but ideal emotions for the Fatherland to which I had the honor to belong."

Simon Wiesenthal
Simon Wiesenthal

But back in Austria, in his hometown of Linz, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal was also restless. Though he knew Eichmann was still alive, his exact location was unknown. In 1954, Wiesenthal visited a friend who, like himself, was a stamp collector. While the friends spoke, the man said that he recently received a letter from an acquaintance who had moved to Buenos Aires, where ironically, there was also a very large Jewish community. When Wiesenthal read the letter, he nearly choked from the excitement. "I saw that dirty pig Eichmann," the man wrote, "He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company." Wiesenthal passed the information along to the Israelis.

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