Revisiting a dark period of crime and punishment: a licence plate is among the items vaunting the capture in Argentina more than 50 years ago of Adolf Eichmann, to face trial for his role in the Holocaust. The show pieces of the Mossad secret service have gone on display at the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem.
It is a glimpse into how one of the world’s most feared Nazis was hunted down. Few of them ever stood in a criminal court. Israel’s tribunal at the time said universal jurisdiction applied in the genocide against the Jews, as a crime under international law.
Neomi Izhar, historian for the exhibition, said: “This exhibition is very unique because this is the first time the Mossad, the Israeli Mossad, opens its archive and shows the tools, means and documents that were part of the capture of Eichmann.”
There are the gloves that grabbed the SS Obersturmbannfuhrer officer in Buenos Aires, now an employee of the Mercedes-Benz car factory, the keys of his home, the false passport used to smuggle him out. The operation raised questions of international law but left no doubt about Israel’s determination.
Rafi Eitan, who was head of the operation to capture Eichmann, said: “In the exhibition you can see how with primitive, very primitive equipment we could have done an operation like this. Today without cellular (phones), without computers without satellites, GPS, we are not able to make something like this.”
Born into a middle-class Protestant family, Adolf Eichmann rose to become the supreme organiser of the Jews’ murder by the Third Reich.
Among the first to be told of its “Final Solution”, he proved able in logistics, ensuring transportation and killing capacities — both in the camps and by mobile units.
At the end of World War Two, he evaded allied internment and booked passage for Argentina.
Neither the US nor Germany acted on knowledge he was there, sensitive that they had both recruited other former Nazis.
Eichmann’s capture took the world by storm. By widely broadcast live television, from the trial’s bulletproof dock, it heard him claim he had obeyed his orders without thinking, though he did not dispute the facts. Many surviving victims testified.
He was hanged in 1962, the only man Israel ever sentenced for execution.