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Operation Finale: the Audacious Israeli Mossad Spy Operation to Capture Adolf Eichmann in Argentina

Published on 20 Aug 2022 / In Firearms

Top Secret - covert operations, double agents, commando raids, botched missions, narrow escapes, black ops, intelligence failures & military blunders of World War 2.

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In 1934, Adolf Eichmann was appointed to the Jewish section of the “security services” of the SS. From then on, he became deeply involved with the formulation and operation of the “final solution to the Jewish question.” He drew up the idea of deportation of Jews into ghettos, and went about concentrating Jews in isolated areas with murderous efficiency. He took great pride in the role he played in the death of 6 million mainly European Jews.

A number of the top Nazis were captured after the war and tried at Nuremberg. Many escaped. Some were sought out by members of the Jewish Brigade of the British Army. In addition to assisting in the illegal immigration of Jews to Palestine, they also organized themselves into a group dedicated to tracking down Nazis. They called themselves the “Nokmim” – the Avengers. They located and captured hundreds of SS men, especially those involved with the running of concentration camps.

The passport issued to Eichmann by the International Committee of the Red Cross on June 1, 1950, was discovered by a graduate student in at the University of San Martin mid-2007 conducting research on Eichmann’s wife, Veronica Catalina Leibel. The name on the passport reads “Ricardo Klement,” and claims that he was a “technician born in Bolzano, Italy, and apolide (without nationality).”

When Eichmann arrived in Argentina in 1950, he lived for almost three years in a quiet town near Buenos Aires called San Fernando, where he worked in a metal factory. He then moved to the province of Tucuman, located over 600 miles from Buenos Aires, where he worked at an engineering company called the Capri firm, to which Juan Peron, the Argentine president and known Nazi-sympathizer, gave many state contracts to modernize the province’s water administration.

Eichmann’s wife and two children arrived in Argentina in mid-1952, and accompanied him to Tucuman. He registered his two children at a German school, known to promote anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi propaganda at the time, under the name Eichmann, suggesting again how the Argentine government aided and abetted former Nazis and their sympathizers.

In April 1953, the Capri firm declared bankruptcy and Eichmann moved his family to Buenos Aires. He was hired by Mercedes Benz in March 1959, where he continued to use the alias Ricardo Klement.

No one had heard him for years. But in the autumn of 1957, Walter Eytan at the Israeli Foreign Ministry, got a call from Fritz Bauer, the public prosecutor of the province of Hesse, Germany. Bauer told Eytan that Eichmann was alive and living in Argentina.

Eytan immediately alerted Isser Harel, the head of the Mossad. Harel spent one autumn night reading Eichmann’s dossier. At that point Harel didn’t know much about him.

Harel decided this man must be brought to justice and punished for his crimes; the victims of his slaughter demanded it; justice and morality demanded it; but no one was looking for him – no agency, no government, no police force. Until the Mossad took over.

It was not going to be an easy task. Eichmann was certainly living under an assumed identity, and had friends in and out of the Argentinian government. Moreover, Harel decided it was preferable to capture Eichmann rather than kill him in the style of the Avengers. He was going to bring him to Israel and make him stand trial before the people he tried to exterminate.

Harel asked Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion for the go-ahead. Ben-Gurion gave it. And thus the operational machinery of searching for Eichmann went into effect.

But investigators had a very difficult task. Eichmann had carefully destroyed all evidence of his former identity. He had even removed the tattoo all SS men had under their left armpit. All the investigators had were blurred pictures before the war. No fingerprints were available.

In late 1959, the Israelis discovered that Eichmann had changed his name after the war to Ricardo Klement. He was on the way to Argentina when he did so.

On March 21, 1960, the agents got their proof. That evening, Ricardo Klement got off the bus “and walked slowly toward his home. In his hands was a bouquet of flowers.” Klement gave the bouquet to the woman who greeted him at the door. Their children were dressed for a special occasion. Later they heard laughter, of people in a celebratory mood.

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