'Israel tried to capture Eichmann as early as 1949'

'Der Spiegel' says new records show Israel deployed commando team, delivered 50,000 schillings to top Austrian security agent.

January 16, 2011 22:56
2 minute read.
Adolf Eichmann.

young eichmann 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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BERLIN – An Israeli commando squad sought to capture fugitive Nazi Adolf Eichmann in 1949, a mere four years after the end of the Holocaust, according to a report in Saturday’s online edition of the magazine Der Spiegel.

Eichmann, who was seized by Israeli intelligence agents in 1960 while living under a false identity in Argentina, was one of the principal architects of Hitler’s systematic murder of European Jewry by playing a significant role in the implementation of gas chambers to carry out the “Final Solution.”

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Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires 2010
'Vatican aided Eichmann's escape'

Spiegel examined new records from Germany’s federal archive, which showed that Israel deployed a commando team to abduct Eichmann in Salzburg, Austria. A rumor circulated at the time in 1949 that Eichmann planed to visit his wife in Bad Aussee in Austria that prompted Israel to activate its contacts through its consulate in Vienna.

According to the archive documents, Israel’s consulate delivered 50,000 schillings to a top agent affiliated with Austria’s security force to conduct the manhunt . Israel offered one million schillings for Eichmann’s capture, and an airplane was charted at Salzburg’s airport to take Eichmann to Israel. The planned abduction did not take place because Eichmann was in Northern Germany at the time and did not travel to Bad Aussee.

The archive documents note that the tip that Eichmann planned to visit Austria came from Josef Adolf Urban, a “dubious” Austrian informant, who supplied information to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and several intelligence agencies.

According to the Spiegel report, Urban said he had worked for Eichmann and, after 1945, he helped organize Eichmann’s escape.

The material from the federal archive is attributed to documents from the Gehlen organization, the precursor to Germany’s current foreign intelligence agency, the BND. The Gehlen organization was named after its director, Major-General Reinhard Gehlen, a Nazi who conducted intelligence-gathering operations on the Eastern Front during World War 2, which also involved mass murders of Eastern European Jews. He served as head of Germany’s intelligence agency until 1968, and died in 1979. Though Gehler was a top-level Nazi officer during World War 2, the Americans did not object to Gehler serving in German chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s administration.

According to an article in the mass circulation Bild, the BND knew in 1952 where Eichmann was hiding but refused to disclose his location. US Central Intelligence Agency documents show that the BND told an American intelligence agent that Eichmann fled to Argentina in 1958. The CIA did not share the information with Israel.

Eichmann managed to doctor his identity in Argentina, living under the name Ricardo Klement until his capture by Israeli agents in 1960. He was flown to Israel before being tried and executed in 1962. The trial captured the attention of both Israel and the world because it exposed Eichmann’s role in the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

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