Holocaust torch-lighter tells of role in Eichmann op.

"I've never seen a day of peace in my life," Michael Maor tells The Jerusalem Post.

Yad Vashem 88 (photo credit: )
Yad Vashem 88
(photo credit: )
Fifty years ago, Michael Maor returned to his native Germany on behalf of the Mossad, and photographed documents that led to the conviction of Holocaust mastermind Adolf Eichmann. On Wednesday night, he will light a torch at Yad Vashem in memory of those who perished in the Holocaust - including his entire family. "I've never seen a day of peace in my life," Maor, 75, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "Of course it is a big honor to be at Yad Vashem." Attending photojournalism school in Germany in the 1950s, Maor was asked by the Mossad to gather evidence on Eichmann. Under the cover of darkness, he snuck into the office of the general prosecutor in Baden Essen to photograph documents proving Eichmann's involvement in the murder of Jews. "The room was heavy with cigar smoke, and when I started to take the pictures [I realized] the documents were of Eichmann," Maor said. The assignment almost got him caught. At one point, a cleaning lady was about to enter the room, but hesitated, allowing Maor to leave unnoticed. "I saw documents you never thought you would see," he said. Eichmann was executed by Israel in 1962, the only Nazi to have been sentenced to death by the Jewish state. Maor is one of six survivors selected to light a torch on the eve of this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day in honor of the six million Jews who perished. Born in 1933 in Halberstadt, Germany, Maor - an only child - and his family fled the Nazis, first to Italy and then to Yugoslavia, where both of his parents were murdered while hiding in the woods. "I was running for my life in the forest," Maor said. Hiding with various foster families and at an orphanage, he eventually made his way to Mandatory Palestine, ending up on Kibbutz Mizra, near Afula, in 1945. One of the families Maor hid with came to Israel in 1949, settling in Nahariya; Maor is still in contact with them. Describing his life in Israel, Maor speaks with a full German accent and a matter-of-fact delivery that is broken up by an occasional laugh - almost as if he himself finds it hard to believe some of the events of his life. Following service in the Paratroopers Brigade, he returned to Germany for photojournalism school. Some of the teachers had been officers in the Nazi army. "I told them, I am not only a Jew, I am an Israeli officer," Maor said. Every morning, one of his teachers would give him a salute saying "Good morning, Mr. Maor." When he returned to Israel he worked as a photojournalist, including five years at the Post. "It was crazy, it wasn't like today with all the electronics. I remember the shouting [in the newsroom]." Maor didn't remain in journalism for long. "Before the Six Day War, I went back to the army and left all of these jobs behind," he said. He eventually founded the Border Police's intelligence branch, serving for 15 years as a national intelligence officer. He retired in 1999. Despite all the hardships he has endured during his life, Maor said he was happy with his situation today. "I have a wife, three children, four grandchildren, and I have a good life," Maor said.