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Former prime minister Menachem Begin played a central role in a failed attempt to assassinate then-West German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, with the objective of sabotaging the reparations agreement in the works with Israel, according to the journal of Eliezer Sudit, one of the men who carried out the attempted hit.

Sudit's journal, which was published in a limited number of copies only, came into the possession of the Israel correspondent for the German daily, the Frankfurter Allgemeine. Excerpts from the diary passed on to Haaretz reveal that Begin knew of the plans to assassinate Adenauer, and even initiated meetings to promote the operation. Among other things, Sudit writes that he heard Begin had offered to sell his gold watch to pay for the hit after the operation ran into financial difficulties.

Begin's personal secretary, Yehiel Kadishai, and Herzl Makov, the director of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, told Haaretz last night that they knew nothing of Begin's involvement in the affair.

On March 27, 1952, a German sapper was killed by an explosive device that had been hidden in an item of mail addressed to Adenauer. At the same time, two letter bombs were sent to the meeting place of the Israeli and German delegations by a group calling themselves the Jewish Partisans Organization.

A few weeks later, five Israelis were arrested in France on suspicion of involvement in the assassination attempt. One of the men arrested was Sudit, a former member of the Irgun, a prestate underground led by Begin. Sudit allegedly prepared the explosive device and hid it in the package sent to Adenauer.

Sudit decided to publicize the affair some 40 years later, in his journal, Be'shlihut Ha'matzpun (On a Mission of Conscience). According to Sudit, he met secretly with Begin and suggested "an operation that would shake the world and prove that not all Israelis are prepared to accept money as atonement for blood."