Mossad Agent Who Helped Abduct Eichmann Dies at 93

Yaakov Meidad, who was part of the 1960 operation in Argentina under the command of the Mossad head, was selected for the mission due to his ability to change identities.

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Former Mossad agent Yaakov Meidad, who took part in the abduction of the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, died Saturday at the age of 93. Meidad was living in Tel Aviv.

Meidad was in charge of the logistic aspects of the assignment, carried out in Argentina in May 1960 under the command of the Mossad chief at the time, Isser Harel. Among other things, Meidad rented the cars and apartments used for the capture and was one of the Mossad operatives who guarded Eichmann at the apartment he was held in until he was smuggled to Israel.

In a meeting of operatives who took part in Eichmann's capture that took place five years ago at the Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies at Kibbutz Tel Yitzhak, Meidad recalled that he was chosen to participate in the assignment due to his ability to change identities, be liked by people, and gain their trust. "You have no idea what a small nervous man he was, how he signed [the document agreeing to be tried in Israel], and how he behaved, this man who sent millions to their death," Meidad said, referring to his first encounter with Eichmann. Two years later, the Nazi criminal was executed in Israel.

Meidad was born in 1919 in Berslau, Germany, (now Polish Wroslaw). His mother was a teacher, and his father was a director of a hospital ward after serving as a medical officer in WWI. Meidad, their only son, immigrated on his own to Palestine in 1934, at the age of 15. His parents remained behind and were murdered in the holocaust, his mother in Auschwitz, and his father in Terezinstadt. Meidad studied at the Hebrew Reali high school in Haifa before enlisting in the Technion to study electrical engineering. When WWII broke out, Meidad was the first Jew from the Yishuv to volunteer to serve in the British Army and fight Nazism. Meidad also fought in the 1948 war and fulfilled several posts in the IDF before joining the Mossad in 1955.

The most famous operation he took part in was the kidnapping of Eichmann in 1960. Meidad recalled his role in the operation in a four-part interview posted on YouTube. "I had four cars and two apartments it was hard to find a large enough car in Buenos Aires. I finally found a Chevrolet in a garage. They didn't want to let me have it, since it was about to be disassembled. After an hour I showed up with a $5,000 deposit. Two hundred and fifty $20 bills. They took me to the bank, checked the notes, and said 'Okay.' I got the car. Then we got Eichmann."

YouTube interview (in Hebrew), part 1/4 (Part 2/4, part 3/4, part 4/4)

After the kidnapping Meidad hoped to save Israel money and return the car to its owners. "I told Isser Harel that it was a shame to waste these $5,000. I returned the car to the garage and said: 'I'm sorry, my wife telegraphed me that she's ill, I must return home. Take the car, and give me back the deposit. And that's what we did."

Meidad was on his way to the Buenos Aires airport where an El-Al flight was about to take off with Eichmann, but "half way there, my car burnt down. I managed to get a taxi, and was the last person to board the plane," he recalled.

Five years later, Meidad took part in the assassination of another Nazi war criminal, Herberts Cukurs, a Latvian aviator who was responsible for the death of 30,000 Jews from Riga, and was nicknamed the "Butcher of Riga." Meidad's job was to prepare the ground for the assassination. He was sent to Brazil to befriend Cukurs, under a false identity of a European businessman named Anton Künzle. Within several months Meidad managed to gain Cukurs' trust.

Finally, Meidad managed to entice Cukurs to travel to Uruguay for an alleged business meeting. Cukurs arrived at a house in Montevideo where he was ambushed, beaten and shot after a struggle. His body was then packed in a crate with a note detailing his crimes against humanity, signed by "those who can never forget."

Before his death, Meidad still managed to visit "Operation Finale," the exhibition portraying the Eichmann abduction that opened at Beth Hatfutsot Museum in February. "Sometimes it's not so good to know so much," Meidad said in the YouTube interview. "But I was never bored. All in all, I enjoyed myself very much," he concluded. According to the curator ex-Mossad agent Avner A., Meidad was not in good health at the time and he arrived to the exhibition in a wheelchair, however he was excited and managed to smile.

Of the Mossad team that abducted Eichmann, Meidad is the second agent to die recently. Zvi Aharoni, who also was a part of the operation, died last month.

Yaakov MeidadCredit: Massuah Institute for Holocaust Studies
Adolf Eichmann being brought to justice in Israel in 1961Credit: AP

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