On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Eitan Recalls Eichmann Capture

Former Mossad agent turned MK says it was the appendix scar that gave the Nazi official away.

It was the appendectomy scar that gave the Holocaust mastermind away.

After grabbing Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, former Mossad agent turned parliamentarian Rafi Eitan was only certain he had the right man when he rubbed the fugitive Nazi leader's stomach and felt the scar.

Eichmann, who was in charge of implementing the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews, was captured in 1960 and put on trial in Israel, where he was executed two years later. Eichmann was the only person ever put to death in Israel.

On Tuesday, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Eitan recounted holding Eichmann's head in his lap after snatching him from his hideout and bundling him into a waiting car.

"When we got him into the car, I rubbed his stomach and I found the crude scar from his appendicitis and then I said to myself, 'This is the man,"' Eitan, 79, newly elected to the Knesset, told Israel Radio. "I felt that here, the Israeli nation is behind me, that I am representing the Israeli nation after the Holocaust."

The operation to capture Eichmann began with an order from then-prime minister David Ben-Gurion, who wanted a Nazi war criminal put on trial in Israel to send the world a clear message that the Jewish people could now defend themselves, Eitan said.

After Mossad operative Zvi Aharoni came back with information that a man by the name of Ricardo Klement was actually Eichmann, a scout was sent to Argentina to find apartments and cars for the team, said Eitan, who headed the operation.

The members of the team left Israel separately and arrived in Argentina two weeks before the planned kidnapping to get to know Buenos Aires, gather more information about Eichmann and set up a safehouse.

Once he was in the car, Eichmann was told in German not to talk or he would be harmed. Eichmann answered "jawohl," or "yes, sir" in German, making Eitan almost certain that he had the right man. Feeling the scar drove it home.

This was followed by silence until Eichmann was in the safehouse, stripped naked in a bright room and measured, Eitan said. Then, he was asked in German for his name.

At first, Eichmann, said his name was Otto Elinger, the alias he used when he escaped from a prisoners' camp in Germany. Then, he said his name was Ricardo Klement, his name in Argentina.

Finally, Aharoni asked Eichmann for his number in the Nazi Party. After he rattled it off, he admitted to his real name, Eitan said, recalling the team's excitement over having fulfilled their mission.

"We the Jewish people, who suffered the Holocaust, who had six million of its children murdered, is standing on its feet and doing its thing. And then I thought that here, with this, we are vanquishing anti-Semitism," he added.